Domitian and the Christians – Roman religion

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Domitian: a beardless white man with short curly hair

The Roman emperor Domitian, the last of the Flavian emperors

After the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, we don’t hear anything definite about the Christians for forty years. There’s nothing that’s for sure about Christians until the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, about 100 AD.

But during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, in the 90s AD, some people at court were killed for being “atheists”. “Atheism” means not believing in the gods. Were these people Christians?

Suetonius does not use the word Christian. But to a Roman maybe the Christians seemed to not believe in the gods. (After all, Christians didn’t believe in the Roman gods.) And then in 96 AD, some people at court conspired to kill Domitian. One of the main people involved in the assassination was a man named Stephen. And Stephen is a Christian name. Was that a plot by Christians, or partly by Christians?

The main thing we can gather from this information is that apparently Christianity itself was not yet illegal at this time. But nobody really knows whether Domitian ever killed people for being Christians or not. And nobody knows whether it was Christians who killed Domitian, either.

More about Domitian
Pliny and Trajan
More about Christianity

Bibliography and further reading about Domitian and the Christians:


Pliny and Trajan
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By |2017-08-21T21:31:22+00:00August 21st, 2017|Religion, Romans|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Domitian and the Christians – Roman religion. Study Guides, August 21, 2017. Web. December 18, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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