Persecution means to target and punish a particular person or group of people. Christians who lived in the Roman Empire suffered persecution. They weren’t allowed to worship God and were arrested and punished for not worshiping the Roman gods. Yet despite being persecuted, the followers of Christ grew in number. You can grab a bible and read all about it in The Acts of the Apostles and Saint Paul’s letters (in the New Testament).
For the Christians, a big change happened when Emperor Constantine was about to fight the Battle of Milvian Bridge in ad 312. This battle was part of a civil war—Romans fighting Romans. Constantine had been a worshiper of Apollo, the Sun god. The night before the big battle, Constantine had a dream. In his dream, he saw the sun (Apollo’s symbol)—but with a cross in front, blotting it out. Beneath the cross a Latin inscription read, “In hoc signo vinces*”—“Under this sign, you will win.” Early the next morning, Constantine ordered his troops to paint crosses on their shields. Constantine won the battle and became the sole emperor of Rome. Out of gratitude he became a Christian and issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which allowed everyone in the empire to follow whatever religion they chose without being persecuted.
The Battle o the Milvian bridge seems ideal for a rousing climactic scene in a sword & sandals movie—the hopeless odds, the clever general, a lightning strike at the enemy’s vulnerable spot, the victory as the enemy retreats in confusion. You can read about it here.
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*EEN HOKE SEEN-yo WEEN-kays, for you pronunciation purists.