Suspense, politics, sin, death, sex, and redemption: Not the plot of the latest crime novel, but elements of the true history of the Catholic Church.
Larger-than-life saints such as Athanasius of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustine, and political figures such as Emperor Constantine played an important part in the history of the Christianity. In The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490): Constantine, Councils, and the Fall of Rome, popular Catholic author Mike Aquilina gives readers a vivid and engaging account of how Christianity developed and expanded as the Roman Empire declined.
In The Church and the Roman Empire (301–490), Mike Aquilina explores the dramatic backstory of the Council of Nicaea and why Christian unity and belief are still expressed by the Nicene Creed. He also sets the record straight about commonly held misconceptions about the Catholic Church. Readers may be surprised to learn:
- The Edict of Milan didn’t just legalize Christianity; it also established religious tolerance for all faiths for the first time in history.
- The growth of Christianity inspired a more merciful society: Crucifixion was abolished; the practice of throwing prisoners to wild beasts for entertainment was outlawed; and slave owners were punished for killing their slaves.
- Controversy between Arians and Catholics may have resulted in building more hospitals and other networks of charitable assistance to the poor.
- When Rome fell, not many people at the time noticed.
Aquilina brings Church history to life in The Church and the Roman Empire, enabling Catholics to more deeply consider the true origins of the creed that unites us, the Bible we read, and the liturgy we celebrate.
About the Author
Mike Aquilina is a Catholic author, popular speaker, poet, and songwriter who serves as the executive vice president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is a contributing editor to Angelus News.
Aquilina is the author or editor of more than fifty books, including The Fathers of the Church, The Mass of the Early Christians, and Angels of God. He contributed work on early Christianity to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. Aquilina has cohosted eleven series on EWTN and hosted two documentaries. Aquilina wrote the companion volumes to the NBC miniseries A.D.: The Bible Continues (2015), and the MGM remake of the movie Ben-Hur (2016). His book A History of the Church in 100 Objects earned an honorable mention in the 2018 Catholic Press Association awards.
He has published hundreds of articles, essays, and reviews in periodicals such as First Things, Crisis, National Catholic Register, The Priest, Columbia, and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a frequent guest on TV and radio, including a weekly appearance on the Son Rise Morning Show.
Aquilina previously served as editor of New Covenant magazine and The Pittsburgh Catholic. He has received honors from the Catholic Press Association, including “Best Magazine” for New Covenant during his editorship.
He lives in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area with his wife, Terri. They have six children.
Table of Contents
Reclaiming Catholic History: Series Introduction xi
Chronology for The Church and the Roman Empire (301-490) xv
Chapter 1 The Underground 1
Up Close and Personal: St. Agnes of Rome 15
You Be the Judge: Do Christians exaggerate the persecutions? 18
Chapter 2 The Revolution 21
Up Close and Personal: Eusebius of Caesarea 24
You Be the Judge: Did Constantine force Christianity on unwilling pagans? 32
Chapter 3 Nicaea 35
Up Close and Personal: Who attended the Council of Nicaea? 42
You Be the Judge: Did Constantine create the Bible? 51
Chapter 4 The Empire Christianized 53
Up Close and Personal: St. Athanasius of Alexandria 56
You Be the Judge: Weren't bishops originally elected by the people? 65
Chapter 5 Pope Constantius 67
Up Close and Personal: Five Who Chucked Everything for a Life of Solitude 72
You Be the Judge: None of the early councils of the Church were about the Eucharist. Doesn't that indicate that no one believed in the Real Presence of Christ until much later? 79
Chapter 6 The Counterrevolution 81
Up Close and Personal: St. Basil the Great 85
Chapter 7 The Christian Empire and Beyond 93
Up Close and Personal: St. Ephrem of Syria 96
You Be the Judge: Didn't Christianity harm the status of women? 105
Chapter 8 A Tale of Two Bishops 107
Up Close and Personal: St. Ambrose the Songwriter 114
Chapter 9 An Age of Titans 121
Up Close and Personal: St. Monica of Hippo 126
Chapter 10 Decline and Fall 133
Up Close and Personal: Pilgrims of the Fourth Century 139
You Be the Judge: Isn't the Church's Marian piety a fifth-century innovation? 143
Chapter 11 A Lamp in the Twilight 145
Up Close and Personal: Irish Catholics 149
You Be the Judge: Wasn't supreme papal authority an invention of the Middle Ages? 152
The End 155
For Further Reading 163