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- the city.
• have any doubt. For who can better direct me where I hesitate, or instruct me where I am
ignorant? I have never been present at any trials of Christians: so that I know not well what is the subject matter of punishment, or of inquiry, or what strictness ought to be used in either. • Nor have I been a little perplexed to determine whether any difference ought to be made upon
account of age, or whether the young and tender, and the full grown and robust, ought to be treated all alike: -whether repentance should entitle to pardon, or whether all who have once • been Christians ought to be punished, though they are now no longer so: whether the name • itself, although no crimes be detected, or crimes only belonging to the name, ought to be punished. Concerning all these things I am in doubt.
• In the mean time I have taken this course with all who have been brought before me and • have been accused as Christians. I have put the question to them, whether they were Chris* tians. Upon their confessing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second and a • third time, threatening also to punish them with death. Such as still persisted, I ordered away * to be punished; for it was no doubt with me, whatever might be the nature of their opinion, • that contumacy, and inflexible obstinacy, ought to be punished. There were others of the '* same infatuation, whom, because they are Roman citizens, I have noted down to be sent to
* In a short time, the crime spreading itself, even whilst under persecution, as is usual in such - cases, divers sorts of people came in my way. An information was presented to me without
mentioning the author, containing the names of many persons, who upon examination denied that they were Christians, or had ever been so: who repeated after me an invocation of the gods, and with wine and frankincense made supplication to your image, which for that purpose I had caused to be brought and set before them, together with the statues of the deities. More
over, they reviled the name of Christ. None of which things, as is said, they who are really • Christians, can by any means be compelled to do. These therefore I thought proper to discharge.
• Others were named by an informer, who at first confessed themselves Christians, and after• wards denied it. The rest said they had been Christians, but had left thein; some three years
ago, some longer, and one, or more, above twenty years. They all worshipped your image, • and the statues of the gods: these also reviled Christ. They afiirmed that the whole of their fault, or error, lay in this, that they were wont to meet together on a stated day before it was light, and sing among themselves alternately a hymn to Christ, as a god, and bind themselves by an oath, not to the commission of any wickedness, but not to be guilty of thest, or robbery, • or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor to deny a pledge committed to them, when called upon to return it. When these things were performed, it was their custom to separate, and then to come together again to a meal, which they ate in common, without any disorder : but • this they had forbore, since the publication of my edict, by which, according to your com' mands, I prohibited assemblies.
• After receiving this account I judged it the more necessary to examine, and that by tor
minatus: perseverantes duci jussi. Neque enim dubitabain, scelus aliquod obstringere, sed ne furta, ne latrocinia, ne adulqualecumque esset quod faterentur, pervicaciam certe, et in- teria committerent, ne fidem fallerent, ne depositum appellati flexibilem obstinationem, debere puniri. Fuerunt alii similis abnegaient: quibus peractis, morem sibi discedendi fuisse, nientiæ; quos, quia cives Romani erant, annotavi in Urbemi rursusque ccöundi ad capiendum cibum, promiscuun tamen, remittendos. Mox ipso traccu, (al. tractatu) ut fieri solet, et innoxium; quod et ipsum facere desiisse post edictum meum, difundente se crimine, pleres species inciderunt. Propositus quo secundum mandata tua betærias esse velueram. Quo estibellus sine auctore, multorum nomina continens, qui ne- magis necessarium credidi, ex duabus ancillis, quæ ministræ , gârunt se esse Christianos, aut fuisse, quum præeunte me, dicebantur, quid esset veri et per tornienta quaerere. Sed Icos appellarent, et imagini tuæ, quam propter hoc jusserain nihil aliud inveni, quam superstitionem pravam ei immodicam. cum simulacris nwinum afferri, vino ac thure sacrificarent, Ideoque dilatâ cognitione ad consulendum te decurri. Visa pietra maledicerent Christo; quorum nihil cogi posse est enim mihi res digna consultatione, maxime propter peridicuntur, qui sunt reverâ Christian. Ergo dimittendos putavi. clitantium numerum. Multi enim omnis ætatis, utriusque Ali ab indice nominati, esse se Christianos dixerunt, et mox sexûs etiam, vocantur in periculuni, et vocabuntur. Neque pegaverunt: fuisse quidem, sed desiisse, quidam ante trien- enim civitates tantum, sed vicos etiam et agros superstitionis nium, quidam ante plures annos, non nemo etiam ante viginti istius contagio pervagata est. Quæ videtur sisti et corrigi quoque Omnes et imaginem tuam, Dcorumque s'mulacra posse. Certe satis constat, prope etiam desolata templa venerati sunt. li et Christo maledixerunt. Affirmabant au- cepisse celebrari, et sacra solennia diu intermissa repeti; tem, hanc fuisse summam vel culpæ suæ, vel erroris, quod passimque vænire victinias, quaruni adhuc rarissinus emptor essert soliti stato die ante lucem convenire, carmenque Christo, inveniebatur. Ex quo facile est opinari, quæ turba hominum guasi Dco, dicere secum invicein; seque sacramento non iu emendari possit, si sit poenitentiæ locus.
