5 The Christians form among themselves secret societies that exist outside the system of laws……an obscure and mysterious community founded on revolt and on the advantage that accrues from it.
Origen, Against Celsus VIII.17; III.14.
6 They charge us on two points: that we do not sacrifice and that we do not believe in the same gods as the State.
7 Tiberius suppressed foreign cults and Egyptian and Jewish religious rites and forced those who were enslaved by this kind of superstition to burn their religious vestments and all the paraphernalia of their cults. He dispersed Jewish youths to provinces with a more rugged climate, ostensibly to do military service. Others belonging to this people, or persons holding similar beliefs, he removed from the city on pain of slavery for life if they did not want to obey.
Suetonius (d. A.D. 140) on Tiberius, who ruled A.D. 14–-37, ch. 36
8 No humane endeavors, no princely generosity, no efforts to placate the gods were able to dispel the scandalous suspicion that the burning of the city was the result of an order.
To silence this rumor, Nero pushed the Christians forward as the culprits and punished them with ingenious cruelty, as they were generally hated for their infamous deeds.
The one from whom this name originated, Christ, had been executed during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of the procurator, Pontius Pilate.
For a time this pernicious superstition was suppressed, but it broke out again, not only in Judea where this evil thing began, but even in the city itself where everything atrocious and shameful from all quarters flows together and finds adherents.
To begin with, those who openly confessed were arrested, and then a vast multitude was convicted on the basis of their disclosures, not so much on the charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race.
Their execution was made into a game: they were covered with the skins of wild animals and torn to pieces by dogs.
They were hung on crosses. They were burned, wrapped in flammable material and set on fire as darkness fell, to illuminate the night.
Nero had opened his gardens for this spectacle and put on circus games.
He himself mingled with the crowd dressed as a charioteer or stood up high on a chariot.
Although these people were guilty and deserved the severest penalty, all this gave rise to compassion for them, for it was felt that they were being victimized, not for the public good, but to satiate the cruelty of one man.