Suetonius on Christians

The Roman historian Suetonius (c. AD 69 – c. AD 122) mentions early Christians and may refer to Jesus Christ in his work Lives of the Twelve Caesars.[1][2][3] One passage in the biography of the Emperor Claudius Divus Claudius 25, refers to agitations in the Roman Jewish community and the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius during his reign (AD 41 to AD 54), which may be the expulsion mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (18:2). In this context "Chresto" is mentioned. Some scholars see this as a likely reference to Jesus, while others see it as referring to an otherwise unknown person living in Rome.[4][5][6]

A 1540 copy of Lives of the Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

Christians are explicitly mentioned in Suetonius' biography of the Emperor Nero (Nero 16) as among those punished during Nero's reign.[7] These punishments are generally dated to around AD 64,[8] the year of the Great Fire of Rome. In this passage Suetonius describes Christianity as excessive religiosity (superstitio) as do his contemporaries, Tacitus and Pliny.[2]

Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva's modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in AD 96.[9][10][11] From then on, practising Jews paid the tax, Christians did not.[12]