This was in no small part due to Christians being free for the first time to express their faith openly without persecution from the state, in addition to the faith spreading to the non-poor segments of society.Paintings of martyrs and their feats began to appear, and early writers commented on their lifelike effect, one of the elements a few Christian writers criticized in pagan art—the ability to imitate life.
Comparable images from Western Christianity are generally not classified as "icons", although "iconic" may be used to describe a static style of devotional image.The writers mostly criticized pagan works of art for pointing to false gods, thus encouraging idolatry. 430), in his Letter to Heliodorus Silentiarius, records a miracle in which St.Statues in the round were avoided as being too close to the principal artistic focus of pagan cult practices, as they have continued to be (with some small-scale exceptions) throughout the history of Eastern Christianity. Plato of Ankyra appeared to a Christian in a dream.Since then icons have had a great continuity of style and subject; far greater than in the images of the Western church.At the same time there has been change and development.It went missing in 1204 when Crusaders sacked Constantinople, but by then numerous copies had firmly established its iconic type.
The 4th-century Christian Aelius Lampridius produced the earliest known written records of Christian images treated like icons (in a pagan or Gnostic context) in his Life of Alexander Severus (xxix) that formed part of the Augustan History.
394) in which he recounted how he tore down an image in a church and admonished the other bishop that such images are "opposed . When asked by Constantia (Emperor Constantine's sister) for an image of Jesus, Eusebius denied the request, replying: "To depict purely the human form of Christ before its transformation, on the other hand, is to break the commandment of God and to fall into pagan error." After the emperor Constantine I extended official toleration of Christianity within the Roman Empire in 313, huge numbers of pagans became converts.
This period of Christianization probably saw the use of Christian images became very widespread among the faithful, though with great differences from pagan habits.
On the other hand, Irenaeus does not speak critically of icons or portraits in a general sense—only of certain gnostic sectarians' use of icons.
Another criticism of image veneration appears in the non-canonical 2nd-century Acts of John (generally considered a gnostic work), in which the Apostle John discovers that one of his followers has had a portrait made of him, and is venerating it: (27) "..[John] went into the bedchamber, and saw the portrait of an old man crowned with garlands, and lamps and altars set before it.
They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest.