3rd Century, 201 to 300

203  Origen, who is around twenty years-old, succeeds the wealthy Christian scholar, Clement of Alexandria, as leader of the Christian school in Alexandria. Clement has helped Christianity blend with Plato's philosophy and has championed allegorical interpretations of scripture.

208  The Parthian Empire has suffered from plague and their rule has shrunk to Mesopotamia alone. A king named Ardashir has arisen in Persia. 

217  The Taoist cult leader, Chang Lu, descendant of Zhangling (See 142 CE) ) has warred with a neighboring Taoist cult, led by Chang Hsiu. He has been overrun by the warlord Cao Cao and he dies. Legend will describe his grave being opened and his body discovered to be miraculously preserved, signifying his special place in heaven.

224  Ardashir's army defeats the Parthian army. Four hundred years of rule by the Parthian dynasty, the Arsacids, comes to an end. Ardashir is the first king of a new dynasty, the Sassanids, which will rule across Persia and Mesopotamia.

242  At Ctesiphon, capital of the Sassanid Empire, Ardashir's son and successor, Shapur I, is tolerant of religious diversity and has given a 27-year-old named Mani permission to spread his religion, to be known as Manichaeism, around the empire. Mani believes that his views are the sum and perfection of all religious wisdom. With worldly knowledge having become a greater part of religious thought, Mani's religion includes his positions on the origins of the universe, anthropology, history, botany, zoology and geography. Manichaeism includes Zoroastrianism's struggle between good and evil, and Mani calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ.

250  Since the last of the Severan emperors in 235, Rome has had fifteen different military-emperors, most of whom have died violent deaths. Rome is in chaos. Economic activity has declined. In the western half of the empire roads are deteriorating and cities have shrunk. Agricultural estates are growing as fortresses and ignoring Rome. Emperors have debased money in order to pay soldiers. In Gaul hordes roam about pillaging. Piracy has increased. Rome's trade with China has ended. Having lost their faith in government, more people are seeking refuge in religions that promise well-being.

250  Roughly five percent of people within the Roman Empire have become Christian. Having become more visible, Christians are increasingly under attack for refusing to take part in ceremonies to appease Rome's gods. People are blaming Christians for the anger of the gods. A wave of executions takes place, initiated by Emperor Decius, with the bishop in North Africa, Cyprian, describing the persecutions of Christians as God's punishment for their not doing His will. "We," he writes," are receiving the thrashing we deserve."

258  A second wave of executions take place, initiated by the Emperor Valerian. Cyprian is executed by beheading, witnessed by thousands, those near him throwing pieces of cloth to catch his blood. Romans are impressed by the willingness of Christians to suffer and die for what they believe in. Many see the state as more of an enemy than the Christians.

276  The Zoroastrian priesthood is opposed to rivals in the Sassanid Empire, including Christianity and Manichaeism. Under a new Sassanid king, Hormizd, Mani is executed and his followers are persecuted, and they scatter. Manichaeism spreads into the Roman Empire.

280  In China, wars among rival lords produces nominal unity and a new emperor: Jin Wu. By now, Mahayana Buddhism has grown in China. Introduced some two hundred years before, it has offered people salvation amid war and strife.

284  Commanders of rival Roman armies fight for power, and a commander of humble birth from Illyricum, Diocletian, emerges as emperor. Diocletian likes the trappings of power and the grand style of Asian emperors and proclaims himself the earthly representative of Rome's supreme god, Jupiter.

300   Christians across empire are about ten percent of the population. In the eastern half of the empire they are twenty or more percent of the population. North Africa had become largely Christian, the result of Christian evangelists having learned the Coptic and Berber languages.

300  Bantu speaking people have expanded into eastern Africa, alongside hunter-gatherers.

2nd Century (101 to 200 CE) | 4th Century (301 to 400 CE)

Copyright © 2003-2015 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.