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1 Peter iv. 16: ‘If a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.'

The reasons that were given at the close of the last lecture for holding that St. Paul was released from his bonds and left Rome at the beginning of the year 62 A.D. are greatly strengthened by the consideration of certain facts recorded by Josephus. He tells us that during the short procuratorship of Festus a serious quarrel had arisen between King Agrippa and the priestly party at Jerusalem. Agrippa had built a lofty tower to his palace, from the top of which he was able to overlook the Temple courts. This the Jews bitterly resented, and in their turn erected a high wall to block out the view. Agrippa thereupon applied to Festus, who at first commanded the Jews to pull down the wall and then, fearing an outbreak of violence, afterwards permitted them to send an embassy to lay the matter before Caesar. This embassy consisted of twelve persons headed by the High Priest Ishmael, son of Fabi, and Hilkiah the treasurer. The probable date of their arrival in Rome was April or May, 62 A.D., for Festus died in the spring of this year. Nero had just married his mistress, the beautiful and profligate Poppaea Sabina, to satisfy whose ambition he had first divorced his long-suffering wife Octavia and was within a few weeks to order her murder. Now Poppaea was, if not actually a Jewish proselyte, one of that outer circle of adherents to Judaism known as ‘God-fearers.' Her influence with the Emperor was now exerted on behalf of the Jewish embassy, with the result that Nero decided in their favour. Ishmael and Hilkiah were, however, 116retained at Rome as hostages, a very necessary precaution, for Agrippa on hearing the news had at once deposed Ishmael from the High Priesthood, and Jerusalem was in a very disturbed state.247247Josephus, Ant. xx. 8. 11: τῇ γυναικὶ Ποππαίᾳ, θεοσεβὴς γὰρ ἦν, ὑπὲρ τῶν Ἰουδαίων δεηθείσῃ χαριζόμενος, ἣ τοῖς μὲν δέκα προσέταξεν ἀπιέναι. Poppaea was buried after the Jewish custom, Tac. Ann. xvi. 6; Hist. i. 22. Had these two men been in Rome at the time of Paul's trial, they would have been important witnesses in support of the charges against him, and it would not have been difficult with the help of Poppaea to secure his condemnation.248248The above was not an isolated act of interference by Poppaea on behalf of the Jews. Josephus in his autobiography tells us of the hard case of certain priests who were his friends. They had been sent in irons to Rome by Felix to be tried before Caesar, and remained there in strict confinement without trial for some four years. Josephus describes how in 63 A.D. he went to Rome to see if he could do anything on their behalf. After a perilous voyage, in which he was shipwrecked in the Adriatic, he finally, like St. Paul, landed at Puteoli, and there met a Jewish actor, named Aliturus, who was a favourite with Nero. By this man's help he obtained an introduction to Poppaea, who not only secured for him the liberation of the priests but gave to him some costly presents before his return to Judaea.—Josephus, Vita, c. 3. Josephus tells us that he was at this time twenty-six years of age, and as he was born in the year of the accession of Caligula, i.e. 37 A.D., this fixes the date of his voyage to Rome as 63 A.D.

The growth of a bitter feeling of hostility between the Jews and the new Christian sect which had sprung up out of their midst was in this sixth decade of the first century becoming more accentuated. The men of the synagogues hated this new faith, which had for a number of years found shelter under the protection of the privileges accorded to Judaism, as a religio licita, throughout the empire, but which by its principle of universalism struck a blow at the very foundations of Judaic exclusiveness. And it was against the Jewish converts, much more than against the far larger number of Gentiles who had embraced the Gospel, that their anger was especially directed. The Jewish Christians were in the eyes of their orthodox fellow-countrymen traitors to their race and to the traditions of their fathers. Hence the vindictive spite with which 117St. Paul was pursued, and the fierce outburst of fanaticism at Jerusalem which in this very spring of 62 A.D. had led to the stoning of St. James the Just.249249Josephus, Ant. xx. 9. 1; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. ii. 23. The animosity of the Roman Jews was probably much less pronounced than that of the fierce priestly fanatics in Judaea, but they would naturally be anxious not to add to the hatred and contempt in which they were held by all classes of the population of Rome, by allowing public opinion to regard Christianity as a mere sect of Judaism.250250It was not until the second century that the hatred between Jew and Christian became irreconcilable. In the period we are considering the Christians had no enmity against the Jews, as a race. Despite the bad treatment he received at their hands at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, and, above all, at Jerusalem, St. Paul always showed the strongest affection for his fellow-countrymen, and in his preaching held fast to the rule ‘the Jew first.' But Tertullian's words ‘synagogas Iudaeorum fontes persecutionum' were true always. Tert. Scorp. 10. About this time it is certain that the distinction between Jew and Christian began to be generally recognised, and rumours to spread abroad, which probably had their origin in Jewish malice, by which the Christians were accused of holding impious orgies and horrible Thyestean feasts and of being a secret society of anarchists and criminals. It is not difficult to see that such slanders might be based upon distorted versions of Christian teaching, of the baptism of infants in the Catacombs, and of the nocturnal meetings of the brethren for the holding of the Agape meal and the partaking of the Eucharist.251251The well-known Roman archaeologist, Orazio Marucchi, has discovered in the 1st-century cemetery of Priscilla on the lower floor an ancient baptistery that he has identified with the ‘Coemeterium ad Nymphas Beati Petri ubi baptizaverat,' Acta Liberii [according to their Acts the Martyrs Papias and Maurus were interred ‘via Nomentana ad nymphas Beati Petri ubi baptizabat']. In any case this baptistery dates from the first century and the local traditions in the Acta are generally correct. Marucchi, Eléments d'Archéologie Chrétienne, ii. 385–6, 457–61; also Le Memorie degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo in Roma, pp. 93–102. The language of Tacitus (Ann. xv. 44) and Suetonius (Nero, 31, 39) testifies that the charges against the Christians in the time of Nero were of the same kind as those mentioned in detail at a later date by Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. 10, 17, 108; I Apol. 26; Athenagoras, Apol. 3; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. vi. 1 (as to the charges brought against the Christians at Lyons).


The exact date of the last visit of St. Peter to Rome cannot be fixed with certainty, but a number of considerations point to the year 63 A.D. as the time of his arrival. That St. Peter was martyred in Rome towards the end of the reign of Nero is a fact, as I have previously shown, established by overwhelming evidence.252252See pp. 47–51. That he resided there for some length of time before his death is witnessed to by a weight of tradition which only prejudice and prepossession can put on one side, as without evidential value. By some curious perversity of critical aberration it was precisely the Ebionite fictions, which have come down to us in the 3rd century pseudo-Clementine literature, which Baur and Lipsius and their followers adopted as historical, accepting their representation of Peter and Paul as the heads of two rival and hostile Christian factions and as passing their lives in continuous and acute conflict, while rejecting the tradition universally accepted in every part of the Christian world for fifteen centuries, which regarded these two Apostles as the joint founders of the Roman Church, working in harmony for the common cause, and sealing their testimony by death in the city where both alike spent their last days. This Tübingen theory, worked out with much literary ingenuity and all the resources of erudition, had for some decades a great vogue, but being fundamentally false it could not live long when tested by the results of scientific archaeological research, and has at length been practically abandoned. Christian archaeology indeed has during the past half century made giant strides, especially at Rome itself, and the accumulating evidence furnished by the excavations and explorations in the Catacombs and elsewhere has been most illuminating, and tends more and more by the testimony of still existing monuments, tombs, and inscriptions to verify the general correctness of early Christian tradition.253253G. B. de Rossi, Roma sotterranea cristiana, 4 vols. 1864–1877; Inscriptiones Christianae urbis Romae VIIº saeculo antiquiores, 1864–1888. De Rossi examined over 15,000 epitaphs in the Catacombs. Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1863–1894, etc. Nuovo Bullettino di archeologia cristiana (edited by Orazio Marucchi), 1895; Orazio Marucchi, Eléments d'archéologie chrætienne: I. ‘Notions générales,' II. ‘Itinéraire des Catacombes,' III. ‘Basiliques et églises 1906–9. Roma sotterranea Christiana (Nuova serie) Cimitero di Domitilla,' No. 4, 1909; Le Memorie degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo in Roma, 1903, etc.; P. Wilpert, Principienfragen der christlichen Archäologie, 1892; R. Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, 1892, and New Tales of Old Rome; J. S. Northcote and W. R. Brownlow, Roma Sotterranea, 2 vols. 1879.

