The Roman Empire ruled over the Mediterranean region when Jesus Christ walked the earth. The Jewish people had been long been ruled by foreign powers, including the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Ptolemaic (Egyptian) empires. After a period of independence under the Maccabees, the Jewish people came under the dominion of the Roman Empire.

The land of Israel was at the far eastern end of the Roman Empire; it provided a land route to the breadbasket of the Nile delta. The region became a client kingdom of Rome under a series of puppet kings, the most famous of which was Herod the Great. After Herod's death, the land was ruled by four Tetrarchs. One of these Tetrachs, Herod Archelaus, was deposed by Rome in 6 AD. The Tetrachy of Archelaus included Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Renamed Iudaea Province, it came under the direct rule of the Roman Empire. Pontius Pilate was one of the prefects of Iudaea Province.

Messianic expectations were high during this period, and some Jews, particularily the Zealots, rebelled against Roman rule. Between 66 AD and 135 AD, there were three wars of rebellion between the Jewish people and the Roman authorities. Herod's Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Paul, in his missionary journies, travelled to many places in the Eastern Roman Empire, including Asia Minor, Greece, Cyprus, and, at the end of his journeys, Rome. Catholic tradition holds that Simon Peter also travelled to Rome, and became the first Bishop of Rome.

As Christianity began to diverge from Judaism, the Roman authorities suppressed Christianity as a new "mystery religion." However, Constantine the Great converted to Christianity in 312 AD, and the Edict of Milan legalized Christianity. Christianity became the state religion under Emperor Theodosius I in 381 CE

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