Throughout the early centuries of Christianity, the Roman government continually tried to suppress the new religion. Ultimately it failed, but only after a long period of struggle, misunderstanding, and persecution. Grant has placed this clash between government and Christianity in the context of the entire history of the policy of Roman rulers concerning religion.
Tracing the government's attitude toward foreign religions from the early days of the republic on through the empire, Grant shows how Rome tried to preserve its religious and cultural traditions from all external influences. Thus, there was a long series of legal and judicial precedents for treating Christianity as subversive. The author analyzes these precedents and the particular teachings of Christianity which set the state against it.
This is a scholarly study, but it is written with clarity and conciseness. Within its scope is a broad sweep of a dramatic period in religious history, a period which contains many fascinating parallels to the fight for freedom and human rights in the world today.