St. Peter's final sojourn in Rome has a permanent 119record in the first Epistle bearing his name, which is from the historian's standpoint a document of the utmost value. Its authenticity was never questioned in ancient times and the external witness to its genuineness is unimpeachable.254254On this point Renan (L'Antéchrist, Introd. p. vii) may be quoted: ‘La I Petri est un des écrits du Nouveau Testament qui sont le plus anciennement et le plus unanimement cités comme authentiques.' 1 Peter is quoted in the Epistle to the Hebrews, of which the date is probably 66 A.D., and in Clement, 1 Corinthians, an epistle written by a disciple of St. Peter. If on subjective grounds doubts have been thrown on its authorship, its date and the place from which it was written, it has been simply because its contents, being on the face of them that which they claimed to be—Petrine, Neronian, and Roman—naturally clashed with theories which denied to it any of these attributes. With the death and burial of the Tübingen fictions, let it be hoped that the doubts about the genuineness of this Epistle may also find decent interment.

The salutation of the Epistle is addressed to the elect sojourners of the Dispersion, in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, in other words to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout the four Roman provinces (for Pontus and Bithynia formed one province) which lay north and west of the Taurus mountain range.255255There was regular intercourse between Rome and the seaports of provincial Pontus, especially Sinope. Possibly, as Dr. Hort suggests, Silvanus may have had special personal reasons for beginning his journey as the bearer of the Epistle from this point. As Bithynia adjoined Pontus and formed part of the same province the route of Silvanus would be a circuit ending at a point not far from that at which it began. See Dr. Hort's special note on ‘The Provinces of Asia Minor included in St. Peter's address': Hort, 1st Epistle of St. Peter, pp. 157–185; also the very interesting Introduction to Bigg's 1st Epistle of St. Peter, pp. 67–80. This region then, it may be assumed, had been the scene of Peter's missionary labours for a number of years before the 120visit to Rome during which the epistle was written. Taken in conjunction with the strong body of evidence from other sources for a residence of St. Peter in Rome during the latter part of Nero's reign,256256See Dr. Chase's article on Peter in Hastings's Dictionary of the Bible, in which references will be found to the literature bearing on the subject. and with the internal evidence of the epistle itself—that it was written in that city during the earlier stages of the persecution which followed the great fire of 64 A.D., the words of ch. v. v. 13, ‘the Church (or the sister) which is in Babylon elect together with you saluteth you,' are not difficult of interpretation. To Jewish readers the term Babylon, as symbolically and figuratively connoting the great city of oppression and corruption on the Tiber, was, if one may judge by the use made of it in the Apocalypse, so familiar as to be at once intelligible. The 5th book of the Sibylline Oracles, in a passage of Jewish origin referring to the misdeeds of Nero, and possibly written not long after the fall of Jerusalem, likewise employs the name Babylon for Rome simply and directly, as St. Peter does.257257The Sibylline Oracles, Book v. p. 143: Φεύξεται ἐκ Βαβυλῶνος ἄναξ φοβερὸς καὶ ἀναιδής.. The subject of this passage is the flight of Nero from Rome. Zahn gives the date 71–74 A.D. in Zeitschrift für Kirchliche Wissenschaft und Leben, 1886, p. 337 ff.

The epistle is remarkable for the extent of its indebtedness to other New Testament writings, and especially to those of St. Pau1.258258St. Peter in many passages shows an acquaintance with the Epistle of St. James. In this there is nothing remarkable, considering the close association of the two early Christian leaders. Far more striking are the numerous echoes and reflections of our Lord's sayings, as they are recorded in the four Gospels. These Petrine reminiscences of the Master's words do not, however, seem to be derived from any canonical gospel we now possess. Possibly St. Peter made use of some pre-canonical source, i.e. that which the critics have named ‘Q.' Far more probably he was in the habit of quoting from memory in his preaching the sayings of Jesus, which his love for the speaker had enshrined in his mind unforgettably. It is not unlikely that 1 Peter contains many phrases and thoughts which may have their source in sayings of the Lord unrecorded in the extant Gospels. It is noteworthy that the phraseology of 1 Peter contains several coincidences with that of the Fourth Gospel, a piece of evidence strongly testifying to the historical character of the Johannine record. There is no lack of originality in either 121thought or diction in this essentially Petrine document, but St. Peter's mind appears to have been one of those that absorbed what he had heard or read so completely that he reproduced it almost unconsciously, and yet in reproducing transformed the borrowed phrase or idea, so as to make it his very own. It is peculiarly interesting to note that this Epistle plainly testifies that the Apostle was intimately acquainted with those two great epistles of St. Paul, the Epistles to the Romans and to the Ephesians,259259In the Authorised Version of 1 Peter will be found more than forty marginal references to Romans, more than twenty to Ephesians. and that he was deeply impressed by them. This being so, it follows not only that there was at this time no opposition between Peter and Paul, such as fills the foreground of Christian Baur's imaginative representation of the relations between the two men, but that any earlier divergencies of view had been replaced by the closest agreement and by practical identity in the general character of their teaching. Further the fact that the language of these two Epistles, Ephesians and Romans, should have been thus fresh in the memory of St. Peter, when dictating his own letter, is one of those undesigned coincidences which afford the strongest circumstantial proof that the historical setting is in exact accordance with that traditional interpretation of documentary evidence which I have been endeavouring to show is the correct interpretation. St. Paul, as we have seen, had sent from Rome in 61 A.D. an Epistle to the Church in Colossae and another circular epistle, commonly called the Epistle to the Ephesians, but in reality addressed to a whole group of Asian Churches. In the Epistle to Colossae the Apostle in sending the salutation of Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, who was then with him states that he (Mark) was about to visit them, and he gives to him his commendation.260260Col. iv. 10. St. Peter in writing, also from Rome, to these same Asian Churches a few years later adds to the salutation from the Church that of ‘Marcus my son.'2612611 Pet. v. 13. Now St. Peter, according to the opening passage of his Epistle, had been 122working himself in Asia Minor in the years preceding this last Roman visit. The natural inference therefrom is that Mark had, while journeying through those Churches to which the Epistle of the Ephesians had been sent, joined himself to his old chief, and then accompanied him once again to Rome, as his interpreter. The many references to the Epistle to the Ephesians by St. Peter in these circumstances are not more than what might reasonably be expected. Moreover in. Christian Rome, the Apostle on his arrival so soon after Paul's release would find himself in a Pauline atmosphere, and being a man keenly susceptible to influences from without, familiarity with the Epistle to the Romans could scarcely fail to exercise that profound effect upon his mind which is reflected in his utterances. But not only was Mark a living bond between the two Apostles at this period; the concluding paragraph of this Epistle seems to imply that Silvanus also, Paul's former missionary associate, had been with Peter in Asia Minor, that he had accompanied him to Rome, that he was now acting as his amanuensis in writing his epistle to the Churches of the Dispersion, and that he was destined to be its bearer. The words ‘through Silvanus, a faithful brother in my judgement, have I written to you briefly' stand at the beginning of the short postscript to the epistle, which was in all probability written by St. Peter in his own hand, and it has been taken to signify that in the body of the epistle the more cultured scribe was allowed more or less a free hand in putting into literary form the rough-hewn Greek which fell from the lips of the Apostle.2622621 Pet. v. 12: διὰ Σιλουανοῦ ὑμῖν τοῦ πιστοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, ὡς λογίζομαι, δἰ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα. Compare the words of Dionysius of Corinth quoted in Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. iv. 2. 11, who speaks of the epistle of Clement as ἡμῖν διὰ Κλήμεντος γραφεῖσαν.. The Epistle was sent in the name of the Church of Rome, but the general assent of antiquity makes Clement to have been the author. He had no doubt general instructions agreed upon by the Presbyterate, i.e. by Bishop Linus and the body of episcopi who were his coadjutors and of whom Clement was one. He appears, according to Hermas, to have acted as the secretary of the Presbyterate in their intercourse with foreign churches and to have been given a free hand in the actual composition of the letter. To a less extent this was probably the case with Silvanus in his transcription of Peter's dictation.


