Trajan was the Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 and started the third persecution. He lived from 106-138. Information was laid against the Christians before the younger Pliny, who was governor of Bithnia. Pliny appealed to Trajan for guidance; the answer of Trajan, to which the Christians of the succeeding age have frequently appealed. Pliny writes his emperor Trajan from Bithnia in Asia Minor that he is puzzled about the Christians. Shall he punish a Christian just because he admits to being a Christian, or must he have evidence of the horrid crimes that Christians were alleged to commit? In Mount Ararat many were crucified, crowned with thorns, and spears run through their sides, in imitation of Christ's passion. Trajan, being succeeded by Adrian, the latter continued this third persecution with as much severity as his predecessor.

Adrian dying in 138, was succeeded by Antoninus Pius, one of the most amiable monarchs that ever reigned, and who stayed the persecutions against the Christians. It seems that legal justification for the persecutions was that the Church was an "illicit" association, one not entitled to the protection of the law and thereby liable to sanctions if denounced. Trajan replying to Pliny "Do not seek them out; but if they are denounced and are convicted, they must be put to death. Let apostates be declared free." Tertullian - "If you condemn them, why do you not seek them out? And if you do not seek them out, why do you absolve them?" his famous dilemma. Blood also flowed under Hadrian (117-38) and Antonius Pius (138-61) although both sought to mitigate the effects of the official policy.
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