The ambitious but unruly younger son
Titus Flavius Domitianus, was left in Rome while his father & brother won
acclaim for their victories over the Jews [67-70
Vespasian appointed him consul 6 times, he was snubbed by his
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
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
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 joined the palace conspirators who murdered
Other resources on line:
S. Domitilla -- multilingual virtual tour of the oldest &
largest of Rome's catacombs, on the estate of Domitian's niece.