History of persecutions by Christians

History of persecutions by Christians

The History of persecutions by Christians started with the Persecution of Pagans by the Christian Roman Empire, and includes phenomena like the Crusades (from 11th till 13th century), and the Roman Catholic Church Inquisition (from the 12th century), the suppression of heresy, Crypto-Judaism, Witch-hunt and the Witch trials in the Early Modern period, Persecution of Buddhists, Violence against LGBT people, Discrimination against atheists, and other phenomena.


Persecution of Pagans by the Christian Roman Empire

The Persecution of Pagans by the Christian Roman Empire is the religious persecution of Pagans as a consequence of professing their faith. The first episodes started late in the reign of Constantine the Great, when he ordered the pillaging and the tearing down of some pagan temples.[1][2][3] The first anti-Pagan laws by the Christian state started with Constantine's son Constantius II,[4][5] which was an unwavering opponent of paganism; he ordered the closing of all pagan temples, forbade Pagan sacrifices under pain of death,[2] and removed the traditional Altar of Victory from the Senate.[6] Under his reign ordinary Christians started vandalizing many of the ancient Pagan temples, tombs and monuments.[7][8][9][10]

From 361 till 375, Paganism received a relative tolerance, until when three Emperors, Gratian, Valentinian II and Theodosius I, under bishop of Milan Saint Ambrose's major influence, reprised and escalated the persecution.[11][12] Under Ambrose's zealous pressure, Theodosius issued the infamous 391 "Theodosian decrees," a declaration of war on paganism,[12][13] the Altar of Victory was removed again by Gratian, Vestal Virgins disbanded, access to Pagan temples prohibited.

Persecutions by Christians after the Roman Empire and before the Crusades

This section cover persecutions by Christians from after the Roman Empire fall in 476, till the beginning of the Crusades in 1095.

In the sixth century, Christian authorities suppressed in Egypt the religious festival of the Navigium Isidis.[14]


The Crusades were a series of religiously sanctioned military campaigns, waged by much of Roman Catholic Europe, particularly the Franks of France and the Holy Roman Empire. The specific crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, between 1095 and 1291. Other campaigns in Spain and Eastern Europe continued into the 15th century. The Crusades were fought mainly by Roman Catholic forces (taking place after the East–West Schism and mostly before the Protestant Reformation) against Muslims who had occupied the near east since the time of the Rashidun Caliphate, although campaigns were also waged against pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Jews, Russian and Greek Orthodox Christians, Mongols, Cathars, Hussites, Waldensians, Old Prussians, and political enemies of the various popes.[15] Orthodox Christians also took part in fighting against Islamic forces in some Crusades. Crusaders took vows and were granted a plenary indulgence.[15][16]


The Inquisition was the "fight on heretics," with the use of torture, by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy.[17] Inquisition practices were used also on offences against canon law other than heresy.


  1. ^ R. MacMullen, "Christianizing The Roman Empire A.D.100-400, Yale University Press, 1984, ISBN 0-300-03642-6
  2. ^ a b "A History of the Church", Philip Hughes, Sheed & Ward, rev ed 1949, vol I chapter 6.[1]
  3. ^ Eusebius Pamphilius and Schaff, Philip (Editor) and McGiffert, Rev. Arthur Cushman, Ph.D. (Translator) NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine quote: "he razed to their foundations those of them which had been the chief objects of superstitious reverence"
  4. ^ Kirsch, J. (2004) God against the Gods, pp.200-1, Viking Compass
  5. ^ "The Codex Theodosianus On Religion", XVI.x.4, 4 CE
  6. ^ Sheridan, J.J. (1966) The Altar of Victor – Paganism's Last Battle. in L'Antiquite Classique 35 : 186-187.
  7. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus Res Gestae 22.4.3
  8. ^ Sozomen Ecclesiastical History 3.18.
  9. ^ Theodosian Code 16.10.3
  10. ^ Theodosian Code 9.17.2
  11. ^ Byfield (2003) pp.92-4 quote:

    In the west, such [anti-Pagan] tendencies were less pronounces, although they had one especially powerful advocate. No one was more determined to destroy paganism than Ambrose, bishop of Milan, a major influence upon both Gratian and Valentinian II. [...] p.94 The man who ruled the ruler - Wether Ambrose, the senator-bureaucrat-turned-bishop. was Theodosius's mentor or his autocrat, the emperor heeded him--as did most of the fourth-century church.

  12. ^ a b MacMullen (1984) p.100 quote:

    The law of June 391, issued by Theodosius [...] was issued from Milan and represented the will of its bishop, Ambrose; for Theodosius--recently excommunicated by Ambrose, penitent, and very much under his influence43--was no natural zealot. Ambrose, on the other hand, was very much a Christian. His restless and imperious ambition for the church's growth, come what might for the non-Christians, is suggested by his preaching.

    See also note 43 at p.163, with references to Palanque (1933), Gaudemet (1972), Matthews (1975) and King (1961)
  13. ^ King (1961) p.78
  14. ^ Valantasis (2000) p.370
  15. ^ a b Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Oxford History of the Crusades New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0192853643.
  16. ^ Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusaders, 1095–1131 Cambridge University Press, 1998. ISBN 0521646030.
  17. ^ Lea, Henry Charles (1888). "Chapter VII. The Inquisition Founded". A History of the Inquisition In The Middle Ages. 1. ISBN 1152296213. http://bulfinch.englishatheist.org/mm/inquisition/Chapter7.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-26. "The judicial use of torture was as yet happily unknown [...]" 


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