64: The first persecution of Christians

The great fire according to Hubert Robert (1787) (Public Domain)


A devastating fire breaks out in Rome in 64 AD. According to the historian Tacitus, the Romans think Nero started the fire. To shift the blame, the Emperor accuses the Christians and opens the first in a long series of Christian persecutions. The victims are crucified, burned and fed to the dogs.


“… to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians … First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night.”
– Tacitus Annales 15.44