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The Myth of the Neronian Persecution

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2015

Brent D. Shaw*
Department of Classics, Princeton University


A conventional certainty is that the first state-driven persecution of Christians happened in the reign of Nero and that it involved the deaths of Peter and Paul, and the mass execution of Christians in the aftermath of the great fire of July 64 c.e. The argument here contests all of these facts, especially the general execution personally ordered by Nero. The only source for this event is a brief passage in the historian Tacitus. Although the passage is probably genuine Tacitus, it reflects ideas and connections prevalent at the time the historian was writing and not the realities of the 60s.

Copyright © The Author(s) 2015. Published by The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies 

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