An event took place when St. Peter was in Rome, but some months before he wrote his Epistle, which was fraught with terrible consequences to the Christians. On July 19, 64 A.D., a fire broke out at the end of the Great Circus adjoining the Palatine and Caelian Hills, amidst shops containing inflammable wares. For nine days the conflagration raged, with most disastrous results. Of the fourteen districts into which Rome was divided, four only escaped uninjured, three were totally destroyed, in the other seven only a few scarred and half-ruined houses remained. Nero was at Antium at the time, but he hurried to Rome only to see his own palace buildings on the Palatine and Esquiline, filled with works of art, consumed by the flames. From 400,000 to 500,000 persons found themselves homeless and most of them destitute. The Emperor threw himself with energy into the formidable work of dealing with such an emergency. He opened to the people the Campus Martins, the public buildings of Agrippa and his own gardens, where he erected temporary shelters for the homeless. He brought up supplies of corn and lowered the price. The Sibylline Oracles were consulted and propitiations offered to the Gods. But in spite of all these acts, which should have won him popularity, manifold rumours were soon afloat attributing the fire to incendiaries carrying out Nero's own orders. It was commonly believed that he wished the ancient city to be burnt down, with its dark, narrow, close-packed streets in order that he might build a new one to be called after his own name.263263See Tacitus, Ann. xv. 38—41; Suet. Nero, p. 38; Dion Cassius, lxii. 16—18; Pliny, Nat. Hist. xvii. 5. Of these Suetonius, Dion and Pliny agree in ascribing the crime of incendiarism to Nero. Tacitus does not commit himself to any positive statement: ‘sequitur clades forte an dolo principis incertum, nam utrumque auctores prodidere.' The legend of ‘Nero's fiddling while Rome burned' is probably a fiction, but there must always be strong doubts whether or no he was the author of the fire.

The work of rebuilding in any case was one in which he delighted and on which he lavished vast sums of money. Broad, well-built streets of stone brought from the quarries of Gabii and Alba, with long colonnades, replaced the 124narrow and tortuous alleys which had disappeared. Above all he now appropriated an immense area for the erection of a magnificent palace for himself, to which the name of the Domus Aurea was given, surrounded by open fields, woods and lakes, in which nature and art vied with each other in creating a scene of perfect sylvan beauty. All this is told us by Tacitus, who then proceeds to describe the effect upon the public mind of all this activity on the part of the Emperor:—‘but neither man's efforts to give relief, nor the largess of the prince, nor the propitiations of the Gods were able to dissipate belief in the sinister report that the fire had been ordered. Wherefore to efface the rumour, Nero contrived that accusations should be brought against a set of people hated for their abominations, whom the populace called Christians, and subjected them to the most exquisite torments. The author of this name, one Christus, had in the reign of Tiberius been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilatus; and the pernicious superstition, though repressed for the moment, began to break out afresh, not only in Judaea, the origin of that evil, but also in Rome, where all things horrible and shameful from every quarter collect together and are practised.'264264Tac. Ann. xv. 44: ‘sed non ope humana, non largitionibus principis aut deum placamentis decedebat infamia, quin iussum incendium crederetur. Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat. Auctor nominis eius Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio adfectus erat; repressaque in praesens exitiabilis superstitio rursum erumpebat, non modo per Iudaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque.' ‘Subdidit reos' means ‘brought to trial with the malicious object of shifting the hatred of the people from himself upon the Christians.'Compare Ann. 1. 6: ‘quod postquam Sallustius Crispus . . . comperit metuens ne reus subderetur, iuxta periculoso ficta seu vera promeret.'See also Suetonius, Nero, 16: ‘affiicti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae ac maleficae'; and Pliny in his letter to the Emperor Trajan: ‘nomen ipsum, si flagitiis careat, an flagitia cohaerentia nomini puniantur' . . . ‘nihil aliud inveni quam superstitionem pravam et immodicam.'

With these sentences Tacitus begins the famous passage, so full of difficult and debateable points, in which he describes the Neronian persecution of the Christians. Before, 125however, proceeding further, and as a necessary preliminary to any detailed consideration of the passage as a whole, I wish to point out what seems to me a fundamental error on the part of almost every writer upon the subject: the error of connecting the criminal process set on foot by Nero against the Christians, and its culmination in the horrible fete in the Vatican Gardens too closely with the Great Fire, either as regards the time or the character of the charges. Most writers assume that the Christians were accused of being incendiaries almost as soon as the last flames were extinguished, and that the Vatican holocaust took place in the month of August 64 A.D. Now such a supposition runs directly counter to the Tacitean narrative and derives no support from any other source.

The section of Book XV of the ‘Annals' comprising seven chapters (38–44) forms a continuous story and treats of a considerable interval of time. The words ‘wherefore to efface the rumour' . . . are in strict dependence on the sentence that precedes them—‘but neither man's efforts to give relief, nor the largesses of the prince, nor the propitiations of the Gods were able to dissipate belief in the sinister report that the fire had been ordered.' With the utmost distinctness and clearness of which language is capable Tacitus here declares that Nero did not try to shift odium from himself by inflaming odium against the Christians, until he had exhausted all the means for gaining popularity and diverting the suspicions of the crowd, which the historian has just recapitulated. Now it is simply impossible that the gigantic administrative task, first, of providing food and temporary shelter for some hundreds of thousands' of homeless and destitute persons, and, afterwards, of clearing away the ruins and debris of so vast a conflagration, of laying out and planning new and spacious streets and of setting to work to build them with stone brought from distant quarries, can have been carried out in less than five or six months. In all probability the Emperor did not give instructions for the prosecution of the Christians until the early part of 65 A.D.


