Consequently, to get rid of the report [that he burned Rome down], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
-Tacitus, The Annals written 109 A.D.
The pagan historian Tacitus wrote those words when the deranged Nero was Caesar. Not for myth but for Truth did these Christians become martyrs. Two centuries later, the brutally persecuted Church gained legal recognition in the Roman Empire…and flourished…and lives…and celebrates the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and the memory of the first martyrs. To be a martyr–a witness–to go the way the Master trod. “The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church!”