We celebrated Easter Vigil last night at Saint Raymond of Penafort in Philadelphia. To mark Easter I’m sharing John Burger’s piece on Tacitus, the Roman historian:
Tacitus is known for his chronicles of the Roman Empire, but he was also a high official in Rome’s imperial administration. Among the many stepping stones he had in his career, there is one that, in light of Christian history, suggests why he might have included a certain Jesus of Nazareth in his famous history, the Annals. …
… there were Christians living in Rome, and a historian like Tacitus, born 25 years after the crucifixion, would have wondered who these people were and why they believed the way they did.
Tacitus refers to the Christians of Rome in the context of the great Roman fire of A.D. 64. He says that to dispel rumors that Nero was to blame for the fire, he:
“…fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”