He was a Roman emperor and persecutor of the Church, son of Vespasian and younger brother and successor of the Emperor Titus. He was borne 24 Oct., A.D. 51, and reigned from 81 to 96. In spite of his private vices he set himself up as a reformer of morals and religion. He was the first of the emperors to deify himself during his lifetime by assuming the title of "Lord and God". After the revolt of Saturninus he organized a series of bloodthirsty proscriptions against all the wealthy and noble families. A conspiracy, in which his wife joined, was formed against him, and he was murdered, 18 Sept., 96 AD.
When the Acts of Nero's reign were reversed after his death, an exception was made as to the persecution of the Christians (Tertullian). He was the Emperor who exiled St. John to Patmos where he saw his revelation. Among the more famous martyrs in this Second Persecution were Domitian's cousin, Flavius Clemens, the consul, and M' Acilius Glabrio who had also been consul. Flavia Domitilla, the wife of Flavius, was banished to Pandataria. The book of the Apocalypse was written in the midst of this storm, when many of the Christians had already perished (St. Irenæus). Rome, "the great Babylon", "was drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus". St. Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians was also written about this time. The Roman Church continued loyal to the empire, and sent up its prayers to God that He would direct the rulers and magistrates in the exercise of the power committed to their hands (Clement Epistle 9, Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). Before the end of his reign Domitian ceased to persecute.