It is no objection that the whole of this section (i.e. cc. 38–44) is included in what appears to be the Tacitean narrative of the events of the year 64, while the account of the happenings of the year 65 begins at chapter 48. It is the ordinary practice of this historian thus to group together so as to form a single and complete episode in his narrative a series of events having close connexion with one another but really spread over a considerable space of time. A conspicuous instance occurs in the account of the Pisonian conspiracy and its suppression, which follows that of the fire and fills the last twenty-six chapters of Book XV. The history of the year 65 seems to begin in chapter 48 with the words ‘Silius Nerva and Atticus Vestinus then enter on the consulship, when a conspiracy was begun and at once gathered strength, into which senators, knights, soldiers even women had vied with one another in giving in their names, partly through hatred of Nero, partly through a liking for C. Piso.'265265‘Ineunt deinde consulatum Silius Nerva et Atticus Vestinus, coepta simul et aucta coniuratione, in quam certatim nomina dederant senatores eques miles, feminae etiam, cum odio Neronis tum favore in C. Pisonem,' Ann. xv. 48. Cf. xiv. 65: ‘Romanus secretis criminationibus incusaverat Senecam ut C. Pisonis socium. . . . Unde Pisoni timor, et orta insidiarum in Neronem magna moles sed inprospera.' In xii. 56, 57 Tacitus speaks of the piercing by Claudius of (Monte Salviano) the mountain intervening between Lake Fucinus and the river Liris with the object of creating an outlet for the lake into the river, and he seems to place the execution of the work and fetes attending its inauguration all in the year 53: ‘sub idem tempus inter lacum Fucinum amnemque Lirim perrupto monte, quo magnificentia operis a pluribus viseretur etc.' Suetonius tells us that the work employed 30,000 men for eleven years, Claud. 20. See also Pliny, Nat. Hist. xxxvi. 15, 24. But Tacitus in thus writing had apparently forgotten that he had already spoken of the conspiracy of Piso as being in existence in the year 63 A.D., and it is evident therefore that the narrative of the growth of the plot given in chapters 48 to 53 covers the whole intervening period. The statement that one of the leaders, Subrius Flavus, ‘had formed a sudden resolution to attack Nero when his house was in flames and he was running hither and thither unattended in the darkness' shows that as far back as the crisis of the conflagration the Emperor 127only escaped by the lack of nerve of his would-be assailant. It will thus be seen that, while seeming to compress the rise and fall of the Pisonian conspiracy into the first few months of 65 A.D., Tacitus is really telling of the long-drawn-out drama of some two or three years. The two sections therefore of the ‘Annals,' (1) that dealing with the fire, the rebuilding and the persecution, and (2) that which treats of the doings of the conspirators after the failure of Subrius Flavus, are overlapping narratives and really contemporary. What influenced Nero at this juncture to select the Christians as his victims can only be conjectured. Possibly the suspicions of the Roman crowd had fallen upon the Jews, the objects at once of their detestation and contempt, as being incendiaries, partly because their own Ghetto across the Tiber was one of the few uninjured quarters of the city, and partly because the hated race were at that time in especial favour at the Court. The Jews on their part, alarmed at being the objects of popular anger, would not be slow to use the influence of Poppaea with the Emperor, and to suggest that the blame should be thrown on the Christians, a sect from which they were anxious to be dissociated and on which they would be only too glad to wreak their spite.266266Allard, Hist. des Persécutions, pp. 42–3; Renan, l'Antéchrist, pp. 154–5; 1 Clement, 5, διὰ ζῆλον καὶ φθόνον. Nero must have been well aware of the existence of the Christians, many of whom were to be found in his own household. Difficulties must have arisen at times with the freedmen and slaves who refused to take part in any pagan ceremonies or sacrifices or to attend public spectacles. A plausible reason would easily be found in distorted versions of the utterances of Christian ‘prophets' and preachers concerning that approaching destruction of the world by fire, in which all Christians at that time firmly believed. However this may have been, the charge of incendiarism, if ever preferred, was only a pretext; it was as malefactors and criminals that the Christians suffered. An examination of the extant authorities will, I think, bear out this contention.

In the first place comes the all-important passage of Tacitus (xv. 44), a part of which has been already given. 128After his reference to the origin of Christianity he continues thus: ‘those therefore who confessed were first brought to trial, afterwards by the information derived from them, an immense multitude were joined with them, not so much for the crime of incendiarism, as for hatred of the human race. To their deaths mockeries were added, so that covered by the skins of wild beasts they were torn to pieces by dogs and perished or were affixed to crosses or set on fire and, when day had fallen, were burnt so as to serve as an illumination for the night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a public show in the circus. He mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer, standing in a car. Hence compassion began to arise, although towards criminals deserving the extremest forms of punishment, on the ground that they were destroyed not for the public good but to gratify a single man's savage cruelty.'267267‘Igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis coniuncti sunt. Et pereuntibus addita ludibria, ut ferarum tergis contecti laniatu canum interirent, aut crucibus adfixi aut flammandi, atque, ubi defecisset dies, in usum nocturni luminis urerentur. Hortos suos ei spectaculo Nero obtulerat et circense ludicrum edebat, habitu aurigae permixtus plebi vel curriculo insistens. Unde quamquam adversus sontes et novissima exampla meritos miseratio oriebatur, tamquam non utilitate publica sed in saevitiam unius absumerentur' (Ann. xv. 44). Correpti = (1) seized by violence; (2) dragged violently to trial. Compare ‘continua hinc et vincta agmina trahi ac foribus hortorum adiacere. Atque ubi dicendam ad causam introissent' (Ann. xv. 58) of the Pisonian conspirators. Fatebantur can only mean ‘made open confession.' Indicio eorum: this may possibly mean that some turned renegades (see Heb. vi. 5, 6), but it includes information of all kinds. Many no doubt made no concealment about their being Christians and the views that they held as to the approaching destruction of all things by fire. It may also mean that papers and other proofs were found by search of the houses of the accused. Coniuncti: this is the reading of MS. Med. and on the ground that the more difficult reading should be preferred, I adopt it with Henderson, Ramsay, Boissier and others, and also because it seems to me to give the right interpretation of the words that precede, ‘haud proinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis.' The other reading is convicti.

Since the publication of Mommsen's article ‘Der Religionsfrevel nach römische Recht' in 1894,268268‘Der Religionsfrevel nach römische Recht' (Historische Zeitung, 1890, t. lxiv. 389 ff) (see also Expositor, 1893, vol. viii. 1–7). the views 129of the writer, as the greatest authority upon the history of the early Empire, gained wide acceptance, and have now a large and growing number of adherents. According to this view stated briefly the early persecutions of the Christians were mere matters of police and were dealt with by the summary powers, coercitio, possessed by the executive magistrates at Rome and by the governors, proconsuls, procurators and their deputies, in the provinces. Now the subject of this article is in no sense specially the Neronian persecution or the interpretation of the passage of Tacitus which we are considering. It is a paper of a general character, dealing with what I may call the normal procedure of the Roman State in its treatment of religious offences, and no doubt it gives a perfectly correct account of the ordinary repressive measures which were continually being exercised against the Christians, as Christians, certainly after the time of Trajan's rescript, but to some extent during the whole of the FIavian period also.269269Among the many modern writers on early Christian persecution the following works are specially deserving of mention: Mommsen, Römisches Strafrecht, 1899; Arnold, Die Neronische Christenverfolgung, 1888; Schiller, Gesch. des Röm. Kaisserreichs unter der Reg. des Nero, 1872; Allard, Histoire des Persécutions pendant les deux premiers siècles, 1892; Callewaert, ‘Les premiers Chrétiens, furent-ils persécutés par édits ou par mesures de police?' (Rev. d'hist. ecclés. Louvain 1901, p. 771 ff; 1902, p. 6 ff, 326 ff, 601 ff); Duchesne, ‘La prohibition du Christianisme dans l'Empire romain' (Misc. di storia ecclesiastica a stud. ausil. 1902, i. 1); Le Blant, Les persécutions et les martyrs, 1903; Guérin, ‘Etude sur le fondement jurid. des persécutions dirigées contre les Chrétiens pendant les deux premiers siècles de notre ère' (Rev. Hist. de droit franc. et étrang. 1895, pp. 600, 713); Renan, L'Antéchrist, 1873; Boissier, Fin du Paganisme, 1892; Parfumo, Le fonti e i tempi dello incendio Neroniano, 1905; Ramsay, The Church and the Empire, 4th edit. 1905; ‘Christianity in the Roman Empire' (Expositor, 1893, viii, pp. 8–21, 110–119, 282–296); Hardy, Christianity and the Roman Government, 1894; Henderson, Life and Principate of the Emperor Nero, 1902; Klette, Die Christenkatastrophe unter Nero, 1907. But the Neronian persecution was not a normal repressive measure, such as those with which Mommsen is concerned. The persecution of 65 A.D. was the first act of hostility of the Roman State against those professing the Christian faith, and it was the personal act of the Emperor himself. No one can read Chapter 44 of Book XV of the ‘Annals' without 130admitting this. From first to last Tacitus lays stress upon the personal part taken by Nero in the whole of the proceedings. The account opens with the statement ‘Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos et quaesitissimis poenis adfecit, quos per flagitia invisos vulgus Christianos appellabat,' and in the closing scene ‘hortos suos ei spectaculo Nero obtulerat.' That in the popular view Nero was the prime mover throughout could scarcely be more strongly expressed than in the words ‘in saevitiam unius.'

