From the Apology Addressed to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
For the race of the pious is now persecuted in a way contrary to all precedent, being harassed by a new kind of edicts everywhere in Asia. For unblushing informers, and such as are greedy of other men's goods, taking occasion from the orders issued, carry on their robbery without any disguise, plundering of their property night and day those who are guilty of no wrong.
If these proceedings take place at thy bidding, well and good. For a just sovereign will never take unjust measures; and we, on our part, gladly accept the honour of such a death. This request only we present to thee, that thou wouldst first of all examine for thyself into the behaviour of these reputed agents of so much strife, and then come to a just decision as to whether they merit death and punishment, or deserve to live in safety and quiet. But if, on the contrary, it shall turn out that this measure, and this new sort of command, which it would be unbecoming to employ even against barbarian foemen, do not proceed from thee, then all the more do we entreat thee not to leave us thus exposed to the spoliation of the populace.
For the philosophy current with us flourished in the first instance among barbarians; and, when it afterwards sprang up among the nations under thy rule, during the distinguished reign of thy ancestor Augustus, it proved to be a blessing of most happy omen to thy empire. For from that time the Roman power has risen to greatness and splendour. To this power thou hast succeeded as the much desired possessor; and such shalt thou continue, together with thy son, if thou protect that philosophy which has grown up with thy empire, and which took its rise with Augustus; to which also thy more recent ancestors paid honour, along with the other religions prevailing in the empire. A very strong proof, moreover, that it was for good that the system we profess came to prevail at the same time that the empire of such happy commencement was established, is this -- that ever since the reign of Augustus nothing untoward has happened; but, on the contrary, everything has contributed to the splendour and renown of the empire, in accordance with the devout wishes of all. Nero and Domitian alone of all the emperors, imposed upon by certain calumniators, have cared to bring any impeachment against our doctrines. They, too, are the source from which it has happened that the lying slanders on those who profess them have, in consequence of the senseless habit which prevails of taking things on hearsay, flowed down to our own times. But the course which they in their ignorance pursued was set aside by thy pious progenitors, who frequently and in many instances rebuked by their rescripts those who dared to set on foot any hostilities against them. It appears, for example, that thy grandfather Adrian wrote, among others, to Fundanus, the proconsul then in charge of the government of Asia. Thy father, too, when thou thyself wast associated with him in the administration of the empire, wrote to the cities, forbidding them to take any measures adverse to us: among the rest to the people of Larissa, and of Thessalonica, and of Athens, and, in short, to all the Greeks. And as regards thyself, seeing that thy sentiments respecting the Christians are not only the same as theirs, but even much more generous and wise, we are the more persuaded that thou wilt do all that we ask of thee.