BEFORE THE GOVERNOR
 THE arrest at the chapel had been made so early that it
still wanted more than an hour of noon when the
prisoners were brought into the presence of the
Governor. Pliny, aware of the importance of the case
which he was about to try, had called in the help of a
trained lawyer—an advocate of high reputation—who
had some time before retired from his profession, and
who now sat as his assessor. At the same time he had
invited Tacitus, as a senator and ex-consul, to take a
seat on the bench. The prosecution was conducted by
the principal lawyer of the town, and Lucilius, Arruns,
with several of the Nicæan merchants, supported him by
their presence. The accused, numbering more than
thirty in all, of whom two thirds belonged to the
labouring class, were undefended. All the slaves had
contrived to escape arrest. The lower part of the
hall was densely crowded with a mass of interested
spectators. All available space, indeed,
 had been
filled up within a few minutes of the arrival of the
prisoners, and the approaches to the hall were thronged
by eager candidates for admission.
When the prisoners had answered to their names, and had
stated their several occupations and condition of life,
the inquiry began. A long harangue by the prosecutor
on the subject of the importance of the worship of the
gods was cut short by the Governor, who intimated that
his eloquence, if it should be wanted at all, would be
more relevant after his evidence had been produced.
Thus checked, the advocate began his examination,
addressing it in the first instance to Anicetus.
"You are one of the leaders of the society which calls
itself by the name of Christus?'
"Is this the matter, or among the matters, of which you
"Certainly it is."
"Then you hold it to be a crime to belong to this
society of Christus?"
"Certainly, seeing that it is not one of the societies
that are permitted to exist by the constitution of the
Roman Sate and the will of our sovereign lord, Trajan
"If that be so, I appeal to the Governor whether by the
law of Rome I can be compelled to make such answer as
would criminate myself."
 The appeal was so manifestly just that the Governor did
not think it necessary to consult his assessor, but
decided that the question need not be answered.
Baffled at this point, the prosecutor re-commenced his
attack at another.
"You do not deny that you and your associates were
assembled this morning in the guild-house of the
"We do not deny it."
"For what purpose, then, did you meet?"
"Before I answer that question, I would myself wish to
know whether you have the right to ask it. Are free
men and women, against whom there is no evidence of
wrong-doing, to be questioned by any one as to the
purpose of their meeting? That we have the right to
use the guild-house of the wool-combers is proved by
So saying, Anicetus produced from his pocket a small
parchment, which simply recited that the wool-combers,
in consideration of a sum of four hundred drachmę
yearly, permitted the use of their guild-house to
"You see, then," resumed Anicetus, "that we have not
taken possession of a place to which we are not
entitled, nor is there any evidence against us of
unlawful dealings. Were we found with weapons in our
hands, or preparing noxious drugs,
 or practising
forbidden acts, or plotting against the safety of the
State and the life of the Emperor, then might you
justly ask us for our defence. But you do not
attempt to prove against us any unlawful deed or
The prosecutor then tried a third method of attack.
"Are you and your associates willing to worship the
gods of the Roman State, and to pay the customary
homage to the image of our lord, Trajan Augustus?"
Without answering this question Anicetus turned to the
governor: "Is it permitted to us, most excellent
Plinius, that we see the accusation under which we have
been this day brought before you?"
"There are many accusations," replied the Governor;
"they are substantially the same, and it will probably
suffice for the purpose that one should be read.—Scribe,"
he went on, turning to an official that sat
near, "read the information of Lucilius against the
people called Christians."
The document was read. It charged a number of
persons, including all of the prisoners then before the
court, and many who were not in custody. Treason,
impiety towards the gods and towards the Emperor,
hatred of mankind, licentiousness, were among the
accusations brought against them.
"Here," said Anicetus, when the reading was finished,
"are many terrible things brought against
 us, whereof
no proof has been given by our accuser. Is it lawful,
most excellent Plinius, that, such proof failing him,
he should seek thus to raise prejudice against us?
What right has this advocate, being but a private
person, to call upon his fellow-citizens to do
sacrifice to the gods or to the Emperor? What right
has he to fix the time, the place, the manner of
worship? Were an Egyptian, a worshipper of Isis,
standing here, could he be lawfully compelled to do
sacrifice to Jupiter? Or should a German—a
worshipper, as I have heard, of Hertha—be condemned
because he does not pay reverence to Apollo? For tell
me now," he went on, addressing the accuser, "you that
charge us with impiety, are you diligent in the
performance of your own duties in divine things?"
The accuser was notoriously a man who believed in
nothing, and was known not to spend a drachma on any
religious duty. A hum of approval ran round the court
at this manifest hit. So far, the line of defence
taken by Anicetus had been successful. It might easily
have failed with another Governor, a man of more
imperious and tyrannical temper than Pliny; but the
Elder had skillfully taken into account the Governor's
mild and tolerant character, and his probable desire to
avoid any measure of severity. But it was now to be
overthrown in an unexpected way. A tablet was passed
 from among the crowd of spectators and put into the hands of
the prosecuting counsel. On it were written the
words, "Challenge the free condition of Rhoda, commonly
called the daughter of Bion and Rhoda his wife, and
call as your witness the freedman Eudoxus." This
document bore the name of Lucilius, and the prosecutor
at once perceived its importance. Indeed, it was his
last hope, if his case was not to break down
completely. He resumed his address.
"As your regard for freedom, most excellent Plinius,
protects the silence of Anicetus and his companions, I
will address myself to the case of one of the accused
who cannot claim this same protection. I maintain
that the woman Rhoda—the reputed daughter of Bion and
Rhoda—is not of free condition, but is a slave."
Had a thunderbolt fallen in the court, judge, assessor,
accused, and audience could not have been more
astonished. The first feeling was one of absolute
incredulity. To no one did the statement seem more
absurd than to the girl herself.
"This is a strange contention," remarked the Governor,
"and not lightly to be made against a family of good
repute. What evidence can you produce?"
"I call the freedman Eudoxus," replied the prosecutor.
 The freedman Eudoxus was present, it soon appeared, in
court, for he answered when his name was called. Most
of those present knew him, but none, it may safely be
said, knew any good of him. He did a little
pettifogging business as an informer—a person who
performs functions that may sometimes be useful, but
are certainly always odious. If a baker gave short
weight, if a wine-seller hammered the sides or
thickened the bottoms of his measures, Eudoxus was
commonly the man to bring his misdeeds home to him,
getting for his reward half the penalty. Had he been
content with this, he might have been endured; but he
was not content—his gains had to be increased. If he
did not find offences he manufactured them. All the
little traders and shopkeepers of the place—for he did
not fly at high game—were in terror of him, and most of
them submitted to the blackmail which he levied of
them. As he spent his ill-gotten gains in the most
discreditable way, it may be guessed that Eudoxus had
about as bad a reputation as any one in Nicęa. Great
was the wonder among the audience what this miserable
creature could know about the family of the respectable
Bion. A few of the older people, however, had the
impression that he had once been in the farmer's
Eudoxus, a man of dwarfish stature, with a large
 misshapen head, whose countenance bore manifest tokens
of a life of excess, stood up in the witness-box. The
usual oath was administered to him.
"Tell us," said the Governor, "what you know about this
"Twenty years ago I was in the service of Bion. He is
my patron. He enfranchised me. I was his bailiff."
"Why did you leave him?" asked the Governor.
"We had a difference about my accounts."
"I understand," said Pliny, who, like the rest of the
world, was not impressed with the appearance of the
witness; "you made things better for yourself and worse
for him than he thought right. But go on; what do you
know about this matter? You understand what it is;
practically this, that the accused Rhoda is not truly
the daughter of Bion. Do you know this said Rhoda?"
"Perfectly well, and her sister Cleoné also."
"Bion bought me about a month after he came to the farm
which he now cultivates. I was there when he brought
thither his newly married wife, Rhoda by name. I
lived in the house for five years following that time.
