Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book III/Chapter 17
Chapter XVII.—The Persecution under Domitian.
Domitian, having shown great cruelty toward many, and having unjustly put to death no small number of well-born and notable men at Rome, and having without cause exiled and confiscated the property of a great many other illustrious men, finally became a successor of Nero in his hatred and enmity toward God. He was in fact the second that stirred up a persecution against us, although his father Vespasian had undertaken nothing prejudicial to us.
- The persecutions under Nero and Domitian were not undertaken by the state as such; they were simply personal matters, and established no precedent as to the conduct of the state toward Christianity. They were rather spasmodic outbursts of personal enmity, but were looked upon with great horror as the first to which the Church was subjected. There was no general persecution, which took in all parts of the empire, until the reign of Decius (249–251), but Domitian’s cruelty and ferocity were extreme, and many persons of the highest rank fell under his condemnation and suffered banishment and even death, not especially on account of Christianity, though there were Christians among them, but on account of his jealousy, and for political reasons of various sorts. That Domitian’s persecution of the Christians was not of long duration is testified by Tertullian, Apol. 5. Upon the persecutions of the Christians, see, among other works, Wieseler’s Die Christenverfolgungen der Cäsaren, hist. und chronolog. untersucht, 1878; Uhlhorn’s Der Kampf des Christenthums mit dem Heidenthum, English translation by Smyth and Ropes, 1879; and especially the keen essay of Overbeck, Gesetze der römischen Kaiser gegen die Christen, in his Studien zur Gesch. der alten Kirche, I. (1875).
- The fact that the Christians were not persecuted by Vespasian is abundantly confirmed by the absence of any tradition to the opposite effect. Compare Tertullian’s Apol. chap. 5, where the persecutions of Nero and Domitian are recorded.