«ture, two maid-servants, which were called ministers. But I have discovered nothing, beside • a bad and excessive superstition.
• Suspending therefore all judicial proceedings, I have recourse to you for advice: for it has • appeared unto me a matter highly deserving consideration, especially upon account of the • great number of persons who are in danger of suffering. For many of all ages, and every rank, • of both sexes likewise, are accused, and will be accused. Nor has the contagion of this su• perstition seized cities only, but the lesser towns also, and the open country. Nevertheless it
seems to me that it may be restrained and corrected. It is certain that the temples, which • were alınost forsaken, begin to be more frequented. And the sacred solemnities, after a long intermission, are revived. Victims likewise are every where bought up, whereas for some time • there were few purchasers. Whence it is easy to imagine what numbers of men might be re• claimed, if pardon were granted to those who shall repent.'
So writes Pliny. We are now to observe the emperor's rescript. • Trajan to Pliny wisheth health and · happiness.
• You have taken the right method, my Pliny, in your proceedings with those who have • been brought before you as Christians; for it is impossible to establish any one rule that shall
They are not to be sought for. If any are brought before you, and are convicted, they ought to be punished. However, he that denies his being a Christian, and makes it evident in fact, that is, by supplicating to our gods, though he be suspected to have • been so formerly, let him be pardoned upon repentance. But in no case, of • ever, may a bill of information be received without being signed by him who presents it: for that would be a dangerous precedent, and unworthy of my government.'
I have put together these two letters, that we may make our remarks upon them jointly, and without interruption.
It may be observed here, that the genuineness of these letters is unquestioned. They are found with the other letters of Pliny to Trajan, and Trajan's letters to him. And they are both particularly mentioned by Tertullian, in his Apology for the Christians, and by « Eusebius from him, not now to mention any later writers.
III. But before we enter upon any particular remarks upon these epistles, it may be of use to take Eusebius's account of the persecution of the Christians in the reign of Trajan.
In the thirty-second chapter of the third book of his Ecclesiastical History, he expresseth himself to this purpose: “After Nero and Domitian, in the time of him of whom we are now ' speaking, we have understood that in several places, and in divers cities, there was a persecu'tion occasioned by the tumults of the people. After which he there relates the martyrdom of Simeon, son of Cleophas, bishop of Jerusalem: who at the age of an hundred and twentyycars was crucified by order of Atticus, governor of Judca under Trajan.
