The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 23
THE WARS OF TRAJAN

The Roman historians, p.428. Pontus and Bithynia, p.429. The church and the empire, p.430. Pliny and the Christians, A.D. 111-12, p.432. Trajan's rescript, p.434. The Wars of Trajan, A.D. 114-17, p.435. A story from Epiphanius; Aquila in Jerusalem, A.D. 117, p.437. Anti-Jewish theologies, p.439. Satornil and the Ophites, p.441. Ignatius the bishop, p.443.


THE ROMAN HISTORIANS

The reign of Trajan was the period of the last classical Latin literature. He belonged to the same circle in Rome as Tacitus and Pliny, who perpetuated the memory of the great aristocratic tradition in literature and government. Tacitus had gone through the offices of state under Domitian and had suffered spiritually as a result of his tyranny. In his numerous historical works the moralizing turn which was natural to the conservative Roman mind had been infected with pessimism and bitterness. The pictures which he drew of Rome under the bad Caesars are partly history and partly satire. He seems to have seen clearly the insecurity of the empire, and may have been doubtful about its future. We have made use of his Annals in describing the persecution under Nero in 64. He was about ten years old when those events took place, and would remember the burning of the city and the hunting down of the Christians in those hot summer months. He never troubled to correct the impression of the Christians which he had received from his elders at that time; nevertheless the account which he gives of the Christians is better informed than the account which he gives of the Jews.

Gaius Plinius Secundus is called Pliny the Younger, to distinguish him from his uncle the admiral, by whom he was brought up. Pliny the Elder wrote copiously on scientific subjects. It is possible that Clement of Rome drew from his writings the particulars about the bird called the phoenix, which he uses as an argument in favour of the resurrection; and if so, he erred, as theologians may, by following the accepted text-books of the day. Pliny the Elder had a genuine scientific interest in natural phenomena, and lost his life by investigating too closely the

-428-

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