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A new and malevolent superstition The first instance of the Roman State taking action against Christians arose in the reign of the Emperor Claudius 41-54 AD The historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius tell us that Claudius had to expel the Jews because they were continually arguing among themselves about a certain Chrestos Here we have first mention of the response to the Christian message in the community of Rome comments Karl Baus The historian Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus 70- ca140 was a high-ranking official at the imperial courts of Trajan and of Hadrian He was a scholar and counsellor of the emperors He justified this and future actions of the State against Christians defining them as a new and malicious superstition very harsh words As a superstitio Christianity was linked to magia For the Romans it was the same as the irrational practices which magicians and witches of evil character used to deceive the ignorant populace who had no training in philosophy Magic was against reason and was common knowledge as opposed to philosophical knowledge The accusation of magia witchcraft as well as that of insanity was a weapon with which the Roman State branded and suppressed new and suspect groups in society such as Christianity The word malefica bringer of evil caught the popular and suspicious imagination of the populace which viewed this and everything new as intrinsically dangerous It was therefore the cause of evil and inseparable from plague flood famine and invasion by the barbarians A group at the same time open yet inward looking and suspicious The Roman Empire was as it showed itself especially in its persecution of Christians a great open body disposed to absorbing every new people that forsakes its characteristics but also a closed and suspicious group By the words etna ethnic group in Greek thnos we mean a social group marked by the same language or culture and one suspicious of every other
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