I've read one of Candida Moss' recent books and her research is difficult to dispute, so I'm inclined to go along with her support of the arguments of other scholars' she's reviewed:

"Most of the historical evidence for Nero persecuting Christians comes to us from the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote between 115-120 CE, at least fifty years after the events he was describing.

In his recent Journal of Roman Studies article “The Myth of the Neronian Persecution,” distinguished Princeton classicist Brent Shaw has argued that Tacitus’s story is a later fabrication. 

Shaw points out that there are no references to Christians in the writings of any Roman historians prior to Tacitus. Cassius Dio, another Roman historian who discusses the Great Fire, never mentions the Christians at all, and other later Roman sources that do mention the fire are entirely dependent on Tacitus. Suetonius, the only other second-century Roman writer to mention the mistreatment of Christians by Nero, does not connect these punishments with the Great Fire."


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Nero's problem wasn't that he tortured the Christians, but that he tortured the Romans, which is why they deposed him and condemned him to death in absentia. Imagine a leader who on top of being a kleptocrat thought of himself as a great entertainer, and insisted his rates were always "the best". Imagine a leader that habitually lied, had mommy or daddy issues, and took all the best things for himself. How long would you put up with someone like that.

Can't tell if you are talking about Nero, or Kim Jong Un.  Let's not forget, little fat Kim played golf only 1 time and got 18 holes in one! :)

It's not known when Tacitus started to write his Annals.  But he was working on them by 116 ce.

Pliny's letter to Trajan were written between 111-113 ce.

Hard to say decisively who said what when.

This Christian business in Rome was complicated, and went on for a couple of hundred years before their influence increased after the death of Constantine. Perhaps this adds some insight into Nero’s involvement in this, or whatever actually happened, but Trajan Decius, emperor around 250 AD, when Rome was embroiled in another kind of turmoil, persecuted Christians for any lack of compliance with the traditional Pagan theology that Decius mandated in his attempt to use religion as a tool in order to help reunify the empire.

Well, yes, I am. If one has an interest in Roman mythology, then you'd think the same for Roman history. There is hardly anything more fascinating than the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, but I also happen to be a practitioner of Roman Magic, ie Italian Witchcraft.

The interesting thing about this era of Christian persecution, is that Decius formally offered the Christians clemency, in return if they simply would make sacrifices to Roman gods. So, they had a chance to save their asses. Persecution was not the only fate for them.

Now, there were some christians who were smart enough to take advantage of what Decius offered, and their lives were spared. Some christians even faked sacrifices, again, a smart survival strategy rather than fall to the influence of blind faith dogma.  

Modern Judeo Christian Pagan religion hate mongers will hardly, if ever, admit this. But apostolic christians being what they were, they adopted a fatalist attitude, opting to fall on the knife, rather than recognize the Roman deity, which, in hind sight, was their own ignorance.

It essentially is a form of human sacrifice.

We had a human sacrifice in Charlottesville last week committed in part by people you are supporting. If you take the side of the racists, then aren't you really just standing alongside the Christians killing pagans in Rome?

You're standing alongside Nazi, Asatru and KKK racists and defending them... I do not see how you should be taken seriously on any topic with that evil bouncing around inside your twisted mind.

Purge yourself of your racist apologetics! Become fully human! You can do that by condemning the RACISTS instead of coddling them.

Ya, good point. The Romans did have some sense of civility about themselves. The interesting thing about the earliest Christians is that their practices were not really well known. It was a divided camp. Those issues were dissolved at the Council of Nicaea, when they made it a one size fits all, which really may have been the dogma death blow to understanding such things as esoteric Gnosticism, for example, and how much influence it may have had on the earliest christians.

My favorite period was actually during the Etruscan Kingdom, which is not really Roman, but at the roots of Roman culture itself, That would also take us through the Republic, up to the time of Julius Caesar.

And I would also like to shed additional light on the Nero question, from my own perspective. I think to get a better  grip on the modus operendi of Nero, the more you know about Nero, the more you can come to your own conclusion. Some of the information I am posting was based on historical accounts from above mentioned historians. It is also true that ancient historical archives of Rome sometimes were recorded much later in Roman history, after the fact, leaving room for omissions and inaccuracies  

I find it difficult to believe that these accounts made no mention of christianity at all during Nero’s reign. And in no way is the presence of christians in Rome at that time legitimized as christians being the primary scapegoats because of the impact of their religious beliefs on Roman society... Their presence there was simply incidental and it was largely tolerated even by Nero in the very beginning of his reign.

I have not seen the actual printed writings of the historians mentioned here, or any other related papers, so I cannot comment on that part of it. My sources are based on modern academic third party interpretation of the original ancient historical accounts, that may have been, in fact, subject to alteration.

My theory comes with supporting evidence, albeit somewhat limited in it's scope of available information, and always seems to be debatable.

So, I'll tell you why I think it is more than plausable that Nero was just the kind of guy who would execute a few hundred christians as scape goats, even though the evidence for such an event is disputable.

Starting with the advent of Nero as emperor, installing emperors in Roman history came in a variety of ways. In Nero's case, he was actually the last of the Julius Caesar bloodline on record. But Nero was no hero by any stretch. Nero's first five years as emperor were actually respectable, described as with moderation and clemency.

