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The Two Republics, or Rome and the United States of America

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    DOMITIAN,

    who is next named in the list of persecutors, was so jealous of his imperial power and withal such a downright coward, that he was afraid of every man who was, or might become, popular, or from any cause conspicuous. His suspicions were constantly creating imaginary plots against his throne and his life, and his fears welcomed any tale of treason or of plot. There was an ample number of flatterers and sycophants who voluntarily assumed the vile office of informers, to have satisfied perhaps any man in the world but Domitian. He, however, was not content with this.TTR 115.1

    He deliberately hired every man in the empire who was willing to sell himself to such service. And there were multitudes who were willing so to sell themselves. This system had been employed by others, but “Domitian seems, of all the emperors, to have carried it furthest, and adopted it most systematically. It was an aggravation rather than an extenuation of his crime that he seduced into his service men of high rank and character, and turned the Senate into a mob of rivals for the disgrace of thus basely serving him. The instruments of his jealous precaution rose in a graduated hierarchy. The knights and senators trembled before a Massa Baebius, a Carus, and a Latinus; but these delators trembled in their turn before the prince of delators, Memmius Regulus, and courted him, not always successfully, by the surrender of their estates or their mistresses.... The best and noblest of the citizens were still marked out as the prey of delators whose patron connived at enormities which bound their agents more closely to himself, and made his protection more necessary to them. The haughty nobles quailed in silence under a system in which every act, every word, every sigh, was noted against them, and disgrace, exile, and death followed upon secret whispers. The fears of Domitian increased with his severities. He listened to the tales not of senators and consulars only, but of the humblest officials and even of private soldiers. Often, says Epictetus, was the citizen, sitting in the theater, entrapped by a disguised legionary beside him, who pretended to murmur against the emperor, till he had led his unsuspecting neighbor to confide to him his own complaints, and then skulked away to denounce him.”—Merivale. 5[Page 116] “Romans Under the Empire,” chap. lxii, par. 17.TTR 115.2

    Such a system gave full and perfect freedom to vent every kind of petty spite; and not only was freedom given to it, but by the informers’ receiving a share of the property of the accused, a premium was put upon it. Many were put to death to allay Domitian’s fears. Large numbers of others were either put to death or banished for the sake of their property, and yet many others were executed or banished upon charges invented by the informers to satisfy their personal hatred or to maintain with the emperor their standing of loyalty. Among the victims of this universal treachery, some Christians were numbered. Hated as they were, it would have been strange indeed had there been none. Among these was the apostle John, who was banished to the Isle of Patmos. There were two others whose names we know—Flavius Clemens and his wife Domitilla. Clemens was the cousin, and Domitilla was the niece, of Domitian. Clemens had enjoyed the favor of the emperor for a long time, and attained the honor of the consulship. The term of his office, however, had hardly more than expired when he was accused, condemned, and executed; and Domitilla was banished to a desolate island on the western coast of Italy. The charge against them was “atheism and Jewish manners,” “which cannot with any propriety be applied except to the Christians, as they were obscurely and imperfectly viewed by the magistrates and by the writers of that period.”—Gibbon. 6[Page 116] “Decline and Fall,” chap. xvi, par. 18.TTR 116.1

    A great number of other persons were involved in the same accusation as were Clemens and Domitilla, and likewise met the same fate with them—confiscation of goods and banishment or death. Yet it is with no manner of justice or propriety that this has been singled out as a persecution against the church, or of Christians as such; because at the same time there were thousands of people of all classes who suffered the same things and from the same source. This is granting that Clemens was killed and Domitilla banished really on account of their religion. Considering their kinship to the emperor, and the standing of Clemens, it is fairly questionable whether it was not for political reasons that they were dealt with, and whether their religion was not the pretext rather than the cause, of their punishment. And for political crimes especially it was no unusual thing for all of a man’s friends and relations to be included in the same proscription with himself. “This proscription took place about eight months before Domitian’s death, at a period when he was tormented by the utmost jealousy of all around, and when his heart was hardened to acts of unparalleled barbarity; and it seems more likely that it was counseled by abject fear for his own person or power, than by concern for the religious interests of the State.”—Merivale. 7[Page 117] “Romans Under the Empire”, chap. lxii, par. 15TTR 116.2

    In September, A. D. 96, Domitian was succeeded by—TTR 117.1

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