From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

Within a hundred years of the rise of Greek power under Alexander the Great (334-331 BC), Rome had begun to overrun colonies of the Greek Empire and form them into outlying provinces of Rome. Rome first came into prominence in the affairs of Palestine when the Roman general Pompey seized control of Jerusalem and brought Judea under Roman control (63 BC).

The Roman Empire

After the assassination of Julius Caesar (44 BC), Rome went through a disastrous time of civil war, political confusion and social turmoil. Thousands of people were poor and unable to find work. There was little law and order, corruption was widespread, and ambitious army commanders were constantly plotting for more power.

Out of this instability and tension there arose a leader who was able firstly to control and then to correct the disorders. In 27 BC he took the name Caesar Augustus and became the first ruler of what became known as the Roman Empire ( Luke 2:1). The people held him in such honour that rulers of the Roman Empire after him took his name Caesar as the title of the Emperor ( Luke 3:1;  Luke 20:22;  Acts 17:7;  Acts 25:11;  Acts 25:25).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

Any attempt to describe Rome in the middle of the 1st cent. could be made only by one alike endowed with sympathetic imagination and equipped with minute erudition. Such an attempt has been made, not altogether unsuccessfully, by F. W. Farrar in his Darkness and Dawn (London, 1891), as well as by other writers. In this article it has seemed best to mention one or two points in which Rome of that period differed from a modern great city, and to follow this up by giving some account of certain important buildings of the early Empire, whether they actually date from the later Republic or not. The writer has not rigidly excluded those that belong to a period somewhat later than Nero, but he has as far as possible confined his attention throughout to buildings of which actual remains exist. He has been indebted to standard works mentioned in the Literature, but has himself seen everything which he describes.

The population of Rome at the time St. Paul reached it, about a.d. 60, may be estimated roughly at from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000, of which a very large proportion were slaves. The streets of the city were for the most part narrow, and no vehicles were allowed inside the city walls except the wagons necessary for building purposes. The traveller who did not walk was conveyed in a sedan chair or on horseback to one of the city gates, where his carriage was awaiting him. The public buildings were magnificent, but many of the dwelling-houses, three or more stories high, were in a state of dangerous disrepair. Crassus, the great financier of the 1st cent. b. c., owned much of this property, and derived a large fortune from it. Martial and Juvenal, towards the end of the 1st and the beginning of the 2nd cent. a.d., describe the perils to the pedestrian from falling tiles, etc. The dangers to the health of slum dwellers were to some extent obviated by the open-air life commonly led, by the porticces which gave protection from sun and rain, by the theatre, amphitheatre, circus, etc. There was no proper lighting of the streets at night. Active life was supposed to end at sunset, and those who were abroad after dark were accompanied by torch-bearers, as the Londoners of the 18th cent. by link-boys. Not till the time of Augustus was there any police in Rome, but the riots of the 1st cent. b.c. had shown the necessity, and Augustus divided the city into wards (regiones), and established an excellent police system, of which archaeological remains have been found.

Palatine Hill. -There is a general consensus of opinion that the original Rome, Roma Quadrata (‘Square Rome’), was on the Palatine Hill only-the hill of Pales, the shepherds’ god. It is with the S.W. angle that the earliest legends of Rome are mostly associated. It was there that the basket was found containing the twins Romulus and Remus, after it had been washed ashore by the Tiber. There also was the lair of the she-wolf that suckled the twins, etc. The Palatine Hill is kept for the most part sacred from modern buildings, and is almost entirely covered by ruins of buildings belonging to various epochs. Excavation is still going on, but seemingly no attempt is made to check the growth of vegetation. In the Republican period the Palatine became a fashionable residential quarter. Here was the house of Cicero. On his exile in 58 b.c. the house was destroyed and the site confiscated, but in the next year it was restored to him. The Emperor Augustus was born near the N.E. corner, and various rooms of a house belonging to his wife Livia are still shown on the hill, with the frescces on the inside walls. Under the Empire practically the whole of the hill was converted into a huge Imperial residence. The process was begun by Augustus, who acquired a valuable property which had once belonged to the orator Hortensius, and added to it by the purchase of adjoining properties. There the Imperial palace was built. Fire and destruction worked upon this and other buildings, and we cannot with certainty identify remains on the hill as belonging to buildings of a particular date. What one sees is great masses of brickwork, with arched roofs. The bricks are square, and very thin as compared with those of to-day. The surviving edifices impress one greatly by their size and strength, but by nothing else. The whole looks excessively shabby. The explanation is that what we are now looking on is only the inner core of the building proper. In the heyday of their existence all these shabby brick buildings were encased in marble. The marble, in the course of ages, has been stripped off, partly in the interests of the decoration of Christian churches, and partly to be pounded down and made into lime. There is a well-known saying of Augustus that he found Rome built of brick and left it made of marble. On seeing these ruins it occurred to the present writer that what was meant by this saying was simply that he had covered brick buildings with marble. The Imperial palace on the Palatine was successively altered or enlarged, as the tastes or requirements of successive Emperors demanded. One most important building must be mentioned before we leave this hill, or mountain, as the Romans called it (see Roman Empire), namely, the temple and precinct of Apollo on the N. E. part of the hill. The decoration of the temple was magnificent. In a double colonnade connected with it were statues of each of the fifty fabled daughters of Danaus, and there also were the Imperial libraries of Greek and Roman literature, one of the earliest public libraries in Italy, splendidly equipped by Augustus not only with manuscript books but also with busts of the great authors.

