“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?” (Romans 8, 35)
Christian religion developed rapidly in Rome and all over the world since the 1st century, owing to its being original and suitable for all mankind; but this was also due to the testimony of fervour, of brotherly love and of charity shown by the Christians towards everybody.
The Roman authorities were at first indifferent to the new religion, yet very soon, incited also by the people showed themselves hostile to it, because the Christians refused to worship the ancient pagan deities of Rome, as well as the emperor. The Christians were accused of disloyalty to their fatherland, of atheism, of hatred towards mankind, of hidden crimes, such as incest, infanticide and ritual cannibalism; likewise they were held responsible for all natural calamities, such as plagues, floods, famines, etc.
The Christian religion was proclaimed "strana et illicita - strange and unlawful" (Senatorial decree of the year 35); "exitialis - deadly"(Tacitus); "prava et immodica - wicked and unbridled" (Plinius); "nova et malefica - new and harmful" (Svetonius); "tenebrosa et lucifuga - mysterious and opposed to light" (from "Octavius" by Minucius); "detestabilis- hateful" (Tacitus); therefore it was outlawed and persecuted, because it was considered the most dangerous enemy of the power of Rome, which was based upon the ancient national religion and on the emperor's worship.
The first three centuries constitute the age of Martyrs, which ended in 313 with the edict of Milan, by which the emperors Constantine and Licinius gave freedom to the Church. The persecution was not always continuous and universal, nor equally cruel and bloody. Periods of persecution were followed by periods of relative peace.