Hyperian History Of The World (4th Century)
In the Rome of the early 4th Century, the Neoplatonism of Plotinus could easily have become a revolutionary new intellectual form of paganism based on Greek philosophy. Unfortunately, in one of history’s bitterest twists, a new emperor arose in Rome who would sow the seeds for the rise of a new version of Christianity, the version with which we are familiar today, that of irrational faith, violence, hatred and a slave-like morality which puts people down and represses their passions.
It was the Emperor Constantine who, though he lived most of his life as a pagan, in 313 helped to declare religious tolerance for Christianity and, indeed, any other religion in Rome. Prior to this only Roman paganism was accepted by the Romans. Christianity, Judaism and any other religions were illegal across the empire and those practising them were often persecuted. Now, however, all religions could be freely practised throughout the empire without fear of persecution.
This change allowed Christianity to better organise itself, as its practitioners no longer feared for their lives in the practising of their faith. Constantine himself helped immensely to consolidate Christianity into a single religion, rather than a collection of competing sects, when he called the first council of Nicaea in 325. At this council, Christian bishops from all over the world agreed on a single, unified version of their religion which was summed up in the Nicene Creed. It was only at this council that the divinity of Jesus was agreed upon, as well as the doctrine of the trinity, stating that god, Jesus and the holy spirit were all three persons within the one single, monotheistic god. Christianity as we know it today was really born at this council and the new religion was now supported by the might of the Roman Empire.
Though Christianity remembers Constantine as the first Christian Emperor, he remained a pagan right until he lay on his deathbed, only then being converted to the new faith. Historians continue to debate the extent to which Constantine was a true supporter or believer in Christianity or not.
It looked as though Christianity would now take over, given its use of fear to control its adherents. Christians, through fear of their god, were far more easily radicalised than pagans and, as such, the zealous nature of Christianity found little resistance from the more peaceful pagans.
However there was one final, last gasp of paganism later in the century when a new emperor, Julian, came to power in 361. Julian, who had been given a first class ‘Greek’ education, saw that the new values of Christianity were massively at odds with everything which the Roman Empire was founded upon and he feared that this new religion would spell the end of the Empire. As such, Julian rejected Christianity and greatly favoured Neoplatonism instead. He introduced new laws which aimed to block the progress of Christianity and to restore the primacy of paganism within the Roman Empire.
Although it was a valiant attempt to halt the progress of this damaging new religion, Julian was ultimately unsuccessful. The main source of his failure is perhaps the lack of a pagan equivalent of the council of Nicaea. There were so many different pagan sects and cults, each with different beliefs and philosophies, that there was a lack of unity amongst pagans, whereas, thanks to the Nicene Creed, Christians were now unified in their beliefs and practices and could therefore combat paganism as a single unit. Sure enough, upon the death of Julian, Christianity was restored as the state religion of Rome under his successor, Jovian.
The tragedy of the 4th Century, which saw benevolent, intellectual paganism pushed deep underground and replaced by the violent, irrational faith and slave morality of Christianity, shows us how important is the need for Unity. Only if we are united under a single banner, all adhering to the same, rational system, can we ever hope to oppose the might of the Old Worlders. The rise of Christianity plunged the world into a darkness from which it has yet to fully emerge. But the dawn is coming, and if we are all unified together, this fractured world can be repaired and light can be restored.
Brice Merci – Hyperian