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Trouble in Pontus: The Pliny-Trajan Correspondence on the Christians Reconsidered

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-411
JournalTransactions of the American Philological Association
Issue number2
Early online date3 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017



King's Authors


The letters exchanged by Pliny and Trajan concerning Christians have occasioned abundant commentary. But scholarship remains confused over two questions—first, Pliny's procedure and motivation in writing, and second, the extent of the emperor's response. I argue that the letters are evidence only of an overexposed governor's effort to shut down an escalating situation, and that they elicited a tailored, local and limited imperial response. This reading not only prompts a more nuanced understanding of the role of the governor and of his correspondence, but also prevents erroneous use of the letters in discussions of the "persecution" of the Christians.

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