The evidence of Suetonius is scarcely less direct. His biography of Nero strikes a kind of balance between the praiseworthy and beneficent deeds of the Emperor and the much longer list of black crimes and histrionic follies, apparently with the object of showing that the latter far outweigh the former. Among the good and commendable deeds comes the brief notice—‘the Christians, a race of men holding a strange and noxious superstition, were visited with punishments.'270270‘Afflicti suppliciis Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficae' (Suet. Nero, 16). These words occur in the midst of a number of sumptuary regulations enforced by Nero. The epithet maleficae suggests that one of the charges was that of sorcery or magic. The impious sect was only worthy of mention because the severity of their punishment reflected a certain measure of personal credit upon Nero's administration. That of Tertullian is remarkable. In his ‘Apology' to the Emperor Septimus Severus he writes: Consult your records [commentarios]; there you will find Nero first savagely attacked with Caesarean sword this sect then rising chiefly at Rome. But of such an initiator of our condemnation we are even proud. For he who knows that man can understand that nothing except what is great and good was condemned by Nero.' Again in the ‘Scorpion'—‘we have read the lives of the Caesars; Nero was the first to stain with blood the rising faith at Rome.'271271Tertullian, Apol. c. 51, 21; Scorp. c. 15; Ad Nat. 1, 7: ‘sed tali dedicatore damnationis nostrae etiam gloriamur.' The word dedicator in Tertullian's writings has the signification auctor, initiator, see Oehler's Index Verborum in his edition of Tertullian's works. In the passage from Scorp. occur the words ‘si fidem commentarii voluerit haereticus, instrumenta Imperii loquentur.' Tertullian 131was himself a jurist learned in the law, and as the quotations above testify, he bases his statements and arguments upon documentary evidence, both the works of historians and state records. Since, therefore, the Emperor personally initiated the persecution of the Christians in 64–65 A.D.—‘ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos,' as Tacitus says—the trial must have taken place in the imperial court presided over in the Emperor's absence by the Pretorian prefects and their assessors of the Imperial Council.272272Tac. Ann. xiv. 51, 60; xv. 37, 50, 72; xvi. 19, 20; Hist. i, 72; Suet. Galba, 15; Plutarch, 0tho, c. 2; Tac. Ann. xv. 58: ‘Atque ubi dicendam ad causam introissent . . . pro crimine accipi cum super Neronis ac Tigellini saevas percontationes, Faenius quoque Rufus violenter urgeret.' The trial of the Pisonian conspirators thus took place before Nero and the two Pretorian Prefects, April 65. A little afterwards Seneca was accused of complicity, and his answers to the charge were brought by a tribune to the Court. Tacitus (Ann. c. 61) thus relates it: ‘Ubi haec a tribuno relata Bunt Poppaea et Tigellino coram, quod erat saevienti principi intimum consiliorum. . . . Probably in this matter Tigellinus took the leading part; the character of the final tragedy in the Vatican Gardens was quite in accord with what we are told of the fiendish ingenuity of his cruelty. There is abundant evidence to show that Tigellinus after 62 A.D. was not merely the instigator of many of Nero's crimes but the active and merciless agent in the execution of them.273273   See Juvenal, Sat. i, 155–157:    Pone Tigellinum: taeda lucebis in illa,
   Qua stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture (pectore) fumant

   Et latum media sulcum diducit arena.

   On this passage an ancient Schol. comments: ‘In munere Neronis arserunt vivi de quibus ille iusserat cereos fieri, qui lucerent spectatoribus. . . . Maleficos homines taeda, papyro, cera super vestiebat, sicque ad ignem admoveri iubebat ut arderent.'

If Nero then, in the course of the winter months of 64–65 A.D., by his personal initiative brought the Christians to trial before his court, knowing them to be held in general odium for their crimes, in order to divert public attention from the widely accredited rumour that it was by his secret orders that the city had been set on fire, let us now proceed to examine the highly condensed and somewhat enigmatic narrative of Tacitus with the view of further investigating 132the character of the charges brought against the accused. In the first place let us clear our minds of a misapprehension. Negatively they were not accused of having had any hand in the actual conflagration of July, 64 A.D. Not a single writer, Christian or pagan, who refers to the Neronian persecution ever suggests that it had any connexion with the fire, with the single exception of the late fourth-century chronographer, Sulpicius Severus, who, however, contents himself with an almost slavish reproduction of Tacitus.274274Sulp. Sev. Chron. ii. 29. Neither Tertullian nor Orosius, who were well acquainted with the works of Tacitus and with other documentary sources no longer accessible to us, shows any sign of being aware of any correlation between the charges against the Christians and the burning of Rome.275275This negative evidence of Tertullian comes out the more forcibly as his Apology was addressed to the Emperor Septimius Severus, and to the chief magistrates of the Roman Empire. Orosius roundly charged Nero with being the incendiary: ‘denique urbis Romae incendium voluptatis suae spectaculum fecit' (Hist. adv. Paganos, vii. 7). There is not a trace in the contemporary writings—1 Peter, Hebrews, the Apocalypse or 1 Clement—that such an accusation was made.

This being so, what then is the meaning of ‘those therefore who confessed were first brought to trial, afterwards by the information derived from them an immense multitude were joined with them, not so much for the crime of incendiarism as for hatred of the human race'? Now in the first place it is surely plain that had any Christians confessed to the crime of setting fire to Rome in July, 64 A.D., and had they implicated the general body of their fellow-Christians in their guilt, there would have been no need of any subsidiary charges; exemplary punishment would have been summary and immediate, and Nero's name would at once have been freed from the stigma that rested upon it. But it was not freed. There is something approaching unanimity in the verdict of the writers of succeeding centuries (for Tacitus scarcely conceals what was his personal opinion) in ascribing the fire to Nero, and what is more important for our present contention of contemporaries also. The 133above-named Subrius Flavus, a tribune of the Pretorian guard, when on his trial before Nero, as a conspirator, in April 65 A.D., did not scruple to tell the Emperor to his face that he was an incendiary, and Tacitus is at pains to state ‘I have given the man's very words.'276276‘Ipsa rettuli verba,' Tac. Ann. xv. 67. ‘Pliny the Elder also, in his ‘Natural History' published before 79 A.D., writing upon the longevity of certain trees remarks that they lasted until the fires of the Emperor Nero with which he burnt the city. . . ,' and he concludes in words that leave not the smallest doubt as to his conviction in this matter, ‘They would have remained afterwards by cultivation green and young had not that Prince hastened the death even of trees.'277277‘Duraveruntque, quoniam et de longissimo aevo arborum diximus, ad Neronis principis incendia quibus cremavit Urbem, annis CLXXX . . . postea cultu virides iuvenesque ni Princeps ille accelerasset etiam arborum mortem,' Pliny, Hist. Nat. xvii. 1.

