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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XCVIII. Trajan to Pliny
 
 
YOU have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished; 1 with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous informations ought not to be received in any sort of prosecution. It is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the spirit of our age.  1
 
Note 1. If we impartially examine this prosecution of the Christians, we shall find it to have been grounded on the ancient constitution of the state, and not to have proceeded from a cruel or arbitrary temper in Trajan. The Roman legislature appears to have been early jealous of any innovation in point of public worship; and we find the magistrates, during the old republic, frequently interposing in cases of that nature. Valerius Maximus has collected some instances to that purpose (L. i., c. 3), and Livy mentions it as an established principle of the earlier ages of the commonwealth, to guard against the introduction of foreign ceremonies of religion. It was an old and fixed maxim likewise of the Roman government not to suffer any unlicensed assemblies of the people. From hence it seems evident that the Christians had rendered themselves obnoxious not so much to Trajan as to the ancient and settled laws of the state, by introducing a foreign worship, and assembling themselves without authority. M. [back]
 

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