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From N. Lewis and M. Reinhold eds. Before that the Roman state did not proscribe the religion per se but treated the Christians with a hostility based on political considerations. Christians were constantly exposed to prosecution for such overt acts as obstinate disobedience of imperial officials, violation of the statutes on illegal associations, disloyalty and treason evidenced by their refusal to participate in the state religion and the Imperial Cult , and other specific offenses.
In addition, there was persistent popular agitation against Christians locally, so that provincial governors often employed their police powers for summary repression of the growing religion in the interest of maintaining civil order. It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent.
And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.
Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.
There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome. Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ -none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do -these I thought should be discharged.