Roman Christian Persecution
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Roman Christian Persecution (Revelation 17.6-7)

"I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God's holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: 'Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.'" (Revelation 17.6-7)✞

Ancient Rome

Painting of Martyrs DeathThe way in which John of Patmos describes Christian persecution is very significant. He says that ancient Rome was "drunk with the blood of the saints" and the "blood of the martyrs." The implication was that the Christian persecution was not simply a legal necessity but that the Roman authorities took great delight in hounding Christians to death. It was a reference to the persecution in the Empire, but it did more than simply stamp ancient Rome as the great persecutor. She revelled in slaughter and enjoyed it like a drunken person revels in wine.

Emperor Nero

Bust of the Emperor NeroNo doubt John was thinking of the Christian persecution which took place in the Empire under the Emperor Nero. The Neronic persecution sprang from the great fire of Rome in 64 AD which burned for six days and devastated Rome according to Tacitus (54-117 AD) a senator and historian observer. There was a myth that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" but this cannot be true because "fiddles or violin-like instruments did not exist until the 11th century AD" according the the Daily Express writer William Hartston! The people of Rome were convinced that the fire was no accident, and they were also convinced that those who tried to extinguish it were hindered and that when it did die down, it was deliberately rekindled.✞

Who Started it?

Rome BurningPeople at the time believed that the instigator of the fire was none other than the Emperor Nero himself. Nero had a passion for grandiose buildings, and the people believed that he had deliberately burned down part of the old ramshackled city of Rome in order to rebuild it with marble public buildings. This he did with the Domus Aurea which was a large landscaped portico villa built for himself by Nero in the heart of ancient Rome after the fire. Nero also was quite brutal in his actions and this is illustrated by the fact that when he was only 16 or 17 years old, he had his own mother killed and later also had his wife Claudia Octavia murdered in 62 AD. William Hartston adds amusingly, "In 67 AD Nero competed in the then Olympic Games and remarkably won events in chariot racing, singing and acting, probably by bribing the judges."

"Roman Christian Persecution"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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