Pliny the Younger's letter on Christians may never have existed.
This is cited by the Vatican (and others) as reliable evidence for Christians; it is also used by many as evidence for persecution of Christians; yet there is no evidence it was written by him, or that it existed in antiquity.Pliny the Younger on ChristiansFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (now in modern Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. The letter (Epistulae
X.96) details an account of how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asks for the Emperor's guidance on how they should be treated.
Neither Pliny nor Trajan mentions the crime that Christians had committed, except for being a Christian; and other historical sources do not provide a simple answer to this question, but a likely element may be the stubborn refusal of Christians to worship Roman gods; making them appear as objecting to Roman rule.
Pliny states that he gives Christians multiple chances to affirm they are innocent and if they refuse three times, they are executed. Pliny states that his investigations have revealed nothing on the Christians' part but harmless practices and "depraved, excessive superstition". However, Pliny seems concerned about the rapid spread of this "superstition"; and views Christian gatherings as a potential starting point for sedition.
The letter is the earliest surviving Roman document to refer to early Christians, and provides key information on early Christian beliefs and practices; and how these were viewed and dealt with by the Romans. The letter and Trajan's reply indicate that at the time of its writing there was no systematic and official Empire-wide persecution of Christians. Trajan's reply also offers valuable insight into the relationship between Roman provincial governors and Emperors and indicates that at the time Christians were not sought out or tracked down by imperial orders, and that persecutions could be local and sporadic.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pliny_the_Younger_on_Christians
to Trajan had been discovered in Mainz by Aurispa in 1433.
- Latin Literature: A History
by Gian Biagio Conte, JHU Press, 4 Nov 1999 p.529http://goo.gl/YXa6oV
"During the Council of Basel, the Sicilian Aurispa discovered at Main in 1433...as well as the Latin Panegyrici
, beginning with Pliny's Panegyric
- A Short History of Classical Scholarshiphttp://goo.gl/QUg5JG
"The XII Penegyrici Latini
, or "Gallic corpus", were contained in a manuscript, since lost, discovered in Mainz by Johannes Aurispa in 1433. The first panegyric in the collection, Pliny's Panegyric to Trajan
- In Praise of Later Roman Emperors: The Panegyrici Latini
edited by C. E. V. Nixon, Barbara Saylor Rodgershttp://goo.gl/cQTlXS
On the larger body of texts:Panegyrici LatiniFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Panegyrici Latini
or Latin Panegyrics
is a collection of twelve ancient Roman panegyric orations. The authors of most of the speeches in the collection are anonymous, but appear to have been Gallic in origin. Aside from the first panegyric, composed by Pliny the Younger in 100 CE, the other speeches in the collection date to points between 289 and 389 CE. The original manuscript, discovered in 1433, has perished; only copies remain.
The collection comprises the following speeches:
1. by Pliny the Younger. It was originally a speech of thanks (gratiarum actio
) for the consulship, which he held in 100, and was delivered in the Senate in honour of Emperor Trajan. This work, which is much earlier than the rest of the collection and geographically anomalous, probably served as a model for the other speeches. Pliny was a popular author in the late fourth century—Symmachus modeled his letters on Pliny's, for example — and the whole collection might have been designed as an exemplum in his honor. He later revised and considerably expanded the work, which for this reason is by far the longest of the whole collection. Pliny presents Trajan as the ideal ruler, or optimus princeps, to the reader, and contrasts him with his predecessor Domitian.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panegyrici_Latini
So yes, there was a Pliny the Younger and he did write, but there is not a shred of evidence - either contemporaneous or belonging to Classical Antiquity - that he wrote about Christians. On the other hand and from what we do know, I would surmise that reference to Christians is the work of the Roman Church, another example of how the Christian textual tradition was produced, is used today and is fraudulent.