In the next chapier he writes thus: * And indeed so heavy a persecution was there against ‘us in many places, that Pliny, a governor of great eminence and distinction, being moved at • the multitude of the martyrs, could not forbear writing to the emperor concerning the multi*tude of those who were slain for the faith. At the same time informing him that he had not • discovered any wickedness they were guilty of, or any thing done by them contrary to the • laws: only that rising early in the morning they sang together a hymn to Christ, as a god: : that they condemned adultery, murder, and all such crimes: and that they acted in all things
according to the laws. In answer to which Trajan sent an edict to this effect. « That the • Christians should not be sought for, but if any were brought before him they should be pu• nished.” By which means the violence of the persecution against us was in some measure
abated. Nevertheless, they who had a mind to disturb us did not want pretences for so doing: • in some places the people, in other places the governors of provinces, laying snares for us. So * that, though there was no open (or general) persecution, there were persecutions in several
a Trajanus Plinio S.
lit qui negaverit' se Christianum esse, idque re ipsâ manifestum Lib. x ep. 98. Actum quem debuisti, mi Secunde, in fecerit, id est, supplicando Diis nostris, quamvis suspectus in executiendis causis eorum qui Christiani ad te delati fuerant, præteritum fuerit, veniam ex pænitentiâ impetret
. Sine aucsecutus es. Neque eniin in universum aliquid, quod quasi core vero propositi libclli, nullo in crimine, locum habere de- certam formam habeat, constitui potest. Conquirendi non bent. Nam et pessimi exempli, nec postri seculi esi. sunt. Si deferantur, et arguantur, puniendi sunt : ita tamen, Arul. cap. 2.
d H. E. I. 3. cap. 33. .
places and provinces, and there were many faithful men who underwent divers kinds of mar. Styrdom.
So writes Eusebius, I believe very truly, and I think judiciously, and with good temper, though not with elegance or accuracy of expression. He then proceeds to transcribe a part of Tertullian's Apology, where he speaks of Pliny and Trajan, of which I may take farther notice hereafter. At present I transcribe below what we find upon this subject in Eusebius's Chronicle.
IV. I now intend to go over the two epistles above transcribed.
• It is my constant custom, Sir, to refer myself to you in all matters concerning which I have any doubt. '
That this was Pliny's constant custom, sufficiently appears from his many letters sent to Tra. jan, whilst he was in the province. He seems to have had some particular encouragement from the emperor so to do. But the introduction to this letter is rather more formal than ordinary, because of the importance of the present subject of inquiry. And indeed it was a frequent practice of the governors of provinces, upon special occasions, to consult the Roman emperor, the supreme magistrate.
• I have never been present at any trials of the Christians.'
This manner of speaking shews that the Christians were then well known in the world. Pliny does not say to the emperor that he had now unexpectedly met with a certain sort of men in his.province, called Christians. No. There were people well known to himself, and the em peror, who bore the denomination of Christians. When he says, he had never been present at '
any trials of the Christians;' it seems to be implied that he knew of some such trials, though he had not been concerned in them. And there may have been such trials in this province before he came into it.
** So that I know not well what is the subject matter of punishment, or of inquiry, or what *strictness ought to be used in either.
Hence it may be argued, that when Pliny came into his province there were no edicts iv force against the Christians. If there bad, Pliny, who was a learned man, and well acquainted with the Roman laws, must have known them. The reason why there were then no edicts in force against the Christians, I suppose to be, that the edicts of Nero and Domitian had been abrogated.
• Nor have I been a little perplexed to determine whether any difference ought to be made * on account of age, or whether the young and tender, and the full grown and robust, ought to * be treated all alike.'
Mr. Melmoth’s translation is thus: · Whether therefore any difference is usually made with respect to the ages of the guilty, or no distinction is to be observed between the young and " the adult-i'I have allowed myself to be more diffused, and somewhat paraphrastical, be
* Plinius Secundus, quum quamdam provinciam regeret, et manni Disput. de Persecutione Christian. Plinian. sect. iv. p. in magistratu suo pluriinos Christianorum interfecisset, mul- 124. Ap. Diss. Syllog. Tom. i. P.i. utudine eorum perterritus, quæsivit de Trajano, quid facto e Fuisse aliquod Trajani de interficiendis Christianis certum opus esset, nuntians ei, præter obstinationeni non sacrificandi, edictum ante Plinii relationem, non existimo. Si quod enim ei antelucanos cætus ad canendum cuidam Christo, ut Deo, fuisset, Plinius pon dubitåsset; aut Trajanum certe consu. ni bil apud eos reperiri : præterea ad confæderandam discipli- lendo, ejus edicti mentionem fecisset. Fr. Balduin. Comm. wam vetari ab his homicidia, adulteria, latrocinia, et his si- ad Edict. Princ. Roman. de Christianis. p. 29. Quid Tra. milia. Ad quæ commotus Trajanus rescripsit, hoc genus janus A. C. 103, seq. contra eos tentaverit, ex Plinio constat, quidem inquirendos non esse, oblatos vero puniri oportere. cujus Epistola indicat, vexatos quidem esse Christianos variis Euseb. Chron. p. 165.