The incendiarism of which the Christians were accused and of which they made open confession was an incendiarism in will not yet realised, but in their firm and absolute conviction immediately to come, and meanwhile eagerly watched for and desired. In Christian circles this one belief during the early decades of the second half of the first century overpowered all others, and transformed all men's ideas and their outlook upon life, that the second Advent of Christ was at hand, and it would be preceded by the destruction by fire of the world and with it the great city of Rome. In every part of the New Testament there are evidences that the Christians of the period with which we are dealing expected that ‘the end of all things'2782781 Thess. iv. 16-18; 2 Thess. i. 7-10; 1 Cor. xv. 51-2; Rom. xiii. 11-13; Tit. ii. 12, 13; Heb. ix. 37; 1 Pet. iv. 7; 2 Pet. iii. 10-12; Rev. xviii. 1-21, xxii. 10-12, 20.—See Turner, Studies in Early Church History, pp. 226–7. would be consummated in their own lifetime, and the Apocalyptic literature of the time dwells not only upon the fire which was to burn up the world and all its wickedness, but also upon the sign that the final judgment was at hand, by the 134appearance in bodily form of Antichrist, the incarnation of Belial or Satan, and there is evidence to show that the enormities of Nero had before the end of his reign led Christians to identify him as Antichrist personified.279279Rev. xiii., xvi. 10, 19, xvii. 5–9; Ascension of Isaiah [80–90 A.D.] 14 (2, 5) and 18. Orac. Sibyllina, iii. 63–93 [about 80 A.D.], iv. 179–182, v. 158–162. There are many other passages of Judaeo-Christian origin which are difficult to date, as the books in their present form contain many ancient fragments. See also Apoc. of Baruch, xxxvi.–xl., which Dr. Charles dates before 70 A.D., and iv. Esdras a little earlier. The open expression of such views at such a time would not escape the notice of Tigellinus' secret police, and the offenders, no doubt, when arrested (exactly as Tacitus reports) made no attempt to deny or explain away the language they had used. Confessing that they were Christians and that a belief in the approaching destruction by fire of wicked Rome and of the world of which it was the head was to them as Christians an article of faith, it is easy to see how ‘by their information' the whole body of Christians became included in the accusation. That afterwards under torture some of the more weak-kneed prisoners may have turned traitors and furnished the government with the names and meeting-places of their fellow disciples, and in the stress of agony may even have given false evidence concerning the crimes with which popular opinion charged them, is not impossible. The language of the Epistle to the Hebrews rather supports such an hypothesis, as do certain passages of ‘The Shepherd' of Hermas.280280Heb. vi. 4-6, x. 26-29, 39. The title of Confessores was one in which the Christians of later centuries gloried. Compare 1 Tim. vi. 12–13. Compare Hernias, Pastor, Sim. ix. 21. 3, 28. 4, Vis. iii. 2. 1, the persecution to which Hermas refers was probably that of Nero. The proceedings against the Christians for the use of language threatening a coming judgment upon the world and its destruction by fire can be paralleled by the account given by Philostratus of the visit of the sophist and wonder-worker, Apollonius of Tyana, to Rome in 66 A.D. We read how ‘Tigellinus, who controlled the sword of Nero, expelled from Rome' the cynic Demetrius, a friend of Apollonius, ‘for destroying the Baths by his language, and secretly he [Tigellinus] began to keep his eye on 135Apollonius against the time when he should say something unguardedly that could be taken hold of. . . . All the eyes that Government sees with were turned to scrutinise him: his discourses or his silences; his sitting or walking; what he ate and with whom—all was reported. . . .' Finally, we read a little further on that Apollonius was overheard saying concerning the Emperor: ‘Pardon the gods for taking pleasure in buffoons,' and on this being reported. Tigellinus ‘sent officers to arrest him, and he had to defend himself on a charge of sacrilege against Nero.' The representation here given of the power and methods of procedure of Tigellinus and of the action that he took in the year 66 in regard to Apollonius and his companion furnishes us with the means of filling in with detail the story of what happened to the Christians in the preceding year told by Tacitus in barest and briefest outline.281281The translation from Philostratus' Apollonius is that of Prof. J. S Phillimore, recently published by the Clarendon Press, 1912, vol. ii. 43–45, bk. iv. cc. 42, 43, 44. Prof. Phillimore in his Preface sides with the majority of critics in asserting that this work of Philostratus is a Romance. At any rate, many sections of it may undoubtedly be regarded as imaginative fiction, But, as in the Acta Sincera of the Martyrs, the romance is built upon a basis of historical fact, and the fictitious details fill in the framework of a real biography. The portion of the book which treats of Apollonius' visit to Rome in 66 A.D. gives strong evidence of its historicity. The name of the consul Telesinus, the inauguration of the Gymnasium and Baths by Nero and his later departure for Greece, the personality of Demetrius the Cynic, and the character and activity of Tigellinus are all historical. The original Greek of two important passages stands thus: Τιγελλῖνος γάρ, ὑφ᾽ ᾧ τὸ ξίφος ἦν τοῦ Νέρωνος, ἀπήλαυνεν αὐτὸν τῆς Ῥώμης . . . ἀπαγγελθέντος δὲ τῷ Τιγελλίνῳ τὸν λόγον τοῦτον πέμπει τοὺς ἄξοντας αὐτὸν ἐς τὸ δικαστήριον ὡς ἀπολογήσαιτο μὴ ἀπέβειν ἐς Νέρωνα.

The offences with which the Christians were charged under Nero appear to have been, according to Tacitus, of the same character as those of which Pliny the Younger speaks in his famous letter from Bithynia to the Emperor Trajan, as ‘the crimes adhering to the name,'282282‘Flagitia cohaerentia nomini,' Plin. Ep. x. 97. and which we find described in the writings of the second-century Christian Apologists, perhaps more succinctly than any other by Athenagoras (about 177 A.D.), who writes ‘Three things 136are alleged against us: Atheism, Thyestean feasts, Oedipodean intercourse.' The refusal to take part in the ceremonies or to recognise the gods of the national religion constituted the crime of Atheism. The secret assemblies, the bringing of children to them for the rite of baptism, the words of consecration in the Holy Eucharist, the salutation with ‘a holy kiss,' were travestied by the enemies of Christianity into charges of murder, cannibalism, and promiscuous intercourse, which were accepted as true by public opinion already in the days of Nero, and which still remained a fixed article of popular belief and execration when Tertullian wrote his ‘Apology' about a century and a half later.283283 Athenagoras, Supplicatio 3; also Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 26, 2 Apol. 12, 13; Dial. c. Tryph: 10, 17, 108; Tertullian, Apo1. 2, 4, 7, 8, 39; Ad Nat. 2. In the account of the persecution at Lyons and Vienne, 177 A.D., which has been preserved by Eus. Hist. Eccl. v. i., the same charges are brought forward: κατεψεύσαντο ἡμῶν Θυέστεια δεῖπνα καί Οἰδιπεδείους μίξεις. These were the flagitia to which Tacitus attaches the epithets atrocia and pudenda, abominations horrible and shameful.

That the Christians were also condemned for the crime of ‘magic' may he inferred from the fact that their religion is styled by Tacitus a most pernicious superstition—exitiabilis superstitio—and by Suetonius a strange and maleficent superstition — superstitio nova ac malefica — (the word maleficus having juristically the special signification of a magician or sorcerer), and the punishment in the Vatican Gardens was that specially assigned to those convicted of practising magical arts.284284Gebhardt, Acta Martyrum Selecta, 119: ‘Magi estis quia novum nescio quod genus religionis inducitis.' Cod. Iust. ix. tit. 18: ‘de maleficis et mathematicis.' Suetonius, Nero, 16: ‘Afflicti suppliciis christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae et maleficae.' Paulus, Sent. v.: ‘Qui sacra impia nocturnave ut quem obtruncarent, defigerent, obligarent, fecerint faciendave curaverint, aut crucibus suffiguntur aut bestiis obiiciuntur. . . . Magicae artis conscios summo supplicio adfici placuit, id est bestiis obiici aut crucibus suffigi; ipsi autem magi vivi exuruntur.'

