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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. 15-17.

The Lives of the Popes,
B. Platina

Volume I.

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Circa A.D. 91-100.

CLEMENS, born in Rome, in the region of Mons Cœlius, his father’s name Faustinus, lived in the time of Titus’s successor Domitian, who was more like to Nero or Caligula than to his father Vespasian or his brother, yet at the beginning of his empire he kept within some tolerable bounds, but soon after he broke out into very great enormities of lust, idleness, rage, and cruelty; crimes which brought upon him so great an odium, as almost entirely defaced the memory and renown of his father and brother. Most of the nobility he put to death, whereof most were by his order assassinated in the places whither he had banished them. He was so industriously idle as to spend the time of his privacy and retirement in killing flies with a bodkin; for which reason, when a certain person coming out of his presence was asked, whether any one were with Cæsar, he answered merrily, “No, not so much as a fly.” He arrived to such a height of folly and arrogance, as to expect divine honours, and commanded that in all discourses and writings concerning him, the title of Lord and God should be given him. He was the second from Nero that raised a persecution against the Christians. Moreover, he gave order that all those of the lineage of David among the Jews, should by interrogatories and racking them to confession, be diligently searched after, and being found, utterly destroyed and extinguished. In the end, the divine vengeance overtaking him, he was in the fifteenth year of his empire stabbed to death in the palace by his own servants. His body was carried out by the common bearers, and ingloriously buried by Philix at her country house in the Via Latina.

Clemens was now (as I have said) the fourth Bishop of Rome from St Peter, Linus being accounted the second, and Cletus the third, though the Latins generally reckon Clemens next after Peter; and that he was designed so appears from his own letter to James, Bishop of Jerusalem, wherein he gives him the following account of the matter: “Simon Peter being apprehensive of his approaching death, in the presence of several brethren, taking hold of my hand, ‘This,’ says he, ‘is the person, whom having been my assistant in all affairs 16 since I came to Rome, I constitute Bishop of that city;’ and when I showed my willingness to decline so great a burden, he expostulated with me in this manner, ‘Wilt thou consult only thine own convenience, and deny thy assistance to the poor fluctuating Church of God when it is in thy power to steer it?’ ” But he being a person of wonderful modesty, did freely prefer Linus and Cletus to that dignity before himself undertook it. He wrote in the name of the Roman Church a very useful epistle to the Corinthians, not differing in style from that of the Hebrews, which is said to be St Paul’s. This epistle was formerly read publicly in several churches; there is another bearing his name which the ancients did not think authentic; and Eusebius in the third Book of his History, does find fault with a long disputation between St Peter and Apion, said to be written by our Clement. It is certain that John the Apostle, son of Zebedee and brother of James, lived to this time, who was the last penman of the Gospel, and confirmed what had been before written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The reason why he wrote last is said to be that he might confront and defeat the heresy of the Ebionites, who impudently denied Christ to have had a being before His birth of the Blessed Virgin; and accordingly we find him very particular in demonstrating the divinity of our Saviour. He wrote several other things, and among the rest his Revelation, during his banishment into the island Patmos by Domitian; who being afterwards slain and his acts for their excessive severity rescinded by the Senate, he returned to Ephesus in the time of Nerva, where he continued till the reign of Trajan, supporting the churches of Asia by his counsel and writings, till at last being worn out with age he rested in the Lord the sixty-eight year after the Passion of Christ. Our Clemens by his piety, religion, and learning made daily many proselytes to Christianity; whereupon P. Tarquinius the High-priest, and Mamerinus the city Præfect, stirred up the emperor against the Christians, at whose command Clement was banished to an island, where he found near two thousand Christians condemned to hew marble in the quarries. In this island there being at that time a great scarcity of water, which they were forced to fetch at six miles’ distance, Clement going to the top of a little hill hard by, sees there a lamb, under whose right foot flowed miraculously a plentiful spring, with which all the islanders were refreshed, 17 and many of them thereupon converted to the Christian faith. At which Trajan, being enraged, sent some of his guards, who threw Clement into the sea, with an anchor tied about his neck.1 But his blessed body was not long after cast on the shore, and being buried at the place where this miraculous fountain had sprung up, a temple was built over it. This is said to have happened September the fourteenth, in the third year of the Emperor Trajan. He was in the chair nine years, two months, and ten days. He divided the wards of the city among seven notaries, who were to register the acts of the martyrs; and at the ordinations which he held according to custom in the month of December, he made ten presbyters, two deacons, and fifteen bishops. By his death the see was vacant two-and-twenty days.


 1  This story is probably not older than the ninth century. — ED.

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Previous Pope:  3. St. Cletus. 4. St. Clemens. Next Pope: 5. St. Anacletus.

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