Religion is one of the oldest and most sacred traditions of the human species. Though founded in different periods of time, Christianity and Buddhism have shaped cultures and have had a great influence on customs and beliefs of people all around the world. These two religions are very different in their beliefs and practices but they seem to have a very similar underlying pattern of diffusion. They were each inspired by a single dominant leader, Siddhartha Gautama and Jesus Christ, who sought to bring hope to their communities. While Buddhism started in India and Christianity started in the Mediterranean, both religions extended their reach though trade routes. The followers of Christianity and Buddhism were taught to obey certain laws which affected their lives differently. The growth and acceptance of Buddhism and Christianity evolved differently for each religion as they spread across geographic, political, and cultural boundaries. The diffusion of both Christianity and Buddhism during the classical period was accelerated by powerful political leaders as well as trade routes but the resulting social developments and geographical spread outside each religion’s origin diverge significantly.
Both Christianity and Buddhism spread in the Classical Era because they had powerful political leaders. In the case of Christianity, Gregory the Wonderworker and Paul of Tarsus were influential political leaders who spread the religion. Gregory the Wonderworker created many prolific writings and was a very influential speaker. Gregory also popularized Christianity in Central Anatolia in the mid-third century CE by making it a popular religion of salvation in the Roman Empire. Another strong Christian political leader, Paul of Tarsus, who was a Jew from Anatolia, taught Christianity in a way that attracted the urban masses. Similar to Christianity, Buddhism was also disseminated through strong political leaders, such as Ashoka and Siddhartha Gautama. Ashoka was an Indian Emperor of the Maurya dynasty. After the Kalinga War, which displaced and killed thousands of people, Ashoka converted to Buddhism and proceeded to spread it across Asia. He also played an important role by establishing monuments to honor the Buddha, therefore garnering many additional follows for Buddhism. Siddhartha, also known as "the enlightened one" and the Buddha, formed the foundations of Buddhism. The Buddha taught in Nepal and influenced people to become monks and disseminated the Buddhist religion throughout northern India. Buddha delivered his message with a living understanding to embrace everyone and a deep concern for the poor and the oppressed. While Christianity and Buddhism had different political leaders, both rulers helped create, influence and proliferate their religions.
Trade routes also had a major positive impact on the diffusion of Christianity and Buddhism. Both religions were spread by missionaries that traveled along the major trade routes. To extend the reach of Christianity, missionaries used the Roman roads and the sea lanes. The missionaries carried messages on trade routes throughout the Roman Empire and into the Mediterranean basin. These trade routes enabled Christianity to spread into the Mediterranean basin, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Greece, Italy, Spain and Gaul. Buddhism started in northern India and then made its way along silk roads. While Christianity started in Rome, Buddhism started in northern India. After Buddhism spread throughout India, it made its way along the silk roads. Buddhism first established a presence in oasis towns along the silk roads, including the towns of Merv, Bukhara and Kashgar. Christianity also spread along the silk roads, but not to the extent that Buddhism spread due to the fact that Buddhism was the prominent faith of the Silk Road merchants for a millennium (200 B.C.E - 700 C.E). The Silk Road merchants facilitated Buddhism’s introduction to many other