Commemoration: Early Martyrs in Rome
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Annually on June 30
Early Martyrs in Rome
"Christians in the Arena" by FYODOR BRONNIKOV
In 64 a.d., a massive fire ravaged Rome for six long days. In all, the fire destroyed over half of Rome and left half of the city's occupants homeless. At the time of the fire, the emperor of Rome was Nero. "The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that Nero was rumored to have sung about the destruction of Troy while watching the city burn," (history.com).
Rumors began spreading throughout the city which blamed Emperor Nero for intentionally starting the fire to make room to enlarge his palace.
"When the Great Fire broke out, Nero was at his villa at Antium, some 35 miles from Rome. Though he immediately returned and began relief measures, people still didn’t trust him. Some even believed he had ordered the fire started, especially after he used land cleared by the fire to build his Golden Palace and its surrounding pleasure gardens." (history.com)
Nero fiddling while Rome burns, artist unknown
To deflect these rumors and divert suspision away from himself, Nero blamed Christians for starting the fire. "According to the historian Tacitus, many Christians were put to death because of their 'hatred of the human race.' Peter and Paul were probably among the victims," (Franciscan Media).
Countless Christians in Rome were "put to death in various cruel ways: eaten in the arena by wild beasts, covered with pitch and burned as torches to light the Emperor's nightly revels, and so on," (Society of Archbishop Justus).
Mosaic (a.d. 200)
PRAYER (traditional language):
O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs at
Rome in the days of the Emperor Nero triumphed over suffering
and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember
them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to
thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of
life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy
Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.
1. Society of Archbishop Justus: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/196.html
2. Franciscan Media: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/firsaint-martyrs-of-the-church-of-rome/