They had no children. Of this I am sure, for I saw the
said Rhoda day after day, without the intermission of
more than a day at the most, during the said five
 was a matter of common talk among us of the
household that this want of children was a great grief
to the master and his wife. There years after his
coming, one morning—it was, I remember, the first day
of May—Bion called us all into the dining-chamber.
There was a cradle with two children in it. I should
judge that they were a few days old. He said, 'See
the daughters whom God has given me.' The same day he
enfranchised me. To the other slaves he gave
presents, and promised them their liberty in due time,
according to their age, if they should show themselves
worthy of it."
"He called them his daughters, then?" asked the
"Truly; but no pretence was made that they were so in
truth, for his wife did not keep her chamber."
"Who were the women that waited upon her? Are they yet
"The elder, who was called the mistress's nurse, died, I
believe, some ten years since. The younger is
married to Lucas the butcher, that has his stall in the
north-east corner of the market-place."
The Governor gave directions that the wife of Lucas the
butcher should be sent for. Meanwhile he adjourned
the proceedings for half an hour.
 On the re-assembling of the court the witness was ready
to be examined. Happily for herself, as will be seen,
she had been emancipated before her marriage. She
gave her testimony with evident reluctance, but it was
clear and conclusive.
"I was waiting-maid of Rhoda, wife of Bion. Bion
bought me of a dealer in Ephesus a few days before his
marriage, that I might wait on his wife. I went to
her at once, and never left her till I was married, now
ten years ago. She never had a child born to her.
It is impossible that she should have done so without
my knowing. It was commonly said that this was a
great grief to her. I have seen her weeping, and knew
that this was the cause. One day, when I had been
with her about three years, the old woman whom we used
commonly to call her nurse said to me: 'Come now,
Myrto'—that was my name—'see the mistress's lovely
babies.'—'What?' I said; 'it is impossible.'—'Nay, say
nothing,' she said, and put her hand on my mouth.
Then she took me into a chamber next to the mistress's,
and sure enough, there were two lovely little
girl-babies, twins, as one could see at once, not more
than a few days old, as I judged. Nurse said, 'You
are a wise girl, and can keep a quiet tongue in your
head. From to-day these two are Rhoda and Cleoné,
daughters of Bion and Rhoda. And now,
 mind, not a
word to any one; and, above all, not a word to the
little ones themselves when they grow up. For love's
sake, I know, you will keep silence, nor will you miss
"And did you know whose the children really were?"
asked the Governor.
"I did not know."
"Could they have belonged to any one in the household?"
"Certainly not. Of this I am sure."
"Some one, I suppose, knew?"
"Yes, nurse knew, but she never told. She has been
dead some years. The matter was never mentioned. We
were the only women in the house. Eudoxus was the
only man. The other slaves were outdoor laborers.
None of them, as far as I know, are in this
neighbourhood now. The girls, when they grew up,
always supposed that they were the daughters of the
house. It was never doubted; nothing was ever said to
make a doubt."
The witness, whose self-control utterly broke down as
soon as she had finished her evidence, now left the
box. After a brief consultation with his assessor and
with Tacitus, the Governor directed that Bion and Rhoda
his wife should be called.
The two were of course present. One of the
who had left the assembly, at the bidding of Anicetus,
had made them acquainted with Rhoda's proceedings. As
the girl herself failed to return at the usual time,
their fears were aroused, and they were turned into
certainty by the news that reached them from the town
that a large company of Christians had been arrested at
their meeting-house. On hearing these tidings they
had hurried down to the town, accompanied by Cleoné,
whom nothing indeed could at such a time have kept away
from her sister.
The two answered to their names.
"Let Rhoda, the reputed mother of the person whose
condition is questioned, be first called," said the
A way was made for her through the throng with no
little difficulty, and she made her way with tottering
steps and face pale as death, into the witness-box.
"You have heard," said the Governor, "the testimony of
Eudoxus, and Myrto the wife of Lucas?"
"I have heard," she answered.
"Nevertheless, for the more assurance, let the
depositions be read over."
A scribe accordingly read the depositions.
'What have you to say to this evidence?"
