Today we honor the Christians who were martyred during Nero’s reign. From an Irish Catholic website:
The fire of Rome under Nero 64 AD
In July of 64 AD, more than half of Rome was destroyed by fire. Rumour blamed the tragedy on the young emperor Nero (54-68 AD), who had wanted to enlarge his palace. Christians may have been an easy target on whom to shift the blame.
The following quotation from the historian Tacitus (56-117 AD) refers to the rumour and its consequences for Christians.
But all human efforts, all the emperor’s gifts and propitiations of the gods, were not enough to remove the scandal or banish the belief that the fire had been ordered. And so, to get rid of this rumor Nero set up as culprits and punished with the utmost cruelty a class hated for their abominations, who are commonly called Christians.
Christus, from whom their name is derived, was executed at the hands of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. Checked for the moment this pernicious superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the source of the evil, but even in Rome, the place where everything that is sordid and degrading from every quarter of the globe finds a following.
Thus those who confessed (i.e.. to being Christians) were first arrested, then on evidence from them a large multitude was convicted, not so much for the charge of arson as for their hatred of the human race.
Besides being put to death they were made objects of amusement; they were clothed in hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others were set on fire to illuminate the night after sunset.
Nero threw open his grounds for the display and put on a show at the circus where he mingled with the people dressed like a charioteer and driving about in his chariot. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, even towards these men who deserved the most exemplary punishment since it was felt they were being killed, not for the public good but to gratify the cruelty of an individual.” (Tacitus, Annales, 15:44)
The seed of Christians
The Good News brings always opposition as it did to Jesus. Many profess it even in the face of death. But the Church always grows in the midst of persecution. As Tertullian said: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”