Soldiering for God

Christianity and the Roman Army


This new study argues that the religious attitude of the Roman army was a crucial factor in the Christianization of the Roman world. Specifically, by the end of the third century, there was a significant Christian presence within the army which was ready to act in the interests of the faith. Conditions at this time were thus ripe for the coming to power of a Christian emperor: when Constantine converted to Christianity he could rely upon the enthusiastic support of his Christian soldiers. Constantine strengthened his Christian base by initiating policies which accelerated the Christianization of the army. The continuation of these policies by Christian Roman emperors eventually allowed them to use the military as a vehicle for the suppression of paganism and ‘heretical’ Christian sects.

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Biographical Note

John F. Shean, Ph.D. (1998) in History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is Associate Professor of History at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. He has published several articles on religion and politics in antiquity.

Review Quotes

"Shean has provided a much-needed monograph on the development of Christianity within the Roman army, the role
it played in the conversion of the Empire, and the ultimate Christianization of Europe."

Dennis P. Quinn, California State Polytechnic University.
Religious Studies Review, vol. 37 nr. 2 2011

Table of contents

List of Illustrations ... ix
Preface ... xi
Acknowledgements ... xiii
Abbreviations ... xv

Chapter One Introduction: The Warrior’s Path to God ... 1
Chapter Two Roman Army Religion ... 31
Chapter Three Christian Attitudes towards the Roman State, War, and Military Service ... 71
Chapter Four Sociology of Early Christianity ... 105
Chapter Five Evidence for the Presence of Christians in the Roman Army ... 177
Chapter Six The Thirteenth Apostle ... 217
Chapter Seven Church and State in the Fourth Century ... 279
Chapter Eight The Impact of ‘Barbarization’ on the Roman Army ... 327
Chapter Nine Consequences of Conversion ... 369

Table 1 ... 409
Bibliography ... 415
Index ... 439


Readers would include scholars and members of the general public interested in Roman history, church history, military history, and the history of Late Antiquity.

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