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The Emperor's Tablets

Some of the Roman legions, displeased at having so unworthy an emperor, revolted under their general Antonius. As he failed to please them, however, they did not fight very bravely for him, and his troops were completely defeated the first time they met the legions which still remained faithful to Domitian.

Although the soldiers had failed to get rid of Domitian, the cruel reign of that emperor was soon ended. He had married a wife by force, and she was known by the name of Domitia. Of course she could not love a husband who had taken her against her will. Domitian therefore grew tired of her, and wrote her name down upon the tablets where he was wont to place the names of the next persons to be slain.

Domitia found these tablets. Seeing her own name among several others, she carried the list to two pretorian guards who were to die also, and induced them to murder Domitian. Under the pretext of revealing a conspiracy against him, these men sent a freedman into the imperial chamber.

While Domitian was eagerly reading a paper upon which the names of the conspirators were written, this freedman suddenly drew out a dagger, which he had hidden beneath his robe, and dealt the emperor a mortal wound.

Domitian fell, loudly calling for help. The pretorian guard rushed in at this sound, but, instead of killing the freedman, they helped him dispatch their master, who had reigned about fifteen years, but had not made a single friend.

The Romans related that signs and prodigies foretold the emperor's death, and that an astrologer at Ephesus saw the crime reflected in the skies at the very moment when it happened.

Under Domitian's reign there was another terrible persecution of the Christians, and John, a disciple of our Lord, was banished to the island of Patmos, where he wrote Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. Although John escaped on this occasion, he later became a martyr, for he was tortured by being plunged into boiling oil.

It is said, however, in some stories, that John did not die in the boiling oil, but lived to be a very old man. On the spot where he is said to have suffered there is now a chapel which bears his name.