Primary Source Analysis Week 8 (Pliny and Trajan on Christians)
Read the “Correspondence between Pliny and Trajan” and give your best guess as to the following background questions. Please do not do any outside/internet research. Use only the information provided in the textbook, lectures, or primary source itself. (If the information is not available, or you don’t know the answer, just make an educated guess.)
1) Who might have written this document? Not just the name, but if possible the author’s position, perspective? (Use critical thinking and context to make an educated guess.)
2) To whom, to what audience might this document be addressed?
3) When was it written down? (What was going on at the time?)
4) Why do you think this document was created, for what purpose was it written down?
5) THEN, in 150-300 words, answer the following question, mentioning specific evidence/examples from the document to support your argument:
~What is it about Christianity/Christians that is perceived as a threat to Roman values, to Roman society? Give a good 2-3 examples, and explain. (You may have to draw some context about Roman religion and values from the textbook and lectures.)
Primary Source Analysis Week 8 (Pliny and Trajan on Christians) Read the “Correspondence between Pliny and Trajan” and give your best guess as to the following background questions. Please do not do a
Chapter 7: : 7.5 “Correspondence between Pliny & Emperor Trajan” Book Title: Voyages in W orld History Printed By: T yvorius Keyes (T [email protected]) © 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning 7.5 “Correspondence between Pliny & Emperor T rajan” Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Younger (62-113 C.E.), was a notable Roman politician, administrator , poet, and author of a collection of letters. Through Pliny’s letters, childhood experiences, including the death of his father as a boy and subsequent adoption by his uncle, are revealed. As a man, he was appointed governor of Bithynia, a province located near the Black Sea, by Emperor T rajan (98-117 C.E.). In this position, Pliny was responsible for restoring order to the region by overseeing tax collection, commanding the provincial army , and administering justice. The excerpt below is one of Pliny’s letters to Emperor T rajan regarding treatment of Christians in Bithynia who were viewed as traitors because they refused to worship Roman gods. It serves as an example of an attempt to restore order because although Pliny and T rajan were faithful to Roman law, their method of handling the Christians in the province represents a break from the intolerant treatment that was the standard. Pliny’s Inquiry It is my custom, my Lord, to refer to you all things concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better guide my indecision or enlighten my ignorance? I have never taken part in the trials of Christians: hence I do not know for what crime nor to what extent it is customary to punish or investigate. I have been in no little doubt as to whether any discrimination is made for age, or whether the treatment of the weakest does not dif fer from that of the stronger; whether pardon is granted in case of repentance, or whether he who has ever been a Christian gains nothing by having ceased to be one; whether the name itself without the proof of crimes, or the crimes, inseparably connected with the name, are punished. Meanwhile, I have followed this procedure in the case of those who have been brought before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians a second and a third time and with threats of punishment; I questioned those who confessed; I ordered those who were obstinate to be executed. For I did not doubt that, whatever it was that they confessed, their stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy ought certainly to be punished. There were others of similar madness, who because they were Roman citizens, I have noted for sending to the City . Soon, the crime spreading, as is usual when attention is called to it, more cases arose. An anonymous accusation containing many names was presented. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, ought, I thought, to be dismissed since they repeated after me a prayer to the gods and made supplication with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for the purpose together with the statues of the gods, and since besides they cursed Christ, not one of which things they say, those who are really Christians can be compelled to do. Others, accused by the informer , said that they were Christians and afterwards denied it; in fact they had been but had ceased to be, some many years ago, some even twenty years before. All both worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ. They continued to maintain that this was the amount of their fault or error, that on a fixed day they were accustomed to come together before daylight and to sing by turns a hymn to Christ as a god, and that they bound themselves by oath, not for some crime but that they would not commit robbery, theft, or adultery, that they would not betray a trust nor deny a deposit when called upon. After this it was their custom to disperse and to come together again to partake of food, of an ordinary and harmless kind, however; even this they had ceased to do after the publication of my edict in which according to your command I had forbidden associations. Hence I believed it the more necessary to examine two female slaves, who were called deaconesses, in order to find out what was true, and to do it by torture. I found nothing but a vicious, extravagant superstition. Consequently I have postponed the examination and make haste to consult you. For it seemed to me that the subject would justify consultation, especially on account of the number of those in peril. For many of all ages, of every rank, and even of both sexes, are and will be called into danger. The infection of this superstition has not only spread to the cities but even to the villages and country districts. It seems possible to stay it and bring about a reform. It is plain enough that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented again, that the sacred rites, which had been neglected for a long time, have begun to be restored, and that fodder for victims, for which till now there was scarcely a purchaser , is sold. From which one may readily judge what a number of men can be reclaimed if repentance is permitted. Trajan’ s Reply You have followed the correct procedure, my Secundus, in conducting the cases of those who were accused before you as Christians, for no general rule can be laid down as a set form. They ought not to be sought out; if they are brought before you and convicted they ought to be punished; provided that he who denies that he is a Christian, and proves this by making supplication to our gods, however much he may have been under suspicion in the past, shall secure pardon on repentance. In the case of no crime should attention be paid to anonymous charges, for they af ford a bad precedent and are not worthy of our age. 7.5 Exercise Using the text, please answer the following questions: 1. What was Pliny’s attitude toward Christians and Christianity? 2. What is Pliny’s current procedure when faced with a suspected Christian? 3. What is Trajan’s advice? Chapter 7: : 7.5 “Correspondence between Pliny & Emperor T rajan” Book Title: Voyages in W orld History Printed By: T yvorius Keyes (T [email protected]) © 2017 Cengage Learning, Cengage Learning © 2022 Cengage Learning Inc. All rights reserved. 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