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February 27, 2011


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Brandon Minich

Pretty good job distilling the history of the early church. One correction I would make: Jesus' resurrection took place three days after the crucifixion. Christians (like myself) hold that Christ rose from the dead, and then returned to heaven 40 days after that. The second coming is a separate event entirely, though you are right to point out that it was seen as imminent much more in the early church then later.

As for the rest, that's where if people ask, tell them to go find a "History of the Church" podcast. ;)

I very much enjoy the podcast: keep up the good work!

Matt Wolff

Mike, long time first time. Do you know of any estimations of the size of the Christian population in Rome at the time of the Great Fire?

I was always curious why Nero would blame Christians for the fire if their population was negligible, which I would assume it would be given that it was so close to the assumed date of the Crucifixion. I'd be real interested if you found anything I couldn't.

I think I'm going to cry when you get to Romulus Augustulus, and this podcast ends! Keep up the stellar research.


Very even-handed treatment of a difficult subject.

Val in Vancouver

I really enjoyed this episode. The way you separated and condensed the history and the beliefs was very elegant.
If people are going to insist on ignoring what you said at the beginning of this podcast and use the comments as an opportunity to quibble and disagree, they are extremely rude and inappropriate and this is not the venue for their comments.
Thanks for an interesting episode.

Andrew OReilly

The term diocese and ultimately archdiocese have their root word origin in the name Diocletian(I am not sure if you mentioned that). I find that ironic, and yet, the various schisms in Christianity probably caused more internal suffering than Diocletian's minions ever could.
P.S. If anyone's interested, Fire in the East and King of Kings(harry Sidebottom) are absolutely kick-ass novels covering the the period of the Illyrian emperors...I just finished 'em ....can't wait til last of the trilogy comes out....

David McLain

Since I've never seen a picture of you, I'm going to continue to assume that you weigh about three hundred pounds, are of both African and Polynesian descent, and have bright red hair.

Alexandra Y.

Is there a non-biased, comprehensive biography of Diocletian that you would reccomend? Next to Augustus Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, Diocletian is my favorite Roman Emperor. Thanks for doing this podcastm and doing such a great job of it!


Mike, I think you are doing a great job of handling this topic. Thanks again for everything you do.


I enjoyed the succinct history of the early church, brilliantly distilled. One question, the throwing of Christians to the lions stories, myth or based in truth? And if true which periods did it happen?


Alright.. I'll do it.

Perseuction = Persecution?


Sorry andrew but actually the word diocese comes from the greek word
dioikēsis, meaning ."internal administration". A term used before the advent of Diocleation

Luise (Tasmania,Australia)

On a tour of the Colosseum some years ago, our guide mentioned that no Christians were fed to lions in the amphitheatre, this "entertainment" was performed at the Circus Maximus only. Perhaps those attending THoR Tour will be able to clarify that point.


Great episode. By the way Stephen Williams has a good biography of Diocletian -


Stuart Harvey

@Luise from Tasmania

As I am a licensed Tour Guide of Rome, I hope you will permit me to clarify this point about Christians and Lions.

It is the popular myth that Emperor Nero threw Christians to the Lions in the Colosseum that is often debunked by Tour Guides - on the grounds that it is technically impossible since the Colosseum was built after Nero's death!

Nero did persecute Christians in his private "circus" (not the Circus Maximus) which was where the Vatican is today. He crucified many, including Peter, and sometimes set fire to the crosses to light his circus.

However many "regular" convicted criminals were executed at the Colosseum (usually as lunchtime entertainment), and it is highly plausible that the occasional early Christian would have met that fate. These executions sometimes involved being torn apart by wild beasts, and sometimes two convicts were manacled together and given swords - survivor goes free! Lots of other unpleasant things too - those Romans were nothing if not innovative.

This idea that some Christians had died in the Colosseum became the reason used by Pope Benedict XIV to declare the Colosseum a sacred place in 1740. On Good Friday the Pope still conducts the Via Crucis inside the Colosseum.
This sanctification of the ancient amphitheatre had the happy result of preventing the further removal of stone for building churches and palaces in Rome, thus preserving it for us to enjoy today.

For information - the general program for the games was
Morning - "venationes" = animal fights with the specially trained Bestiarius fighters.
Lunch - public executions
Afternoon - "munera" = gladiator fights with all the favorites like Secutor, Retiarius, Thracian etc etc in well choreographed entertainment.

I hope this was helpful.

Stuart Harvey

Stuart Harvey

Oh, and I just wanted to add that this episode was an excellent, succinct and objective evaluation on the development of early Christianity.

Great job as always. This podcast is a true masterclass in Roman History.

online job

I'd be real interested if you found anything I couldn't.Perhaps those attending THoR Tour will be able to clarify that point.A term used before the advent of Diocleation

Dan Walker

Mike, I love the podcast and have listened to every episode. I have learned so much and there are so many lessons that can be applied to today.

I concur with Brandon Minich above. Christians believe that Jesus has already risen from the dead and that he will return from heaven to end human history as we know it.

Otherwise I loved the podcast and can only wish someone would do a series on Christian history as skillfully as you have covered Roman history.


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Tono Rondone

My fourth novel, The Martyrs, written in 2005, details Diocletian's 20 year rule & the great persecution of 304, while telling the story of St. Justina & St. Cyprian. From my research, we've been reading the same books. Great job. Here's a link to my book, FYI: http://www.piscesbooks.com/themartyrs.html, & http://www.amazon.com/dp/097601890X?tag=piscesbooksco-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=097601890X&adid=0KHZTC2RDQNJ6B952V7G&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.piscesbooks.com%2Fthemartyrs.html.


Sorry, Benjamin, but "diokesis" may have been a term that existed before Diocletian, but only in Greece and only among Greeks. "Diocese" replaced the Latin term "Provincae"(Roman Province) per Diocletian's reorganization of the Roman empire. Maybe it's just a coincidence that his name and the Greek term are similar, but the man, the Roman man, gets the credit for the reorganization. The Romans were masters at adminstration and law, the Greeks were not (they still aren't). Anyone who simplistically and foolishly believes that Roman culture is just a rip off of Greek culture needs to be reminded that the Romans did not steal any more from the Greeks who came before them, than the Greeks stole from the Hittites who came well before them.

To end, too bad Mike mispelled "persecution," but he's not perfect nor does he get paid for this nor is this his dissertation but rather a blog. Relax.

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