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Overview: Short stories – stories for children and teens

Christians in ancient Rome

The sloping rows of seats in the Pompeii’s theatre are filled up to the last seat. There are even hundreds of visitors squeezed between the columns in the aisles. The boxes are reserved for the emperor and his royal household. Senators have appeared dressed in their celebratory togas (plural of toga. (These are the old Roman cloaks which were worn as a long sheet), high ranking officers appear with shiny silver chest harnesses and the rich knights with their inevitable swarm of clients (A freemason, who belonged to the Patrician “family”). Everyone wants to be seen and be noticed. Suddenly tubas blare out and the voices hush. All heads turn towards the emperor’s box. Emperor Nero appears and steps into his box. The soldiers spread out in the room and the paid cheerers start to clap. The amount of claps is acceptable and the curtain rises. The games may begin.

Two young men are sitting in the front row of the theatre: Caius Fabius Quintilianus and his friend Marcus Claudius Lucanus. Caius belongs to the emperor’s court. Since he has become a Christian he would prefer to keep away from the whole show. However staying away would sentence him to death. It is not advisable to annoy Nero. Marcus also believes in Jesus Christ. He can remember perfectly how he confessed his sins to the Lord Jesus a few months ago. Since then his relations do not want anything more to do with him. They do not want anything to do with a Christian.

"You see", says Marcus to his friend Caius, "the master of the Roman empire surrounds himself with actors and dancers. He squanders millions on them!" The spectators in the near vicinity of the two friends start to hiss. They cannot hear the actors on the stage properly.

Ominous beings make their way through the rows toward them. A neighbour whispers to Caius: "Be careful, my friend! The secret service!" – Everyone is immediately quiet. It is simply dangerous to have a different opinion to the emperor in Rome. At that point theatre workers announce that the emperor has commanded that the front rows are to be cleared. "It is that time again! One of the massive concerts where the stage is not big enough", murmurs Marcus to his friend.

Caius responds with a smile: "That gives us the blessed opportunity. We can escape these repulsive proceedings without anyone noticing." "Tomorrow evening, shortly after sunset, we all want to meet up to pray. It will take place at Rufus’ house this time. Tell the others and be careful. I have the feeling that we are being watched." It is dangerous to be a Christian at the time. However, Marcus, Caius, Rufus and lots of others love Jesus so much that they are willing to risk their lives. A sultry July heat lies over the streets and square of Rome even at night. Sleepless, Valerius wallows in his little room under the eaves in a house with several stories. He had hardly fallen asleep and he was awoken again: The rolling of the wheels of the vegetable cart on the cobble stones announces the start of a new day. Valerius belongs to the army of unemployed people in Rome. Some of them meet up daily in the front rooms of certain rich Patricians (members of the noble family), who will give them the opportunity to earn a few Sesterce (Roman currency) for housework and odd jobs. Since Valerius belongs to the clients of a certain M. Claudius Lucanus, his situation is better. There are often things to be done in his large house. The master is also very generous. He belongs to a group of faithful people called „Christians“. Each time the master meets with his clients he makes a little speech about new beliefs first of all. These words sound so new and different to Valerius. He does not understand everything either but one sentence remained fixed in his head: "This person Jesus, the one who the Christians worship, had said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." When he thinks about these words a great longing arises in Valerius: "If were only possible to get rid of all your worries and needs and the burden of your conscience!" With the numerous Roman gods for which he had made sacrifices, he had never found peace.

As Valerius steps into the street he turns pale with shock. The night sky is fire red for as far as the eye can see! The whole area around Circus Maximus seems to be in flames. The coming wind is blowing the flames forwards. All of the efforts of the firemen do not help at all. The whole valley is a sea of fire!

The folk is wandering towards the emperor’s courtyard chased by the flames. The people’s disgust is turning into a raging anger because of the rumour which is being spread: The emperor had set the town on fire himself. However the complete palatial quarter is guarded by the emperor’s troops. In rows ten deep the Praetorians are standing there like a dam to keep the people away.

Valerius hurries to the house of M. Claudius Lucanus. The house stands in a nicer area of town where the fire has not yet reached. Marcus Claudius is in an optimistic mood. "Valerius, welcome. I am so pleased that you have escaped the fire” but Lucanus is deep in worry.

"I pray for my slaves who are still in the town. Some have Christian friends there. They have asked for my blessing that they can help them out of the burning furnace. The poor quarter has gotten off the worst!" Valerius winces. That is the thing which makes Christians different to others! He would never have come across the idea to help other Romans. His first thought was getting to Claudius Lucanus and into safety. As if Lucanus could read Valerius' thoughts, he continues: "Our Lord Jesus would have done exactly the same as those brave men. He sacrificed himself on the cross to die for sins and to give us life." The doorman lets in another visitor: Caius Fabius Quintilianus, Marcus' friend from the emperor’s court. Caius is as white as a ghost: "The Christian baiting is beginning!

Nero sung to Rome from the roof of his palace. The crazy man! To protect himself from the people’s rage he is now claiming that the fire in Rome was set by the Christians. And the people want to believe it. They are already starting to ..." Valerius, Caius and Marcus Lucanus survived the Christian persecution under the rule of crazy Nero the year 64 A.D on the Lucanus family manor. At this time we believe that the Apostle Paul was executed with a sword.

Possible parts of the bible relevant to the story:

  • Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. (Psalm 1,1)
  • Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1. John 2,15)
  • Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened (Matthew 11,28)
  • Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1. Peter 5,7)
  • I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34,4)

(Source: "Der Kompass" edition 2000, a daily calendar for children and young people in Germany. The story was allowed to be included in the collection of materials ( / with kind permission.)
Copyright: Christian circulation (

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