Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 21 April |
Saint of the Day: St. Anselm of Canterbury
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Did the Romans really throw all Christians to the Lions?

ROME ON FIRE

Public Domain

J-P Mauro - published on 03/01/18

While Christian persecution was rampant in ancient Rome, it was not constant.

Were Christians really thrown to the lions? Well, yes and no. And more importantly, they weren’t the only ones to suffer this fate at the hands of the Romans.

Since the end of the 19th century, the prevailing symbol of the ancient Roman persecution of Christians has been the lion. Henryk Sienkiewicz’s 1895 novel Quo Vadis and its 1951 film adaptation popularized the imagery of Nero feeding these poor souls to the beasts. This has lead to the widespread belief that all Roman emperors instituted policies of persecution, but it would seem that this is not the case.

While it is true that Christians were persecuted in Ancient Rome, it was not a constant effort on the Romans’ part, nor was it universally practiced. The Conversation tells us that this misconception was primarily influenced by two works written in the early 4th century: On the Deaths of the Persecutors by Lactantius, a Christian professor of Latin, and The Church History of Eusebius, written by the bishop of Caesarea in modern-day Israel.

The two works were finished during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, and sought to record the suffering of Christians under Roman rule up until that time.

Lactantius cited Nero as the first persecutor of Christians. After the Great Fire of Rome, which rumors attributed to Nero, he shifted the blame onto the Christian community and, according to the Roman historian Tacitus, had them covered in wild beast skins and torn apart by dogs.

A horrible way to die, to be sure, but it does not seem that they were executed for their faith, but rather as “punishment” for arson.


COLISEUM;ROME

Read more:
Watch the Roman Empire rise and fall in 10 minutes

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
Catholic historyHistoryRome
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
KIDS,WATERMELON,BEACH
Cerith Gardiner
New study shows that these 2 childhood habits make you a happier ...
2
EUCHARIST
Philip Kosloski
5 Fascinating facts about Jesus in the Eucharist
3
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
4
MASS
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
5
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
6
PRINCE PHILIP
Cerith Gardiner
The lasting lesson from the late Prince Philip
7
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to the “Holy Mothe...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.