The persecutions of Christians in Rome by Nero

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Last updated: November 16, 2019

The mass murders of thousands of Christians happened primarily from 64 AD up to Nero’s death in 68 AD.

As Nero began his reign in 58 AD it took eight years for him to find an excuse to fulfil his resentment for the religious group. This excuse came in the form of a large fire that swept through Rome in 64 AD.A respected and vital historian at the time named Tacticus wrote of many details concerning the Christian persecution and the fire of Rome.

He was also involved in the theory that Nero had the fire started purposefully. It was thought that Nero (whose sanity was already in question) wanted a new extravagant palace for himself. Many thought it was the incident of the fire, that put Nero under pressure from the people. Nero saw a perfect opportunity to shift the blame on the Christians he despised. This at least was what Tacticus believed when he wrote, ”Nero looked around for a scapegoat, and inflicted the most fiendish tortures on a group of persons already hated for their crimes. This was the sect known as Christians.

”Persecutions gradually began in a devastating manner. There were arrests and trials – not that any of them were fair. Tacticus described the events as follows, ”Those who confessed to being Christians were at once arrested, but on their testimony a great crowd of people were convicted, not so much on the charge of arson, but of hatred of the entire human race.”Although a few think the persecutions weren’t even connected to the fire, but to do with the fact that the Christians refused to worship Nero and didn’t pay taxes. Either way many were killed under Nero’s rule. The emperor had his own personal ways of killing the Christians both privately and publicly.

Events were organised in Coliseums across Rome where the public could watch the massacre of Christians. Exotic animals such as elephants and lions were imported so Christians could be murdered in the most horrific ways possible. Mock crucifixions also took place too (Peter the apostle who was famously crucified upside down was done so under Nero). Once the people got bored of this, the remaining survivors were burnt.

By this time it was clear Nero was insane. Why he despised the Christians was based on many reasons. Firstly the Romans were polytheistic – believing in more than one God, which of course is different to Christians beliefs. Nero and the Romans also took offence to the Christian custom of ‘eating the body of Christ’. The Romans took this literally labelling Christians as cannibals.

Nero also had the Christians down as an ‘Uncomfortable set of killjoys, hating the normal pleasures of life’.Although the Christian persecutions could have taken many more lives it is still a true disaster due to the sheer brutality that occurred.

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