The new religion certainly helped to soften and refine
manners by the stress which it laid upon such "Christian" virtues as
humility, tenderness, and gentleness. By dwelling on the sanctity of human
life, Christianity did its best to repress the very common practice of suicide
as well as the frightful evil of infanticide. It set its face sternly
against the obscenities of the theater and the cruelties of the gladiatorial
shows. In these and other respects Christianity had much to do with the
improvement of ancient morals.
SOCIAL TEACHINGS OF CHRISTIANITY
Perhaps even more original contributions of Christianity
to civilization lay in its social teachings. The belief in the fatherhood of
God implied a corresponding belief in the brotherhood of man. This doctrine of
the equality of men had been expressed before by ancient philosophers, but
Christianity translated the precept into practice. In this way it helped to
improve the condition of slaves and, by favoring emancipation, even tended to
decrease slavery. Christianity also laid much emphasis on the virtue of
charity and the duty of supporting all institutions which aimed to relieve the
lot of the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE GERMANS
At the close of the fourth century the Germanic tribes
living nearest the frontiers had been visited by missionaries and had become
converts to Christianity. The fact that both Romans and Germans were Christians
tended to lessen the terrors of the invasions and to bring about a peaceful
fusion of the conquerors and the conquered.