The crime of ‘hatred of the human race,' however, was the charge which included all these other accusations, and henceforth during the succeeding centuries was to render the mere name of Christian a sufficient ground for summary 137punishment. This charge, as we have seen, may have originated in the suggestions of Jewish malice, sustained by the reports which no doubt reached the ears of the authorities—through the agency of some of that host of spies and informers (delatores) employed by Tigellinus—of the incendiary discourses in which certain noxious religious fanatics, called Christians by the populace, were openly expressing their belief in the imminent destruction of the world and its inhabitants by fire without any concealment of the joyful anticipation with which they awaited the Divine judgment that was impending over a city which was in their eyes the home of iniquity and of every sort of blasphemy. But when those first arrested were brought before the magistrates it was soon found that the fiery words of these enthusiasts were not nearly so damning as the principles in which they gloried and which forbade them to recognise the national gods or the religion of the Roman people, or to take part in any of the public religious ceremonies or spectacles, or in that worship of the genius of Caesar, who was the personification of the state. Thus that law of maiestas, which in the reign of Tiberius had been such a powerful instrument for the assertion of the imperial authority, and which after a period of disuse had been revived by Nero in 62 A.D., to be during this very spring of 65 A.D. employed by him with such terrible effect in securing the condemnation of those implicated rightly or wrongly in the Pisonian conspiracy, was no less a ready implement in the hands of Tigellinus for striking at the humbler Christians as enemies of the Roman state. It is of this lex de maiestate that Tertullian writes in his appeal ‘ad Nationes' (c. 7) ‘under Nero condemnation [of this Name] was firmly established.' And a few lines further on, ‘Although all his other acts were rescinded this Neronian ordinance alone remained permanent.'285285Tertullian, Ad Nat. i. 7: ‘Principe Augusta nomen hoc ortum est, Tiberio disciplina eius inluxit, sub Nerone damnatio invaluit. . . . Et tamen permansit erasis omnibus hoc solum “institutum Neronianum” iustum denique ut dissimile sui auctoris.' The lex de maiestate was a juridical creation of Tiberius and so would not be affected by the rescissio actorum of the latter after his death: ‘addito maiestatis crimine, quod tunc omnium accusationum complementum erat,' Tac. Ann. iii. 38. Nero himself was spoken of by Pliny the Elder as ‘hostis generis humani' (Hist. Nat. vii. 8. 45. 46). Attilio Profumo in his learned work Le Fonti ed i Tempi dello Incendio Neroniano (p. 227), commenting on the passage above quoted from Tertullian's Ad nationes, thus states the conclusions at which he arrived: (1) ‘Non esser mai esistita nè legge nè altra disposizione giuridica qualsiasi che colpisse nominativamente e solo, come tali, Christiani. (2) Le persecuzioni contro di essi furono sempre fatte in forma giuridica e legale, applicando loro 1' “institutum” delle tre accuse—suntuaria, di sacrilegio, di maestà—detto “Neronianum”; “istituto” non già esclusivo per essi, ma ad essi solo e sempre applicato. (3) La natura dell' “Institutum” istesso, spiega i periodi di persecuzione e di pace che si alternavano per i Cristiani, senza bisogno di fare o di annullare legge alcuna; dappoichè era affidita alla suprema autorità del Principe e fino ad un certo limite anche a quella dei Presidi delle Province, e 1'applicazione di esso e 1'applicazione più o meno lata,' Tertullian, as a jurist, uses the word ‘institutum' correctly to signify a legal procedure resting upon custom, not necessarily written, Compare Tac. Ann. xiii. 32 of the domestic court for the trial of Pomponia Graecina; ‘isque (Aulus Plautius) prisco instituto propinquis coram de capita famaque coniugis cognovit et insontem pronuntiavit.' Henceforth the mere confession 138that he was a Christian rendered a man an outlaw. It has been argued that the name of ‘Christian' was not yet in common use in the days of Nero, and that Tacitus and Suetonius being writers of the second century may have employed the term proleptically. Apart from the fact that both these historians drew their material from contemporary sources, St. Peter in his first epistle, which, as we hold, was written while the Neronian persecution was gathering force, distinctly says ‘If a man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this Name,' and, the Acts of the Apostles already completed before 62 A.D., it testifies not only that the word was popularly used in Antioch about 40 A.D., but that it was familiar to a man in the position of King Agrippa in 59 A.D. With the constant intercourse between Antioch and the capital, the nickname would be carried to Rome probably quicker than to any other place, and the familiar Latin form of the word would be speedily popularised even so early as the time of Claudius.286286Suet. Claudius, c. 25. Pliny in his letter to Trajan most clearly points out that condemnation of Christians for the name 139only was already of long standing in 112 A.D. His chief object in writing to the Emperor was to know whether he was to punish ‘for the Name itself, if crimes were wanting, or for the crimes adhering to the Name.'287287‘Ipsum nomen, si flagitiis careat, an flagitia cohaerentia nomini puniantur,' Pliny, Ep. x. 96. Pliny had no definite edict against Christianity to guide him: ‘cognitionibus de Christianis interfui nunquam; ideo nescio quid et quatenus aut puniri soleat aut quaeri'—so in Trajan's rescript ‘Neque enim in universum aliquid quod quasi certam formam habeat constitui potest.' In comparing the action of Pliny with that of Tigellinus it should be noticed that there are many points of close resemblance. Pliny writes: ‘interim in iis, qui ad me tanquam Christiani deferebantur, hunc sum secutus modum. Interrogavi ipsos, an essent Christiani; confitentes iterum ac tertio interrogavi, supplicium minatus; perseverantes duci iussi.' Thus there is the same confession before trial, and finally punishment for the name. Though he could find no specific law, there was no searching for precedents. Pliny knew that for some time past the Christians had been legally regarded as the enemies of the state and that confession of the name meant outlawry. It should be observed that he was not hasty in condemnation, but that he mentions having granted three cognitiones before ordering them to be executed. Finally, an anonymous paper was placed in the governor's hand implicating a large number of persons which led to his writing to the Emperor for direction and advice: ‘Propositus est libellus sine auctore, multorum nomina continens. Qui negabant esse Christianos. . . . Alii ab indice nominati, esse se Christianos dixerunt.' Compare with Tacitus, Ann. xv. 44: ‘Igitur primo correpti qui fatebantur, deinde indicio eorum multitudo ingens. . . .' The Rescript of Trajan merely confirmed in writing the practice, which had subsisted since the time of Nero, of treating the very name of Christian as a crime against the State.

