Prior to some of the great persecutions, there was not unrelenting persecution of the Christians. Pliny, a Roman statesman, observed the Christians, and saw nothing wrong with the way they gathered and prayed. They were not disrupting society, and they were causing no harm to one another. They were not worshiping the Roman gods, but they were not committing any form of crime in the practice of Christianity. Pliny is famous for writing a letter to the emperor Trajan, requesting answers. Should these Christians be sought out and destroyed? Trajan replied with a policy that was less severe, but still had severe aspects. He said that Christians will not be sought out, however if they are turned in with valid merit, then they would be punished for this. This gave the Christians some relief, but they still had to be very cautious in day to day life.
Following this, there were several prosecutions that occurred. Many innocent Christians were slaughtered. The most significant of these was the Great Persecution (303-305 AD) under the emperor Diocletian. The Christians were required to sacrifice to the emperor under pain of death. There were many Christian martyrs during this persecution, but there were also people who conformed to the commands of the emperor, and lost their faith.
As you can imagine, the faithful Christians lived a life of fear, and they spent their days and nights watching for Roman prosecutors.
The Christians were relieved from this when the emperor Constantine came into reign. He believed that he owed his success in the battle of Milvian bridge (312 AD) to the Christian God. He returned property to the Christian people, which later leads to the Edict of Milan (313). Toleration is extended to Christians and they are made whole. The Christians were finally able to live without fear of being prosecuted.