When the Romans ruled, their persecutions of Christians and Jews were attributed to 666, symbol of the Devil, but also the numerical identity of Emperor Nero. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the 5th century and made it the state religion. Anyone not adhering to Catholic rules was a heretic, a worshipper of God's enemy. As Christianity spread under the Roman Empire, the devil took on some of the characteristics of Pan, whom the Romans kept on worshipping- Hence the horns and claws for feet in the newly born imagery of the devil.
By the Middle Ages, the devil became real - everything physical and material was bad, everything spiritual was good. Islam was then seen as evil personified, hence the Crusades. The Inquisition then went so far as to claim that "heretics" were in league with the devil. The Church used excuses of heresy in order to acquire wealth. Women in particular were considered to be close to the devil. Between 60,000 and 300,000 women were burned as witches.
Luther split the Church and each denomination accused the other of demonisation. When the New World of the Americas was colonised, the devil went along. The town of Salem is synonymous with witch hunts. By the 18th century, science had come into the picture and the idea of the devil became more sophisticated, being well groomed, wealthy and sexually appealing. He promised everything to people in return for their soul.
With the age of Revolution, a completely new image of the devil appeared. He was depicted as a lonely figure who suffered under an overbearing God. He was now a brave and handsome fellow and becomes romanticised. The devil was now admired. In the 20th century, the devil became a figure of fun and is considered no better or worse that the common man.
In 1966, the Church of Satan was founded in California. Satan became a popular figure in modern film. In the film "Rosemary's Baby", Satan triumphs and the film "The Exorcist" brought evil into a new perspective. In the 1980s, news of organised Satanists swept the media.
In the US, most people believe the devil is real and see recent events such as September 11 as a testimony. "Evil is real and must be opposed," said Bush. This is classic dualist thinking of the past and the war against terror seems very similar to the war against heretics. When being interviewed about the US attack on Falluja Colonel Brandl maintained that the enemy was Satan and that he lives in Falluja. In conclusion, it is perhaps high time we got rid of the notion of the devil and hell.