The unhappy woman did not hesitate a moment.
could have induced her to go aside by one
hair's-breadth from the truth. She lifted her eyes,
looked the Governor in the face and answered in a low
firm voice: "It is true. The children are not mine."
"And do you know whose children they are?"
"I know not."
"Nor whence they came?"
"Not even that. My nurse, as I called her, said that
I had best not know. I think that they had been
deserted; but even of this I am not sure. I can only
guess it, because I never heard so much as a word about
the parents. Nurse would never speak on the subject.
Even when she was dying—for I was with her, and asked
her again, as I thought it right to do—she would tell
me nothing. 'They are your children by the will of
God,' she said; 'no one else has part or lot in them.' "
A whispered consultation now took place between the
Governor and his assessor. As the result of it, Bion
"You have heard," said the Governor, "the testimony of
your wife. What say you to it?"
It would have been useless to deny it, even if Bion,
who was as truthful as his wife, could have wished to
do so. "It is true," he said.
"Do you know whence the children came?"
 "I know nothing more than my wife. The nurse knew,
but she would say no more to me than she would to her."
"Then you cannot say whether they are bond or free by
The force of the question did not strike the witness,
overpowered as he was by the situation, though there
were many in the court who saw its significance, while
an evil smile crept over the face of the prosecutor.
"Free, my lord!" he answered, after a pause; "of
course they are free—they are my adopted children."
The Governor saw the course that things were taking,
and was glad to leave the matter to the prosecutor,
being ready to interfere if he saw a chance of helping
the imperilled women.
"Excuse me, sir," said the prosecutor;
"you speak of
them as being your adopted children, but can you
produce the instrument of adoption?"
The poor man was staggered by the question. "I never
adopted them in that way. I never thought it
necessary. But I have treated them as my children;
they have lived with us as children. I have divided
everything that I have between them in my will."
"Pardon me," said the prosecutor, with his
 voice most
studiously gentle, and his smile more falsely sweet, as
he saw his toils closing round his prey, "I do not doubt
your kindness to them; but if you cannot produce the
usual legal instrument—which, indeed, I understand you
to say you have never executed—they are not your
adopted children. And if you have not adopted them,
may I ask whether you have emancipated them?"
The purport of the examination now made itself clear to
the unhappy man. He had, of course, done nothing of
the kind. Taking it for granted that their condition
would never be questioned—ignorant, too, of law, as a
man of his training and occupation would almost
certainly be—he had never dreamt of either adopting or
emancipating the two girls. He had simply treated
them as his daughters, and never doubted for a moment
that all the world would do so likewise.
"I have established then, most excellent sir," said the
prosecutor, "that the woman Rhoda and her sister
Cleoné, with whom, indeed, I am not at present
concerned, are of the condition of slaves. I demand,
therefore, that the woman Rhoda be questioned in the
The Governor interposed, "Doubtless the accused will
answer such questions as will be put to her."
 "Pardon me, sir, if I say that the law knows but one
way only of questioning a slave."
"But if the slave be willing to speak?"
"Even then, I submit, the law presumes that he will
speak the truth only under this compulsion. I demand,
therefore, that the woman Rhoda be questioned by
A movement of horror went through the whole assembly.
Another consultation followed between the Governor and
his assessor. "This seems to me a needless severity,"
said Pliny, when it was finished. "Why not reserve
this compulsion if the witness should be obstinate?"
The prosecuting counsel, hardened as he was, was
staggered by this appeal. He turned to Lucilius for
further instructions. Lucilius was pitiless. He had
been enraged by the cool and skilful defence of
Anicetus, and he was determined not to lose his grasp
on the victim that had fallen into his power. "Keep to
your point," he whispered to the accuser.
"I demand the question by torture against the woman
"It is granted," said the Governor, "but so that
nothing that she shall say be used against Bion and
Rhoda his wife."
Cleoné, who was standing by the side of the
Rhoda, had gone on hoping against hope till the fatal
words were spoken. Then she rushed forward and caught
her sister in her arms. "We will suffer together," she
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