Capitol. -In modern times the Capitoline Hill is disfigured on the southern side by a hideous barrack-like erection with a campanile, called the Campidoglio, and on the other peak, the Arx, there is being erected an enormous monument to commemorate united Italy. The great ornament of the Capitoline in ancient times was the temple of Jupiter, Best and Greatest (the god whom the Latin allies worshipped on the Alban Mount), together with Juno and Minerva. It was to this great temple that all the triumphal processions of Rome made their way. It was approached immediately by the Cliuus Capitolinus, ‘Capitoline slope,’ from the Forum. The temple measured about 204 ft. by 188 ft. At the angle of the hill nearest the Tiber was the Tarpeian Rock, from which criminals were hurled. The sheer cliff may be seen from various points. One of the most prominent ancient features on the Capitoline Hill to-day is the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, placed there in 1538, probably under the direction of Michael Angelo, who was commissioned to lay out this site in as worthy a manner as possible. The statue owes its preservation to the belief that it was supposed to represent the earliest Christian Emperor, whereas, as a matter of fact, Marcus was one of the greatest persecutors of the Church. It is the only equestrian statue of an Emperor that has survived. The Arx was in ancient times for the most part not built on: it was from the ground there that heralds got the sacred plants which played a part in the conclusion of treaties with foreign powers. The plant (uerbena sagmina) symbolized the soil of Rome. The temple of Iuno Moneta was on this height; it was the seat of the Mint.

Forum. -Both these hills flank the Forum, to which most of our space must be devoted. Standing near the Cliuus Capitolinus, one looks straight down the Forum, and there must have been a lovely view of the Alban mountains in the distance, before the enormous Flavian amphitheatre, commonly called the Colosseum, shut it off. We must try to touch briefly on each of the more important buildings of which there are traces in the Forum. Like the Palatine, it is shut off from modern intrusions. The Forum was the centre of the throbbing life of the ancient city-the life social, commercial, legal, and political. Occupying a central position in the hollow surrounded by the various heights, it was the natural meeting-place of the communities on the hills above, and this it continued to be as long as ancient Rome lasted. It was flanked by all sorts of shops, those of the money-changers or bankers included. Military processions passed through it. The people were addressed there. Funeral processions stopped there for the funeral oration to be pronounced. In the adjoining buildings law-cases were tried. An enumeration of the buildings, proceeding from N. to S., will serve to give some notion of the comprehensiveness of the life of the Forum.

The Tabularium or Record Office was situated at the foot of the Capitol, and was built in 78 b.c. Its lower courses, on which mediaeval work is now superimposed, are the most splendid specimens of Republican masonry surviving.

In front of this was the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, erected in a.d. 80. Three columns are still standing. There is also a richly decorated frieze and cornice. An inscription records that the temple was restored by Septimius Severus and Caracalla.

To the left of this was the Temple of Concord. This temple with concrete foundations, built by M. Furius Camillus in 366 b.c., was restored by Opimius in 121 b.c., and again rebuilt by Tiberius in a.d. 7-10. Only the threshold is preserved, but some parts of the columns are to be found in museums.

Beyond this are the remains of the Mamertine Prison, where the Catilinarian conspirators Lentulus and Cethegus were strangled by order of the consul Cicero. The tradition that St. Paul was confined there is valueless.

