Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Ch. 6, “Persecution in the Second Century.” Loc. 925-1124
First century martyrdoms are not documented in much detail. In the second century there begin to be more reliable accounts. “Of these, the most dramatic are the Acts of the Martyrs, which retell the arrest, trial, and execution of various martyrs. Some of these include so many trustworthy details about the trials that they seem to have been taken, in part at least, from official court records” (Gonzalez 2010, Loc. 930). We also find a great deal about Christian attitudes from Christian writings, especially the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (Ibid., Loc. 936). The correspondence between Pliny and Trajan, in 111, opens a window on imperial attitudes (Ibid., Loc. 942). “Christian were not punished for crimes committed before being brought to trial, but for what seemed their contempt of Roman courts” (Ibid., Loc. 967). This remained the policy for most of the second century.
Gonzalez turns his discussion to Ignatius, who was condemned about 107, and who wrote seven letters as he went to his death (Ibid., Loc. 981). It is interesting that he was able to visit with and send letters by Christian couriers, though he was condemned as a Christian. This indicates the persecution was not universal (Ibid., Loc. 994). Ignatius, in a letter to Christians at Rome, says he wishes them not to rescue him but to pray for him to face trials bravely (Ibid., Loc. 1012).
Another early martyrdom, that of Polycarp, is described in detail (Ibid., Loc. 1028). In 155, Polycarp is arrested in Smyrna and condemned. He welcomed death for Christ.
In 161, Marcus Aurelius became emperor. He was well known for refinement and fairness. Yet he condemns Christians and blames them for various natural disasters (Ibid., Loc. 1073). The martyrdoms of Felicitas and of Justin are noteworthy during his reign (Ibid., Loc. 1085). Persecution tended to abate near the end of the second century (Ibid., Loc. 114), though it arose again later. In general, if Christians were brought to court, they would be prosecuted but there were not widespread searches for Christians.