in locis, absque ullâ tamen bactenus Cæsarum rescripto. b Summas, Domine, gratias ago, quod, inter maximas oc- Unde Plinius eâ de re Trajanum consulere necessum habuit. cupationes, iis, de quibus consului, me quoque regere digna- Lampe Synops. Hist. Ec. 1. 2, c. 3, num. xxxiii. p. 112. tus es: quod nunc quoque facias, rogo. L. X. ep. 64.
Quum Trajanus, primus imperatorum hujus seculi, reipublic Vid. c. Kortholt. Comment, in Ep. Plinii et Trajani de cæ gubernationi admoveretur, nullæ aderant in Christianos Christian. p. 11.
leges et edicta. Quod cum aliæ res, tum Plinii notissima 4. Certe jam ante se cognitiones in provinciâ fuisse de Chris- epistola, extra omnem dubitationem ponit, qrâ imperatori sig. tianis habitas, initio literarum suarum noster significat. Ac nificat, nescire se, quomodo cum Christianis agendum esset; eum quidem, qui proxime ante Plinium Bithyniæ præfuerat, quod vir juris et consuetudinum Romanarum consultissimus fuisse persecutorem, inde manifestum puto, quod Plinius re- non ignorâsset, si leges in Christianos extitissent. Neronis fert nonnullos ad se productorum dixisse, 'se jam ante trien- nimirum leges Senatus, Domitiani Nerva imperator, abroganium desiisse esse Christianos. Sua autem sponte eos, non verat. Moshem. De Reb. Christian. ante C. M. Sec. 2, Sec. metu supplicii, id fecisse; verisimile non est. C. A. Heu. vili, p 231,
cause I have imagined that Pliny's question relates not only to those who were tender upon account of their age, but also upon account of their sex.
Some have thought that a Trajan gives no answer to this question. Whether he does or not will be considered hereafter.
Le Clerc is much offended that Pliny should not know whether ba difference ought to be made between the young and the adult, especially in matters of religion, where children are very likely to follow the judgment of their parents. However
, I apprehend that this question is proposed by Pliny with a good intention, and hoping that 'Trajan would determine favourably, that *the young and the tender’ should not be treated in the same manner with those of mature age and robust constitution.
Another commentator upon Pliny observes, that ' in other cases regard was had to age by the Roman laws; but that this equity was not shewn in the treatment of Christians;' as indeed is well known from the ancient apologists, and other ancient Christian writers, who often speak of the sufferings and of the courage, resolution, and patience, of young people and women: of which a few instances shall be placed below in their own words.
And perhaps Pliny himself did really hesitate here. In other cases regard was usually had to age. But the persecutions of the Christians were carried with so much violence, and there was such vehemence in the complaints against them brought before him as enemies to the gods, and for neglecting the worship at the temples, and all the sacred solemnities, that he was in doubt whether they ought to partake in the common equity.
• Whether repentance should entitle to pardon, or whether all who have been once Chris• tians should be punished, though they are now no longer so.'
Upon this Le Clerc observes that, ifo Christianity were supposed to be an error only, nothing more could be expected of him who had erred in embracing it, than renouncing it upon being convinced of his error. And as the Christians were charged with no crime that should expose them to punishment, it was highly reasonable that pardon should be granted ' upon repentance.'
And I am apt to think that this is what Pliny aimed at in this inquiry. We may be rather disposed to think so, because he plainly recommends it afterwards nearer the end of his letter.
