ROME – 64 AD
By TACITUS, Senior Correspondent
The upstart leader of a pagan religious organization known as “The Way” leaves a mixed legacy behind after his execution.
Simon bar-Jonah, better known by his assumed name “Peter,” was the self-proclaimed leader of the Christians, a fanatical religious group with its origins in Jerusalem. His death by crucifixion demonstrates that the Empire has great toleration but can be pushed too far.
Speaking in Latin to a clandestine gathering of fellow Christians at their secret house church on Saturday evening, Peter said that he planned to flee the Roman authorities and avoid execution. However, he later returned to the city, telling his followers that he ran into their Jesus on the way out and changed his mind. “Quo Vadis” was all they kept saying to one another, some sort of secret code that must transmit more detailed information. Top Roman scholars are seeking to decrypt the message even now.
A rash, head-strong fisherman who seemed to prefer dusty catacombs to the healthy Roman air, Peter, 63, was never elected as head of the rag-tag group, but instead claimed divine appointment from Jesus Himself.
“The mark of every cult leader,” remarked Imperial pundit Sophronius, “is a grandiose claim of divine approval. It serves to curtail legitimate discussion and leads to rigid, autocratic policies within the cult. That will be the ugly legacy of Peter’s iron rule as the sect’s leader.”
A notoriously polarizing figure, Peter spent much of his papacy in the shadow of his predecessor, Jesus. It is likely, even if not ultimately provable, that Peter’s failure to live up to Jesus’ legacy led to a severe inferiority complex, no doubt influencing his decision to return to Rome and be executed.
Peter’s papacy was tainted by intra-Apostolic scandal during the time of Jesus as well as a public humiliation by a Christian rival known as Paul, who also claimed divine appointment. Peter’s narrow vision led to the continuing division between Jewish and Gentile Christians, and his poor handling of administrative affairs was well known even within the cult’s circles. It should be noted that many critics saw these failings as moral failings.
Peter’s death plunged the tiny Christian sect into frantic speculation about his successor, and had already provoked contradictory opinions about his time as leader from within the Christian fringe.
But to the Roman Empire, Peter will be quickly forgotten as just one more upstart revolutionary of a flash-in-the-pan religion, no more relevant to the everyday Roman citizen’s life than Jesus Himself was.
Got plans this evening? Why not head on over to the Coliseum for Gladiator Gaffes! That’s right, tonight Flavius will go head-t0-head with Marcus–and Christians get caught in the middle!–in this all new episode of the popular gladiatorial series. Hilarity will ensue. Free bread and cheese for all. Children under twelve receive a free “Execute Him” pin, with working Imperial thumbs-down action, while supplies last.