Born Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus on December 15, 37, at Antium and originally named Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Nero was the son of the consul Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus (died about 40) and Agrippina the Younger, great-granddaughter of Emperor Augustus. In 49 Agrippina married her uncle, Emperor Claudius I, and the following year she persuaded him to adopt her son, whose name was then changed. Later, Claudius married Nero to his daughter Octavia and marked him out for succession, bypassing his own son, Britannicus. On Claudius's death (54), the Praetorian Guards, under their prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus, Agrippina's agent, declared Nero emperor at the age of 17.

So there you have the background of how Nero came to power.

He eventually murdered his own mother, and killed other people who were once part of his inner circle, including the poisoning of his rival Britannicus.

On Nero's watch, the empire slipped into turmoil, Nero established Armenia as a buffer state against Parthia, but only after a costly, unsuccessful war. Revolts broke out in Britain (60-61) and in Judea (66-70). In 65 Gaius Calpurnius Piso led a conspiracy against the emperor; 18 of the 41 prominent Romans implicated in the plot perished, among them Seneca and his nephew, the epic poet Lucan. Poppaea while pregnant to Nero was kicked to death by Nero, and he married Statilia Messalina after executing her husband.

Another way to size up Nero is to compare him with his successor Vespasian, who was a true hero and champion of his people, while Nero evolved as the diabolical "narcissist in chief".

The fire of 64 AD was the worst on record for Rome. It actually burned about 70% of the entire city, and devastated Roman moral. There was Nero. Regardless of conventional rumor, Nero was a prime suspect for the fire being an act of arson, even if by another party. Of course,, there is no solid evidence to back this. But there is circumstantial evidence, That being the plans Nero had laid out to build his own personal pleasure palace on the smoldering ruins of what was once the main financial district of Rome, all but completely destroyed.

As historical records recount, Nero built a fabulous hugely extravagant palace for himself, covering approx 200 acres or more. As compared to Vespasian, who built the Flavian Amphitheatre (Coliseum) for the well being and entertainment of his people, right on top of the condemned Nero palace. The difference being that Nero's palace was for Nero, and Nero pillaged the wealth of the provinces in order to finance it, while Vespasian pillaged the wealth of Judea and came back to Rome with 12,000 slaves to build the Coliseum.

The very fact that Nero built such a structure under these circumstances, would easily lead one to believe that he needed an alibi to cover his tracks for his alleged involvement in the fire of AD 64, that cleared the space he would have needed. At the same time, Nero mandated that the Roman wealthy upper class surrender all their wealth and assets to Nero, of course, to finance the palace, which could have been part of a sinister plot to get control of the entire wealth of the empire.. He certainly took advantage of a perfect opportunity to accomplished that much.

Needless to say, by then his deteriorated mental state and irrational behavior became well known to the Senate, and quickly Nero became extremely unpopular with all the wrong people. This in and of itself, would have been more than enough for the Praetorian Guard and the Senate to stage a coup d' etat against Nero.

I theorize that Christians would have been the perfect scapegoats for starting the fire, even if this event was an accident, because of their very presence and low status in Roman society at the time. Almost like no one would even care if three hundred of them were executed in taking the blame for starting the fire, accidental or not, getting Nero off the hook, so to speak, while inflaming the Pagan Romans toward the people who followed this foreign religion. 

Nero's mental condition got the best of him in the meantime, and he committed suicide before his rivals could get to him.

Christians were persecuted in pagan Rome, but not to the extent Christians today pretend. They were a problematic cult in some respects, but not often important enough to attract the attention of the government. Once the Roman Empire was Christian, then the real religious persecution began... against pagans. Christian Rome killed far more pagans than Pagan Rome ever killed Christians. Nero the madman was hated by many, including Christians. Some say that John of Patmos used the number 666 to refer to Nero's street address. Systematically purged from the Empire, pagans became increasingly scarce, lasting longest in the rural areas. The loss of culture entailed by this is astounding. The entire neoplatonic philosophical tradition silenced. The ethnic pagan cultures of countless groups suppressed and destroyed. Millions tortured and killed.

For pagans, Christian Rome made Nero's Rome seem like a kindergarten picnic.

I thought this was common knowledge.

It's false common knowledge.

Bingo! Those in power have propagated a number of historical myths which serve their interests, which have become "common knowledge".

There are so many examples of this I could write all day.

Christians in power especially have twisted history to serve their purposes. Ask a Christian about the persecution of pagans post-Constantine and you'll get a blank expression. "What?" They never even heard of it.

The Great Fire of Rome (64 AD) itself is more of a myth than the persecution of Christians under Nero. No contemporary writers in Rome (historians or otherwise) mention the fire, which is odd considering its supposed devastation. It might be referred to in a play written in about 90 AD (although that might be a later work), and Pliny the Elder refers in about 78 AD to some trees that were burnt down during Nero's reign. Tacitus is our earliest detailed source for the fire.

It is likely that the fire of Rome and the persecution of the Christians got exaggerated at a time when Nero was a popular target as the archetypal tyrant. Both were part of the 'popular' history of Nero's reign by the 2nd century AD. But the two events might not have been originally connected. By putting them together, pagan authors could both pity the Christians as a tyrants victim, but still keep them under suspicion of maybe having something to be guilty for. 


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