• Whether the name itself, although no crimes be detected, or crimes only belonging to the nanie, ought to be punished? Concerning all these things I am in doubt.'
This is Pliny's third question, and of great importance. If rightly determined, the Christians could no longer suffer upon account of their religion. But I do not discern any hint from Pliny in favour of the right answer, nor any intimation how he wished to have it answered.
Pliny speaks in the language of those times. We find this complaint frequently in our ancient apologists, that they were punished for the name only, as Christians, without proof of any crimes they were guilty of.
& Nec mediocriter hæsitavi, sitne aliquod discrimen ata- dunt. Min. Fel. c. 37--Nostri autem (ut de viris taceam) tum. Huic dubitationi non respondet Trajanus. Balduin. pueri, et mulierculæ, tortores suos taciti vincunt--Ecce,
sexus infirmus, et fragilis atas, dilacerari se toto corpore, uri. b In aliis criminibus ratio ætatis habebatur. Neque enim que perpetitur. &c. Lact. Inf. 1. 5, c. 13. pueri, rerum omnium imperiti, eodem modo atque adulti, • Dubitabat idem, an dari oporteret pænitentiæ veniam,' qui scientes et prudentes deliquerant, habebantur. Mirum &c. At, si statuamus errorem esse Christianismum, quid est, in religionis negotio, dubitare posse Plinium, 'an esset potuit ab errante aliud postulari, nisi ut erroris convictus se aliquod discrimen ætatum, an quamlibet teneri nihil a robus- errâsse fateretur, et, meliora edoctus, rectius de religione tioribus differrent; cum liquidum sit, teneram ætatem sequi sentiret ? &c. Cleric. H. E. Ap. cxi. n. v. parentum judicium-Hic homo, alioqui doctus, et acutus, ' Hanc itaque primam causam apud vos collocamus iniquitalpå cæciorem se præbuit. Usque adeo verum est, pravis tatis odii erga nomen Christianorum. Tertull. Ap. cap. i. religionibus hebetes homines fieri. Cleric. H. E. p. 547.
-Sed illud solum exspectatur, quod odio publico necesÆtatis magna omnino in pænis irrogandis haberi solet sarium est, confessio noininis, non examinatio criminis. Ib. c.2. ratio. Unde non tantum definiunt Icti, quæ ætas delicti sit Ideo torquemur confitentes, et punimur perseverantes, et capax ; sed etiam docent, si maxime capax sit, ob ætatem absolvimur negantes, quia nominis prælium est. Ib. c. 2, tamen tenellam et florescentem, mitiorem debere pænam infigi-Cæterum, ut hæc ita sint, de fide tamen Christianâ Porro sententiæ vestræ nihil nisi Christianum confessum quando res erat, omni ætatis discrimine posthabito, in ipsos notant. Nullum criminis nomen extat, nisi nominis crimen etiam pueros puellasque crudeliter sæviebatur. Kortholt. ubi est. Id ad Nation. 1. i. c. 3. et alibi passini. supr. p. 12.
Ονοματος μεν εν προσωνoμια, ουτε αγαθον ουτε κακόν, Pueri et mulierculæ nostræ cruces et tormenta, feras, et κρινεται, ανευ των υποπιπτεσων τα ονοματι πραξεων. Justin. omnes suppliciorum terriculas inspiratâ patientiâ doloris illu- M. Ap. p. 54. D. Paris. 1630. Vid. et. p. 55. A. B. VOL. IV.
P. 4. B.
When Pliny first formed these three questions, this last in particular, he might possibly be in doubt whether the Christians were not guilty of some crimes. But, before he wrote this letter and sent it away to Trajan, he had good proof and must have been well satisfied that there were no crimes, belonging to,' or inherent in the name,' or the profession of Christianity; as we shall see by and by: at present we go on.
• In the mean time,' says Pliny, I have taken this course with all who have been brought before me, and accused as Christians.'
Le Clerc thinks · it strange that whilst Pliny had such doubts he should proceed to act as if he had been well satisfied what was fit to be done, and treat the Christians very severely.