To return to the other side, we come to the Temple of Saturn. Of this great temple the lofty sub-structures are preserved. The eight columns of red and grey granite belong to a late restoration. This restoration was irregular and carelessly carried out. The temple was originally built about 500 b.c. In its vaults was stored the public treasure of Rome. Julius Caesar, after crossing the Rubicon and thus declaring civil war, forced his way in and seized £300,000 of coined money, as well as 15,000 gold and 30,000 silver ingots.

Right over on the other side is the Arch of Severus. This was built in a.d. 203 as a memorial of the victorious campaigns of the Emperor Septimius Severus in the East. In ancient times it was reached by steps, being above the level of the Forum, and now that the ground has been cleared away, that is again true. The middle archway is 40 ft. 4 ins. in height and 22 ft. 11 ins. wide; the side archways are exactly as high as the large one is wide, but they are only 9 ft. 10 ins. wide. There are four columns on each façade standing on high bases. The bas-reliefs are the most interesting part. Some represent legionary soldiers leading prisoners from the East in chains. Another figures Rome receiving the homage of conquered Oriental peoples. The great majority depict detailed scenes of the various stages of war.

In front of this arch lie some of the most antique remains yet discovered in Rome-the Lapis Niger, etc. At this place there was probably a grave or an ill-omened place of some sort. The most interesting part is a rectangular column covered with inscriptions on all four faces. The writing goes from the top down and from the bottom up. The letters show a great resemblance to those of the Greek alphabet, from which the Latin alphabet is admittedly derived. The date is not later than the 5th cent. b.c. The sense cannot be made out. All we can say is that there is mention of a rex, of iouxmenta, ‘beasts of burden,’ and of a kalator, ‘public servant’; the words sakros esed (= sacer sit, ‘let so-and-so be sacred’) occur also. It is probably a portion of a religious law that we have here.

Beyond the Black Stone lies all that remains of the Comitium, the voting-place of the Republic.

Beyond this again lies the Church of S. Adriano, which corresponds to the main room of the Senate House of the Empire. It was constructed by Julius Caesar. The situation of the smaller committee room is also known. The level of the ground round about has been gradually raised in the period intervening between the original date of the building and the present day.

If we turn back again to get to the other side we come to the remains of three large oblong erections parallel with one another, all much larger than any with which we have yet had to do. The first is the Basilica aemilia. It is only recently that this has been thoroughly excavated. The original building on this site goes back to the year 179 b.c., when its construction was completed by two censors. Lucius aemilius Paullus, the conqueror of Perseus of Macedon, seems to have decorated it, as an inscription in his honour has lately been found among the ruins. The building was restored by another aemilius, consul in 78 b.c. A coin of 61 b.c. shows the building as a two-storied portico. In 54 b.c. it was again restored by yet another aemilius-it was a sort of monument of this family-with Julius Caesar’s approval and at his expense. The building was restored again after a fire in 14 b.c. at the expense of the Emperor Augustus. The next restoration took place in a.d. 22 in the reign of Tiberius. Of the Republican building only foundations remain. The entrance opens into six rooms which served for banking business, etc. A staircase led to the upper story, which was similarly arranged. The main room was 95 ft. wide and about 228 ft. long. The galleries above the side aisles were supported by columns. A considerable number of these have been found lying among the other ruins, in all cases broken, but in some cases more so than in others. These are like Peterhead granite, and form part of the 5th cent. reconstruction, which was very thorough.

Next comes the Forum Romanum proper-an open space. At the end nearest to the site of the later Arch of Severus stood the Rostra of the Republic. This was a raised platform decorated with the prows of ships captured in the First Carthaginian War in 260 b.c., under Duillius: hence the name. From this platform many a historic speech, many a funeral oration, including that of Mark Antony on Julius Caesar, was delivered. Another interesting feature of the Forum, of which only the basis now survives, was a bronze equestrian statue of the Emperor Domitian, raised towards the end of the 1st cent. a.d. and described in detail by Statius in the first of his miscellaneous pcems called Siluae.

Leaving the Forum proper, we cross the Sacra Via (the pcet Horace [Sat. I. ix. 1] by the requirements of his metre said uia sacra, but to the ordinary Roman it would have been as absurd to say Via Sacra as to say ‘Street Oxford’ or ‘Street Princes’ to-day). This Sacred Way was one of the oldest streets in Rome. Its exact course through the Forum is uncertain, but it would appear that it passed between the Forum proper and the Basilica Iulia, that it then went N.E. and ran along the east side of the Forum, turning southwards eventually and passing under what is now the Arch of Titus. It was the thoroughfare through the Forum, and was connected with almost every movement of importance, sacred and secular, throughout the whole of Roman history.

