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From The Lives of the Popes from the Time of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Accession of Gregory VII. Written Originally in Latin by B. Platina, Native of Cremona, and translated into English (from an anonymous translation, first printed in 1685 by Sir Paul Rycaut), Edited by William Benham, Volume I, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, [1888, undated in text]; pp. 12-14.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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Circa A.D. 78-91.

CLETUS, born in Rome in the Vicopatrician region, son of Æmilianus, through the persuasion of Clemens, unwillingly took upon him the burden of the pontificate, though for his learning, life, and quality, he was a person of very great esteem and authority among all that knew him.1 He lived in the time of Vespasian and Titus, from the seventh consulship of Vespasian, and the fifth of Domitian, to the consulate of Domitian and Rufus, according to Damasus.

Vespasian, as I said before, succeeding Vitellius, committed the management of the Jewish War, which had been carrying on two years before, to his son Titus, which he, within two years after, with great resolution finished. For all Judæa being conquered, the city Hierusalem destroyed, and the temple levelled to the ground, it is reported that no less than six hundred thousand Jews were slain; nay, Josephus, a Jew, who was a captive in that war, and had his life given him because he foretold the death of Nero, and that Vespasian should in 13 a short time be Emperor, relates that eleven hundred thousand perished therein by sword and famine, and that a hundred thousand were taken prisoners, and publicly exposed to sale. Nor will it seem improbable, if we consider that he tells us this happened at the time of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they came from all parts of Judæa to Jerusalem, as into a public prison; and especially on the day of the Passover, upon which they crucified Christ; being now to undergo the deserved punishment, both of their frequent revolts from the Roman government, and also of their villainy and perfidiousness in putting to death the innocent Jesus. Upon this victory over the Jews, the father and son were honoured with a triumph, both riding in the same chariot, and Domitian upon a white horse following them. The monuments of this triumph remain still in the Via Nova, where are to be seen engraven the candlesticks and the tables of the old law that were taken out of the temple and triumphantly brought away. Yet Vespasian exercised so much humanity towards the Jews, even when they were conquered, that for all those whom he found among them remaining of the House of David, as being of royal descent, he had a very good esteem. And indeed he always used his power with great moderation, being of so mild and merciful a temper, as to discharge even traitors with no other than a verbal correction, and to slight the discourses of insolent and talkative people, and in general to be forgetful of faults and injuries. He was looked upon as too much inclined to avarice, and yet he used no oppression for the getting of money, and what he had he employed in bounty and magnificence. For he both finished the Temple of Peace adjoining to the Forum, that had been begun by Claudius, and began that amphitheatre, a part of which is yet to be seen with admiration. He had so great an opinion of the bravery and merit of his son Titus, that upon the occasion of certain tumults, raised by some ambitious men who aspired to the empire, he said publicly, “That either his son, or no man, would be his successor in the empire.” And good ground he had to say so, for that Titus, both for his courage and integrity, was accounted the darling and delight of mankind. He was endued with an eloquence excellently suited to the times of peace, and with a courage to those of war; he was very merciful to offenders, and so kind and bountiful to all, that he never denied any man anything. Upon which occasion when some 14 of his friends took the liberty to find fault with him as too profuse, he told them, “It was not fit that any man should depart sad out of the presence of a prince.” And remembering at a certain time that he had not conferred any benefit in a whole day, he thereupon cried out to those about him, “My friends, I have lost a day.” Never any emperor was superior to him in magnificence; the amphitheatre, together with the baths near adjoining, being perfectly completed and dedicated, and an hunting of five thousand wild beasts exhibited by him. He recalled from exile Mursonius Rufus, a famous philosopher, and was much pleased with the conversation of Asconius Pœdianus, a most learned man. He died in the second year of his empire, and was carried to his sepulchre with so great and universal a lamentation, as if every man had lost a father.

There are some who write that Cletus succeeded Linus in the second year of Vespasian, who held the empire ten years. Whether that were so or no, it is certain that Cletus was a most holy and good man, and that he left nothing undone that might contribute to the enlargement and increase of the Church of God. In his time lived Luke, a physician of Antioch, one extraordinarily well skilled in the Greek language, a follower of St Paul the Apostle, and his constant attendant and companion in his travels. He penned the gospel, which is commended by St Paul, and which St Paul for a good reason calls his gospel. He wrote also the Acts of the Apostles, being himself an eye-witness of them. He lived eighty-four years, was married in Bithynia, and buried at Constantinople, whither his bones, together with those of Andrew the Apostle, were, in the tenth year of Constantius, conveyed out of Achaia. At the same time likewise Philip returning out of Scythia, which, by his example and preaching he had kept stedfast in the faith for twenty years together, into Asia, died at Jerusalem. As for Cletus himself, having settled the Church as well as the times would bear, and ordained, according to St Peter’s command, twenty-five presbyters, he was crowned with martyrdom, in the reign of Domitian, and buried near the body of St Peter in the Vatican, April 27. There were many other martyrs about the same time, among whom is reckoned Flavia Domitilla, sister’s daughter to Flavius Clemens the consul, who was banished into the island Pontia for the profession of Christianity. Cletus sat in the chair twelve years, one month, eleven days; and by his death the see was vacant twenty days.


 1  One of the divisions of the City of Rome, answering to one of our wards in London. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  2. St. Linus. 3. St. Cletus. Next Pope: 4. St. Clemens.

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