DOMITIAN

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Titus Flavius Domitian, Vespasian’s second son, emperor of Rome from 81 the year of his brother Titus’s death to 96. He adopted a popular policy, in contrast to the strictly conservative policy of the first two Flavii. A devotee of the cults of Isis, he gave Eastern characteristics to his monarchy. The emphasis in the last years of his reign on the cult of his person he had himself called Dominus et Deus led to a persecution against Jews and Christians, at that time not clearly distinguished for the purposes of police surveillance. Its illustrious victims included Flavius Clemens, Flavia Domitilla and Acilius Glabrio killed in exile. Under Domitian the martyrs of Asia Minor cited in Rev 2:13 and 20:4 were killed; the apostle John was exiled to Patmos; Hegesippus Euseb., HE III, 19-20 relates how some of Jesus’ relatives were called to Rome for an inquiry. Domitian’s persecution is attested in the first Letter of Clement to the Corinthians VII, 1 and LIX, 4 and in the Shepherd of Hermas passim. Tertullian Apol. 5,4 and Melito of Sardis Euseb., HE IV, 26,9 and III, 17-18 attribute to Domitian a generally anti-Christian activity. A political motive for the persecution can be found in the wide penetration of Christianity into the ruling class of imperial society esp. in the senatorial class among Domitian’s opposition, as evidenced by the victims recorded by pagan authors Suet., Dom. 15,1.


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