Crossing it, we come to what was by far the largest edifice in the Forum, the Basilica Iulia. Nothing but the pavement and the basis of some of the columns now remains. It was begun in the year 54 b.c. and was dedicated, though not yet finished, by the dictator Julius Caesar on the day of the celebration of the victory over his Pompeian enemies at Thapsus in 46 b.c. Augustus completed it. On its destruction by fire, he built a much larger building, which retained the original name. It consisted of three parts-a vestibule on the Sacra Via side, the main hall with the galleries surrounding it, and the separated rooms situated behind it. The main hall, used as a law-court, etc., was 328 ft. long and 118 ft. wide (central nave 271 ft. by 59 ft.). Thirty-six pillars of brick covered with marble surrounded the central nave, and into this nave the galleries in the upper story opened. The roof above the central nave was constructed with a clerestory. Much timber was used in making the roof. Four tribunals could try cases at once in this large hall, so that there must have been partitions between them. It is on record that an orator with a specially powerful voice who was pleading before one tribunal received applause from the crowds attending in all four courts. Such buildings have a special interest for us, as it was on them that one at least of the earliest types of Christian church was modelled, and from them that it received the name Basilica, which is still current.

Crossing the Vicus Tuscus or Etrurian Street, which went at right angles to the Sacra Via, we come to the great Temple of Castor or the Castors. The three columns which still stand are at once one of the most conspicuous and one of the most beautiful monuments remaining in the Forum. The temple itself was one of the most ancient of Roman foundations, going back to about 500 b.c. The legend of the help given by the twin-brother gods to the Romans when in straits at the battle of Regillus is familiar to all. The temple was the repayment of a vow. Frequently reconstructed as it was, the remains we now know date from the beginning of the 2nd cent. a.d. under Trajan and Hadrian. It is quite a steep climb to get to the floor of the temple. This is of black and white mosaic laid in Tiberius’ time, and covered a century later with slabs of variegated marble. The testing of weights and measures was carried on in this temple.

We come next to the Lacus Iuturnae. At the foot of the Palatine the goddess who presided over the springs which bubble forth there was worshipped as Juturna, she who appears in Virgil’s aeneid as the sister of Turnus, the king of the Rutulians. The pool is about 6½ ft. deep and about 16 ft. 9 ins. square. It is fed by two springs. Various ornaments and other interesting objects have been dug out there.

In this neighbourhood are three (or rather two) connected buildings, all belonging to the same cult, that of Vesta. They are respectively the circular aedes Vestae and the Atrium Vestae, with the Domus Virginum Vestalium. The worship of Vesta was the worship of fire and the hearth. Fire is to the house a continual necessity, whether for the cooking of food or for the external warmth of the body, and it has for the city’s house the same importance as for the private house. Just as there were a fire and a hearth in every private house, so there were a fire and a hearth in the central part of every Latin town, belonging to the people itself. In the primitive community it was important that there should be a central fire belonging equally to all the citizens, where fire could be obtained for their houses, if their own fire had gone out. It must never be allowed to go out. Six noble ladies in Rome, vowed to single life, were appointed to guard this fire. Their connexion with the town religion, as well as their high birth, made them a power in Rome, and they were universally respected. The importance of this cult is reflected in the ruins surviving in the Forum. The Temple of Vesta was round, a less common shape than the square or rectangular, and the foundations alone survive. It stood upon a circular substructure 46 ft. in diameter and was ornamented by pilasters. The entrance faced exactly east. The altar was not quite in the middle. The other two buildings ought strictly to be regarded as one, the central Atrium Vestae, which was very large, being flanked on both sides by the living-rooms of the Vestals’ house. This house was roomy and splendid, but shut in like a cloister. The central part of the Atrium seems to have been laid out as a garden. There is much of interest about this place that must be passed over.

Right at the other side is the Temple of the god Antoninus and the goddess Faustina. On the death of the Empress Faustina in a.d. 141, the Senate, at the instance of her husband, who had been passionately devoted to her, elevated her among the gods, and vowed her a temple, the construction of which was begun almost at once. The name of Antoninus himself was added to that of his wife at his own death. The vestibule of the temple has six unfluted columns of EubCEan marble, 55 ft. 9 ins. high and 4 ft. 9 ins. in diameter. The shafts of the columns have numerous inscriptions on them. A church was built into this temple before the 12th century.

