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Decline of the Ancient World A.D. 1A.D.


based on Jesus life and teachings and on the belief

What Your Child that Jesus and God are one. The Romans perse-
cuted the Christians because they put their God
Needs to Know and Jesus above the emperor. Nevertheless, Chris-
tianity continued to thrive and grow.
You may choose to use the following text in
several different ways, depending on your Peter and Paul
childs strengths and preferences. You Two especially important early Christian leaders
might read the passage aloud; you might were Peter and Paul. Peter was one of Jesus origi-
read it to yourself and then paraphrase it nal apostles and became the first pope, or leader,
for your child; or you might ask your child of what later was named the Roman Catholic
to read the material along with you or on Church. Pauls letters, or epistles, to Christian
his or her own. churches are an important part of the Bibles
New Testament. By A.D. 300, Christianity had
spread to Greece, Egypt, France, Britain, and as
Among the many peoples who lived under Roman
rule were Jews, descendants of Hebrews and Is- THE ROMAN EMPIRE
raelites. The Romans conquered the Jews in 37
B.C. in the area we now refer to as the Middle East. During the Pax Romana, which gave the Roman
Unlike the Romans and other peoples, the Jews be- Empire peace and security, strong emperors con-
lieved in only one god. The Romans persecuted quered other lands until the empire reached its
the Jews for their beliefs. greatest extentincluding parts of Europe, Asia,
and Africa. This period ended in A.D. 180. After
Jesus Christ that, Rome faced many problems.
At this time, a Jew named Jesus of Nazareth (NA The vast empire became harder and harder to
zuh ruhth) was born. Around the age of thirty, Jesus govern. To maintain the enormous army necessary
began preaching and teaching in the towns and vil- for this task, taxes increased until the people could
lages of Judea (joo DEE uh), the Roman name for no longer pay them. A plague struck Rome in A.D.
Judah, mentioned in Chapter 2. He taught that peo- 165 and wiped out thousands of people. This fur-
ple should love God and their neighbor as much as ther weakened the state. Barbarians from the
they loved themselves. He urged people to live lives north began to boldly invade many parts of the em-
devoted to others and to forgive those who wronged pire. Worst of all, there was no strong leadership.
them. He was reported to have performed miracles. Most of the emperors after A.D. 180 were weak
The Jews believed that a Messiah (muh SYE and corrupt. What could the Romans do to keep
uh), a special leader, would one day be sent by God the Roman Empire, like so many empires before it,
to guide them. The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of from falling apart?
blasphemy when he claimed to be this Messiah.
Romans thought Jesus was a political threat. They A Divided Empire
arrested him and tried him before the Roman gov- In A.D. 286, the emperor Diocletian (dye uh KLEE
ernor Pontius Pilate (PAHN chus PYE luht), who shuhn) decided the Roman Empire was too big for
sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion. one person to govern, and he divided it in two. The
The apostles (uh PAHS ulz) of Jesus claimed to eastern empire included Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and
have seen him alive after his death. Such a resur- Palestine (the larger area of which Israel and Judea
rection would mean that Jesus was divinethat he were parts). The western empire included Rome,
was God. The apostles traveled throughout the the rest of Italy, Gaul (France), Britain, and Ger-
Roman Empire spreading Christianity, a religion many. Diocletian ruled the eastern empire, and

Get Ready! for Social Studies World History

Ruins of Colosseum in Rome, completed A.D. 80

Maximilian (mak suh MIL yuhn), general of Gaul, The Decline of Rome
ruled the western empire. By the late 300s, the empire again had two rulers
This split, however, did not help. In A.D. 306, one for the eastern empire and one for the western.
the Emperor Constantine (KAHN stuhn teen) the Christianity did make the eastern empire stronger
Great reunited the two parts of the empire and and more unified, but the western empire contin-
ruled them single-handedly. But like Diocletian, ued to decline. Barbarian tribes such as the Goths,
he favored the eastern lands. Franks, and Vandals boldly attacked, and the
In A.D. 330, Constantine moved his capital western rulers were not strong enough to hold
from Rome to the Greek colony of Byzantium (buh them back. By A.D. 400, the barbarians were at
ZAN tee uhm) on the western coast of Turkey, fac- the gates of Rome. The eastern empire, now called
ing the Mediterranean. He later renamed the city the Byzantine (BIH zuhn teen) Empire, was se-
Constantinople (kahn stan tuhn OH puhl) in cure, however, and would continue to flourish for
honor of himself. Today it is Istanbul, Turkey. another thousand years.
Constantine had made one other bold move that
changed the course of world history. In A.D. 313, he
had recognized Christianity as a religion and al-
lowed Christians to worship openly. He took this ap-
proach for practical reasons as well as religious ones.
The Christian faith had grown despite Roman per-
secution and had united peoples of different back-
grounds. Constantine hoped Christianity would
unify the empire and make it strong again. He him-
self converted to the new religion on his deathbed in
A.D. 337. Christianity soon became the state reli-
gion of the Roman Empire.