• I put the question to them whether they were Christians. Upon their confessing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second and a third time, threatening also to punish "them with death. Such as still persisted, I ordered away to be punished.'
Mr. Melmoth very softly and cautiously translates in this general manner. • If they con• fessed, I repeated the question twice again, adding threats at the same time; when, if they still • persevered, I ordered them to be immediately punished.' But to me it seems that Pliny's expressions require the interpretation that I have given: which is also agreeable to Mr. Tillemont's - French version.
The obvious meaning of the last words, perseverantes duci jussi, is that of being had away to be punished with death. The phrase " frequently occurs in that sense in the Latin authors, and is equivalent to the Greek word in Acts xii, 19" and commanded that they should be put to death."
However, the word is also used for being had away to prison. And Tertullian, representing Pliny's conduct in the province, as from his own letter, which we are now considering, says: • Some & Christians he condemned to death, others he degraded.' And in like manner Eusebius in his Greek quotation of Tertullian's Apology. Possibly, therefore, Tertullian supposed that in the word duci were included several kinds of punishment; or else he understood duci, as I have translated, put to death:' and by degrading others' he explains what Pliny says of sending some, who were citizens, to Rome. Nevertheless, in the Chronicle before transcribed by uz, Euscbius writes that · Pliny, when he presided in a certain province, and had put to death • many Christians in the time of his government, being concerned on account of the multitude • of those who were in danger of suffering, he wrote to the emperor for advice what should be . done.'
Pliny here says: “I put the question to them whether they were Christians. Upon their confessing to me that they were, I repeated the question a second and a third time, threaten• ing also to punish them with death.'
Here I must say that, so far as I am able to judge, Pliny acted the part of a true and thorough persecutor: • advising these persons well to consider of the matter, and to have a due regard i to their own welfare. If they departed from their first confession, mercy might be shewn • them: but if they persisted in it, nothing less than death could be expected.'
But there is no real argument in such fine speeches, or such threatenings. Indeed Pliny did all that was in his power to make them recant without, and contrary to, conviction. And undoubtedly he subdued the consciences of some, and made them fall from the faith. It is implied in what he says presently afterwards: • Such as still persisted, I ordered away to be punished.' Therefore all did not persevere. Some were overcome by his promises and threatenings. I must
Ου γαρ τα ονοματα μισες αξια, αλλα το αδικημα δικης και,
-a calvo ad calvum duci imperavit. Suet. Calig. c. 27 copias. Athen. Ap. p. 3.- επι μονω ονόματι προσπολε- ducique ad supplicium imperavit. Tib.c. 57-paucis μάντων ημιν των πολλων. Ιb. Ρar. p. 280. Bened.
duci jussis. Tertull. ad Scap. c. ult- -innocentes duci jubera Quamvis Plinius animi, ut vidimus, penderet, ac proinde tur. L. Cæc. de Mart. Persec. c. 40. ad supplicium deductæ. rem deferre debuisset, quasi exploratum ei fuisset, quid factu Ib. -innocentes occisas esse testatur. ib. opus esset, pessime habuit Christianos. Ib. n. vii. in.
-εκελευσεν απαχθήναι. . 1 • Perseverantes duci jussi.'] nempe ad mortem. Sic
ducique in carcerem jussit. Sueton. Cæs. cap. 20. enim, ut omnes norunt, loqui solent Latini scriptores. Cleric. & Plinius enim Secundus, cum provinciam regeret, dam- ! ibid.
natis quibusdam Christianis, quibusdam gradu pulsis, ipsa c Quand ils ont avoué, je leur ai fait deux ou trois fois la tamen multitudine perturbatus, &c. Apol. c. 2. même demande, en le menaçant même de la mort, s'ils ne re
-κατακρινας Χριστιανός τινας, και της αξιας εκβαλαν, nonçoient à cette religion. Ceux qui ont persisté dans leur x. a. Euseb. H. E. 1. 3, c. 33, p. 105. D. aveu, je les ai fait mener au supplice. Tillem. La Persécution i See before, p. 16, note a: sous Trajan, art. iv. H. Emp. T. 2.