Let us now see how far the evidence from contemporary Christian sources confirms that derived from Pagan authorities of a later date. That of the 1st Epistle of St. Peter has already been quoted to show that in 65 A.D. Christians were punished for the name. This epistle was written in an atmosphere of persecution. The Apostle as one who has been an eyewitness of persecution in Rome sends a letter of exhortation and warning to the Judaeo-Christians of the Roman provinces of Asia Minor, who were at the time he was writing passing through trials of the same character as those which their brethren in the capital had just been experiencing. Three times does Peter refer to the charge of being evildoers or malefactors,2882881 Pet. ii, 12, 14; iii. 15-17; iv. 15. twice to 140the ordeal of punishment by fire.2892891 Pet. i. 7: διὰ πυρὸς δοκιμαζομένου. 1 Pet. iv. 12: τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ. His exhortations are largely directed to the object of entreating his readers to prove by the goodness of their lives and their obedience to lawful authority that the accusations of being criminal evildoers was unfounded.2902901 Pet. ii. 11-17. Are the words (v. 14): ἡγεμόσιν, ὡς δἱ αὐτοῦ [τοῖ βασιλέως πεμπομένοις εἰς ἐκδίκησιν κακοποιῶν, a reference to instructions sent out by Nero with regard to the Christians of Asia Minor? 1 Pet. iii. 16. But on the other hand ‘if ye be reproached by the name of Christ, blessed are ye'; ‘if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in this name.'2912911 Pet. iv. 14-16. The testimony of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was most probably sent from Asia Minor to Rome in the following year 66 A.D., and of the Apocalypse, of the date 70 A.D., is similar to that of St. Peter in that both refer to the severity of the sufferings which the Roman Christians had endured, and also to the fact that the persecution which had begun in Rome had afterwards spread to Asia Minor. The evidence that Tacitus did not exaggerate either the horrors of the scene in the Vatican Gardens nor the large number of those who perished is abundantly corroborated. ‘Ye endured'—says the Epistle to the Hebrews—‘a great conflict of sufferings; partly being made a public spectacle by insults and afflictions: and partly by becoming partakers with them that were so used,'292292Heb. x. 32, 33. See also iv. 14, 15, vi. 4-6, x. 23-27, xii. 1-13, xiii. 23. For the date of Hebrews and of the Apocalypse see Lecture VI. while the writer of the Apocalypse, to quote only one of many passages, speaks of the woman seated on the Seven Hills as ‘drunken with the blood of the Saints and of the martyrs of Jesus.'293293Rev. xvii. 6. See also ii. 3, 9, 10, 13; iii. 8-11; vi. 9-11; vii. 13-17; xii. 10, 11; xiii. 7, 8; xvi. 6; xviii. 24; xx. 4. Still more remarkable are the added details given by Clement of Rome in what seems to be the description of an eyewitness. ‘Enough of ancient examples,' he writes, ‘let us pass on to the athletes of very recent times, let us take the noble examples 141of our own days.' Then after telling of the deaths of St. Peter and St. Paul he proceeds:—‘to these men {the Apostles] of holy living was gathered together a great multitude of the elect, who having suffered through jealousy many insults and tortures, became very splendid examples amongst ourselves. Persecuted through jealousy, women after having suffered, in the guise of Danaids and Dirces, terrible and monstrous outrages, attained the goal which made sure to them the race of faith, and those who were weak in body received a noble reward.'2942941 Clem. v. Ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα τῶν ἀρχαίων ὑποδειγμάτων παυσώμεθα ἔλθωμεν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἔγγιστα γενομένους ἀθλητάς· λάβωμεν τῆς γενεᾶς ἡμῶν τὰ γενναῖα ὑποδείγματα . . vi. τούτοις τοῖς ἄνδρασιν ὁσίως πολιτευσαμένοις συνηθροίσθη πολὺ πλῆθος ἐκλεκτῶν, οἵτινες πολλάκις αἰκίαις καὶ βασάνοις διὰ ζῆλος παθόντες ὑπόδειγμα κάλλιστον ἐγένοντο ἐν ἡμῖν. Διὰ ζῆλος γυναῖκες Δαναίδες καὶ Δίρκαι αἰκίσματα δεινὰ καὶ ἀνόσια παθοῦσαι ἐπὶ τὸν τῆς πίστεως δρόμον κατήντησαν.

I have already shown that the arrest of the first batch of accused Christians cannot have taken place till several months after the fire of July 64, probably in the early spring of 65 A.D. The language of Tacitus may be held to imply that there were, as in the case of Pliny's proceedings in Bithynia, several questionings and trials of the prisoners, and some time would elapse between the first confessions of which the historian speaks and the final seizing of the ‘immense multitude' for the holocaust in the Gardens. One thing, moreover, may be regarded as certain: that such a nocturnal spectacle would not have been planned so long as the night air was chilly, nor would Nero with his scrupulous care for the preservation of his divine voice295295Suet. Nero, 20; Plin. Hist. Nat. xix. 6. 108, and xxxiv. 18. 1666 Tac. Ann. xv. 22. have appeared at night in the open on a car in the garb of a charioteer in cold weather. But if this were the case then an additional motive appears for the arresting in the spring of 65 A.D. of this crowd of humble Christians in order that their execution might be a spectacle to glut the eyes of the Roman populace. In the middle of April the plot of the Pisonian conspirators to take Nero's life during the festival of Ceres was discovered. He grasped at the opportunity of getting rid of a 142number of illustrious and wealthy men, the confiscation of whose goods helped to fill his treasury, depleted by the building of the Domus Aurea and other extravagances. Some undoubtedly were guilty, but once more public opinion condemned Nero. ‘He was perpetually,'says Tacitus, ‘under the lash of popular talk, which said he had destroyed men of rank, who were innocent, out of jealousy or fear.'296296Tac. Ann. xv. 73: ‘etenim crebro vulgi rumore lacerabatur, tamquam viros claros et insontes ob invidiam aut metum extinxisset.' Compare Josephus, Ant. xx. 8, 3; Suet. Nero, xxvi. Thus confronted with a fresh crop of disquieting rumours, while those of his complicity in the conflagration were still current, it may well be that he sought at the great fetes that were given in gratitude for his escape from death to win a fleeting popularity and divert criticism from himself by devising the spectacle of the illumination with living torches and of the rest of the unspeakable barbarities of that night. But if so, the arrest of the ingens multitudo must have been synchronous with the trials and condemnation of the Pisonian conspirators. May it not be that in this fact may be found the explanation of that passage of Tacitus in which he relates how Nero sent out bodies of soldiers in every direction, and how ‘in long succession troops of prisoners in chains were dragged along and stood at the gates of the imperial gardens'?297297Tac. Ann. xv. 58; ‘continua hinc et vincta agmina trahi ac foribus hortorum adiacere.' Mr. Henderson in his ‘Life and Principate of Nero,'298298Henderson, pp. 272–4. commenting on these trials of April 65 A.D., says ‘The temporary measures of repression and punishment were grossly exaggerated . . . . Forty-one persons in all were implicated; of these twenty were certainly guilty, sixteen of them suffered death, the others were acquitted—only one certainly innocent person was slain.' Who then were these troops of prisoners in chains? Is it not possible that the ingens multitudo who were arrested and convicted in chapter 44 are identical with the continua et vincta agmina of chapter 58? If the two events were really contemporaneous, Tacitus may have misread some record and converted Christian prisoners into Pisonian conspirators.


In dealing with the question of the Neronian persecution and its date, one important authority cannot be neglected, that of Orosius, who wrote his Historiae adversus Paganos under the direction of his master and friend St. Augustine (410–20). In the seventh book of his history, in which is found the account of the fire and the persecution, Orosius shows himself to be thoroughly acquainted with the writings of Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus, all of which he quotes by name. The passage which specially concerns us runs as follows: ‘The boldness of his [Nero's] impiety towards God increased the mass of his crimes, for he was the first at Rome to visit the Christians with punishments and deaths, and through all the provinces he commanded that they should be tortured with a like persecution, and having endeavoured to extirpate their very name he killed the most blessed Apostles Peter by the cross, Paul by the sword. Soon calamities in heaps began on every side to oppress the wretched state, for in the following autumn so great a pestilence fell upon the city that according to the registers [in the temple] of Libitina there were thirty thousand funerals.' These last words are a direct quotation from Suetonius, who however as usual gives no date to the pestilence. This is however given by Tacitus, who thus concludes his narrative of the events of 65 A.D.: ‘The Gods also marked by storms and diseases a year made shameful by so many crimes. Campania was devastated by a hurricane. . . . the fury of which extended to the vicinity of the City, in which a violent pestilence was carrying away every class of human beings . . . houses were filled with dead bodies, the streets with funerals.'299299Orosius, vii. 7 ‘Auxit hanc molem facinorum eius temeritas impietatis in Deum, nam primus Romae Christianos suppliciis et mortibus affecit ac per omnes provincias pari persecutione excruciari imperavit ipsumque nomen exstirpare conatus beatissimos Christi apostolos Petrum cruse, Paulum gladio occidit. . . . Mox acervatim miseram civitatem obortae undique oppressere clades, nam subsequente autumno tanta Urbi pestilentia incubuit, ut triginta milia funera in rationem Libitinae venirent.' Suet. Nero, 34. Tac. Ann. xvi. 13: ‘Tot facinoribus foedum annum etiam di tempestatibus et morbis insignivere, vastata Campania turbine ventorum qui . . . pertulitque violentiam ad vicina urbi; in qua omne mortalium genus vis pestilentiae depopulabatur. . . .'


Orosius thus confirms the evidence of 1 Peter, the Hebrews, and the Apocalypse, that a general persecution in the provinces was concurrent with that in Rome; and his express statement that the pestilence happened in the autumn following the persecution fixes the date of the trials and execution of the Christians, as having taken place in the earlier part of 65 A.D.

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