Domitian   [51 - 96 CE; murdered]

The ambitious but unruly younger son of Vespasian, Titus Flavius Domitianus, was left in Rome while his father & brother won acclaim for their victories over the Jews [67-70 CE]. Although Vespasian appointed him consul 6 times, he was snubbed by his brother, Titus. So, not long after he became emperor [81 CE], he encouraged courtiers & subjects to venerate him by addressing him as "Lord & God" [dominus et deus]. His executions of those who failed to pay him honor earned him an early reputation for cruelty. 

While he favored the army & increased their salaries more than any previous emperor, he never had the spectacular military success of Vespasian or Titus to bolster his reputation. His autocratic attempt to replace Italian vineyards with grain fields was both unpopular & unsuccessful. Hated by aristocratic intellectuals [e.g., Tacitus, Pliny & friends], Domitian twice expelled all philosophers from Rome. Aware of his unpopularity, he resorted to Tiberius' tactic of relying on paid informers [89 CE]. 

Lacking his father's thrift, he confiscated the properties of others to fund his massive building projects & sometimes had the owners, including members of the imperial family, executed for "irreligion" [= failure to honor him as a god]. In 95 CE he exiled his niece, Flavia Domitilla & executed her husband [Flavius Clemens] & sons for "Jewish" practices & "atheism."  

Since the catacombs beneath Domitilla's estate were used as a burial place for the Christian community in Rome from the mid 3rd c., it is possible that members of the imperial family were associated with Christians by the last decade of the 1st century. But Domitian did not himself launch a persecution of Christians per se. Rather, any prominent Roman was a potential target for his wholesale reign of terror. So, even Domitian's own wife allegedly joined the palace conspirators who murdered him.

Other resources on line:

  • Catacombe S. Domitilla -- multilingual virtual tour of the oldest & largest of Rome's catacombs, on the estate of Domitian's niece.

Bronze Roman sestertius [quarter denarius] bearing laureate image of Domitian with Latin inscription (reading clockwise from bottom): Imp[erator] Caes[ar] Domit[ianus] Aug[ustus] Germ[anicus]...  For a catalogue of Domitian's coins, see:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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