Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
MENTIONS OF CHRISTIANS IN TACITUS, SUETONIUS AND PLINY THE YOUNGER: BETWEEN THE INTERPOLATION OF THE SOURCES ANDTHE INTERPRETATION OF FACTS BY ROMAN AUTHORS
This article offers a review of the first mentions about Christians outside the New Testament by the Roman authors Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Because in historical science there is a different view of the events mentioned by Tacitus in Annals 15.44, the author of the article focuses on this passage, which is associated with the Great Fire of 64 AD and Nero's accusation of Christians in the burning of Rome. The author tends to consider the story of Cornelius Tacitus authentic and provides evidence that the story of the Roman historian is not an interpolation of later figures.
A comparative analysis of the mentions of Christians in Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger is made. The reasons for spelling inaccuracies and differences in the indication of Christians by ancient authors: Christiani, Chrestiani, Chresto, Christus, are explained. In addition to comparing Tacitus' story with other ancient contemporary authors, there is a comparative analysis of the Acts of the Holy Apostles and the New Testament, which includes Christians, and the term ‘Christian’ was first used in the first century AD.
It is suggested that this passage by Cornelius Tacitus is not a historical falsification of facts, but an artistic wrapper of the Roman historian's events with Emperor Nero and the Christians. Since Tacitus and Suetonius were contemporaries, the author claims that passages about Christians should be fully considered in one study, because the presence of some references confirms others. Therefore, the article is supplemented by a separate review of two passages of Suetonius Tranquill about Christians. The arguments are given that the Roman historian mentioned in De vita Caesarum» 5.25.4 ‘Chresto’ is Christ and a possible historical reason for the mention of Christians under Emperor Claudius is considered.
The article summarizes the main thesis, that the works of Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius should be taken into account when studying the first pages of the history of Christianity. The author's position is emphasized by the fact that despite the artistic design of Tacitus's events related to Christians and Nero, the mentions of them are not accidental and should be taken into account.
Key words: Early Christianity, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, interpolation, Great Fire of Rome, Nero.
Received by the editorial board: 21.05.2022
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