SELECTIONS FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A. First Edition, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1893. Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
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I. TACITUS, Ann. xv. 44.


The Neronian Persecution


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 ludaeam, originem eius mali, sed per urbem etiam, quo cuncta undique atrocia aut pudenda confluunt celebranturque. Igitur primum correpti qui fatebantur, inde indicio eorum multitude ingens baud perinde in crimine incendii quam odio humani generis convicti 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 exempla meritos miseratio oriebatur, tamquam non utilitate publica sed in saevitiam unius absumerentur.So to stifle the report, Nero put in his own place as culprits and punished with every refinement of cruelty the men whom the common people hated for their secret crimes. They called them Christians. Christ, from whom the name was given, had been put to death in the reign of Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pestilent superstition checked for awhile. Afterwards it began to break out afresh, not only in Judaea, where the mischief first arose, but also at Rome, where all sorts of murder and filthy shame meet together and become fashionable. In the first place then some were seized and made to confess; then on their information a vast multitude was convicted not so much of arson as of hatred for the human race. And they were not only put to death, but put to death with insult, in that they were either dressed up in the skins of beasts to perish by the worrying of dogs or else put on crosses to be set on fire, and when the daylight failed, to be burnt for use as lights by night. Nero had thrown open his gardens for that spectacle, and was giving a circus exhibition, mingling with the people in a jockey's dress, or driving a chariot. Hence commiseration arose, though it was for men of the worst character and deserving of the severest punishment, on the ground that they were not destroyed for the good of the state, but to satisfy the cruelty of an individual.

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