Trajan (AD 98 – 117) was a Roman Emperor in the time of Nerva, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. The relatively peaceful reign of Nerva was short-lived when Trajan took the throne. Trajan was a neurotic fearful person and had a deep fear of secret societies which were common place with the Heretics, Pagans and many other Gnostic groups vying for power. He feared the political opposition such secret organizations potentially could develop and therefore banned all clubs and associations.
Included in this mass banning was the burgeoning Christian movement which met in homes and played directly into the fears of Trajan. The fact that they had a “different King” they worshipped and that the growth was phenomenal concerned him deeply. They met “behind closed doors” and it was even rumored that they participated in cannibalism as it was the practice then (as it still is in some African tribal groups) to leave a malformed baby out in the elements to die. The Christians would then take the child and raise it.
A further report was that the Christians took “flesh and blood” at special meetings they held which they called holding communion. This further fuelled the rumor of cannibalism.
As the enforced new laws were complied with, Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was one of the first arrested. At his hearing before the Governor he refused to deny Christ and was sent to Rome where a meeting with the lions of the Circus was anticipated.
This was done as a precaution as it was feared the Christians would revolt if he was fed to the lions in Antioch! The trip to Rome allowed many in the smaller towns and villages at last to see the famous Ignatius and rather than inspire terror for the fate that lay ahead it was a great time of encouragement for the Christians.
During this time Ignatius wrote 7 letters of encouragement to the church dealing with the perversions in belief and the many false prophets which abounded. He specifically addressed the Pagan belief of Docetism which originated from Greek thinking where the body was despised and therefore the resurrection to the same body as understood by the Greeks was repulsive to them. They could also not envisage a God lowering himself to want to enter a human body for any reason and the aspect of Christ as a son and god was too much for them. All Gods would live in higher places free from bodily constraints.
He advised Christians not to mythologize Christianity to fit their unbelief but to cling to the established proofs from centuries back. He spoke of the blood line of David as prophesied to the culmination of Jesus on the cross which the Docetists claimed to be a figment of the imagination as it was only a play or a farce put on for show.
In his last letter he speaks of his death and rejoices in the fact that he would be allowed to die as a witness for His Lord. He was martyred and to the shock of Trajan it had the opposite effect. Rather than inspire fear and dread it inspired a deeper sense of faith and many came to the Lord.
Although Nero had practiced the persecution of Christians Trajan was the first Emperor to officially sanction it and in fact authorise the persecution of Christians. Trajan was also immensely successful in conquering the germanic tribes and forcing immense amounts of tribute to flow to Rome. Trajan also initiated the first financial assistance to orphans in Rome. The Good with the bad I suppose some would say and Trajan died a defeated man as the conquered territories turned on him. He handed over his authority to Hadrian although it is said that this decision was made after his death by his wife!