Pagans vs. Christians Debate in the Roman Empire

The traditional Roman religion was a polytheistic religion, centered around the worship of a multitude of gods, each of whom fulfilled a particular function (e.g., harvest, childbirth, war, women’s crafts, the Roman sewage system, etc.). The Romans believed that the success of their city was entirely due to “pax deorum” — peace with the gods, which meant that as long as the Romans honored their gods and sacrificed to them regularly, their city and empire would prosper. A new monotheistic religion, however, began to challenge the traditional Roman religion in the mid-first century CE and beyond — Christianity.

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In this discussion, you will select to take the role of either the pagans (meaning, followers of the traditional Roman religion) or Christians, and will present your defense of your religion, and an attack of the other religion, entirely based on the following ancient primary sources (meaning, only use the sources included here and the course textbook):

Sources on early Christian beliefs:

The Gospel of Mark (any translation)

1 Corinthians (

Philippians (

Selection from Romans:

Selection from Galatians:

Sources on traditional Roman religion and Roman perspectives on the Christians:

Pliny and Trajan’s letter exchange:

Ritual cannibalism charge against Christians:

Description of several Roman religious rituals:

Please note that this assignment is not meant to be personal: you are not endorsing paganism or Christianity yourself, but you are taking a side in a real historical debate, and trying to understand how people who lived in the Roman Empire would have argued for one or the other side in this debate! In order to make it clear which sources inspired a particular argument, please state the source title or author in parentheses next to your arguments.

Please post your own post, taking a side in the debate, and then respond to at least two classmates’ posts

** you will be defending the Christian side.