At the southern end of the Forum, on higher ground at the top of the Sacra Via, stands the Arch of Titus. This noble structure was decreed by the Senate and people to the Emperor Titus after the triumphant end of the war with Judaea and the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, but was not completed till after the end of his reign (a.d. 81). Piers at the sides, having been seriously injured in the course of repeated misuse of the building in the Middle Ages, were skilfully renewed in 1821. The chief features of the arch are the numerous reliefs with which it is adorned. One shows the Emperor in a chariot crowned by the goddess of Victory. Here also are the lictors carrying the bundles of rods. The most notable relief represents a section of the triumphal procession, where the treasures of the Temple at Jerusalem are being carried on litters; on the first the table of the shewbread and the trumpets of the year of Jubilee, on the second the seven-branched candlestick.

Such is a cursory review of the most notable surviving ruins in the Forum, belonging to the period of the Republic and the early Empire. The area is about 430 by 110 yards. If the grandeur of the ruins impresses one, the impression of decay, perhaps even shabbiness, is also vivid. But the setting in which the remains appear adds glory to them. Vegetation is not seriously interfered with, and in early April one may see growing wild there clover, vetch, cranesbill, geranium, violet, pink, cyclamen, periwinkle, borage, blue anemone, wallflower, birdsfoot trefoil, etc. On some of the ruined walls you will find, five weeks before English time, the wistaria, surely the most exquisitely delicate of all creepers. In the warm period of the day the lizards scurry hither and thither. Above, on the Palatine, wild mignonette abounds.

Beyond the Forum to the south is the Flavian Amphitheatre (commonly called the Colosseum ). It is one of the most wonderful ruined structures in the world. In this vast edifice, where many a victim bestial and human was ‘butchered to make a Roman holiday,’ there was room for very many thousands of spectators. The building is a beautiful oval in shape. It is upwards of 180 ft. in height and one-third of a mile in circumference. The exterior is ornamented by three styles of columns-the Doric on the lowest range, the Ionic in the middle, and the Corinthian above. The inside sloping part, where stone seats rose in tiers, was built by the most skilful use of the arch. Beneath the arena there is a vast number of rooms, and certain of these may have been used to house the victims till they were required for exhibition. The nearest modern analogy to the Roman amphitheatre is the Spanish bull-ring (plaza de toros) built on the same model. In both, the system of entrances and exits to the various parts of the house is admirably efficient. In both the sunlight has to be reckoned with, and on occasion in Rome a silk awning was drawn over the top. Towards the end of the 1st cent. of the Empire, tickets (nomismata) were often showered upon the populace from above (Stat. Sliuae, i. 6; Martial, passim). Each ticket bore on it the indication of a prize which the lucky catcher obtained on presenting it at an office in the city.

Law-courts. -Leaving this quarter of the city, we can now return to the northern end of the Forum. As the volume of legal business increased with the settled state of the Empire, now free from the curse of civil war, additional law-courts became necessary, and Emperors vied with one another in building them. North of the northern end of the Forum proper was built the Julian Forum, north of that the Augustan, and west of that the huge square forum of Trajan with double apses, bounded on its west side by the Basilica Ulpia. Yet this does not exhaust the number of these buildings. Behind the place where the temple of Antoninus and Faustina afterwards stood, was Vespasian’s Forum with the Temple of Peace. To connect this with the Augustan Forum just mentioned, Nerva built one which was called after him, but also called ‘Transitorium’ (the connecting Forum). Of all this wonderful group of glorious buildings very little remains.

On the north side of the Augustan Forum was the Temple of Mars Ultor. The three columns and architrave of this building, vowed by Augustus on the battle-field of Philippi and dedicated in 2 b.c., are all that remain to show how splendid a structure it was. The only portion of the Forum Transitorium that remains visible is a fragment of the eastern enclosing wall of the forum with two columns belonging to the colonnade half buried in the ground. The cornice and attic of the wall project above and behind these columns. On the attic is a figure of Minerva in relief. Trajan, in order to build his forum, had to cut away the S.W. spur which connects the Quirinal Hill with the Capitoline Mount. The earth was carted away and used to cover up an old cemetery.

