Note: although the prophecy of Daniel presents the “little horn” as the persecutor of saints, It actually was only continuing what had already begun by the beast-system, way before the rise of the “ten horns” on the head of the beast. Pagan Rome was so ruthless and had no regard for human life. Killing was sport. Christians suffered during the Roman Empire. Fox’s Book of Martyrs chronicles the savagery murders. The accounts are so gruesome that one wonders how humans endured such extreme torture!
The first great persecution of Christians began in the year 67AD during the reign of Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. Fox’s Book of Martyrs records that “this monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities.”
The madness in Nero desired chaos during his reign. He was once heard publicly declaring that he wished the ruin of all things before his death. He was so determined to this end that he ordered his officers to set the city of Rome on fire. However, this inferno caused a widespread anger and disgust among Romans. Nero excused himself by blaming the inferno incident on Christians and that initiated the great persecution.
Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire.
It was in the course of this great persecution that apostles Peter and Paul were martyred.