An Empire of Doubt


W hen I signed up for History 3: The Byzantine Empire, my last lower division class on the tail end of a long journey in the History Department, I expected to get in and out with relatively little intellectual strain. I didn’t really have a strong conception of what a Byzantine was, just that this class existed far outside my normal field of 20th century East Asia.

The Byzantine turned out to be the Roman Empire, Part II. Though I considered myself interested in every area of history, and despite my having become a Christian three years ago, I had yet to study early Christian history. In section, we discussed prominent Christian writers, turning the critical eyes of an academic upon the works of men like Eusebius, an influential polemic and the Bishop of Caesarea. Apart from early Christian thought, we also covered the spread of Christianity during the Byzantine. My professor offered the perspective that Christianity flourished because it became a protected and then “official” state religion of the empire with perks being afforded to those who converted. I also learned about the different rivaling doctrines of the time, the two main types being Nicene and Arian Christianity, and how politics in the Byzantine determined which views became supported or persecuted.

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