Of all Trajan’s magnificent buildings nothing remains uncovered but the central portion-about half the area-of the Basilica Ulpia , with the Column of Trajan in a rectangular court at the further side of the Basilica. The column, which had a statue of Trajan on the top, is over 100 ft. high, and is said to be exactly the height of the spur of the hill which was cut away. It is notable as having a series of reliefs arranged spirally from the basis to the capital-namely, twenty-three blocks of Parian marble. The Senate and people of Rome erected the column in the year 113. The reliefs are of immense interest as depicting many scenes in the wars carried on by Trajan against the Dacians. This people lived in modern Transylvania and also south of the Carpathians in Wallachia and part of Roumania. In the time of the Flavian Emperors they became a serious menace to the Empire. By Trajan’s time their king had established a great military power. The second of Trajan’s wars with them resulted in the conquest of Dacia (105-106) and the reduction of it to the status of a Roman province. The reliefs are a contemporary historical document of value unsurpassed in the whole of Roman history. Apart from its historical value, the monument has been described as ‘the most important example of an attempt to create a purely Roman art filled with the Roman spirit.’

Of further ancient monuments one must simply select one or two for mention. Near the Tiber the vaulted channel of the Cloaca Maxima (Great Drain) can be observed. This construction first made habitable the marshy ground of the Forum and the land between the Capitoline and the Palatine. Near this is a circular building, once perhaps the Temple of Mater Matuta , now the Church of S. Maria del Sole. The superstructure is solid marble, and had a peristyle of twenty Corinthian columns, of which one is now lost. Some considerable distance N. of this, in what was once the Campus Martins, is the Pantheon , the most complete and the most impressive surviving monument of the earliest Imperial period. The original building, erected in 27 b.c., was burned in a.d. 80, restored by Domitian, struck by lightning and again burned in 110, and finally restored by Hadrian (120-124). It is his building we now see. It is a huge rotunda of the simplest proportions. The height of the cupola is the same as that of the drum upon which it rests, and the total height of the building is therefore the same as the diameter of the pavement. The dome is not solid concrete throughout. There are the beginnings of an articulated system of supports between which the weight is distributed. On either side of the vestibule are niches in which colossal statues of Agrippa (the builder) and Augustus once stood. The one opening in the roof admits sufficient light. The building, originally erected to all the divine protectors of the Julian house, has since a.d. 609 been used mostly as a church. What the Church, the great destroyer of Roman pagan buildings, did not ruin, it modified and used for its own purposes.

Literature.-The most minute works on the topography of ancient Rome are H. Jordan and C. Huelsen, Topographie der Stadt Romans , 2 vols., Berlin, 1871-1907; O. Richter, Topographic der Stadt Romans 2 (in Iwan von Müller’s Handbuch), Munich, 1901. The best work on the Forum is C. Huelsen, The Roman Forum, Eng. translation, Rome, 1906, 21909 (cf. his I più recenti scavi nel Foro Romano, Rome, 1910). Other works of value and interest are T. Ashby, in A Companion to Latin Studies, ed. Sandys, Cambridge, 1910, pp. 35-47, and W. Ramsay and R. A. Lanciani, A Manual of Roman Antiquities15, London, 1894 (especially as introductions); H. S. Jones, Classical Rome, do., 1910, and the fascinating works by R. A. Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, do., 1889, Pagan and Christian Rome, do., 1892, and Ruins and Excavations of Ancient Rome, do., 1897. The most convenient and up-to-date maps are in H. Kiepert and C. Huelsen, Formae Urbis Romae Antiquae: accedit Nomenclator Topographicus, Berlin, 1896, 21912.

A. Souter.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Rome. The famous capital of the ancient world, is situated on the Tiber, at a distance of about 15 miles from its mouth. The "seven hills,"  Revelation 17:9, which formed the nucleus of the ancient city, stand on the left bank. On the opposite side of the river rises the far higher side of the Janiculum. Here, from very early times, was a fortress, with a suburb beneath it, extending to the river. Modern Rome lies to the north of the ancient city, covering, with its principal portion, the plain to the north of the seven hills, once known as the Campus Martius, and on the opposite bank, extending over the low ground beneath the Vatican, to the north of the ancient Janiculum. Rome is not mentioned in the Bible except in the books of Maccabees and in three books of the New Testament, namely, the Acts, the Epistle to the Romans, and the Second Epistle to Timothy.

Jewish inhabitants. - The conquests of Pompey seem to have given rise to the first settlement of Jews at Rome. The Jewish king, Aristobulus, and his son formed part of Pompey's triumph, and many Jewish captives and immigrants were brought to Rome at that time. A special district was assigned to them, not on the site of the modern Ghetto, between the Capitol and the island of the Tiber, but across the Tiber. Many of these Jews were made freedmen. Julius Caesar showed them some kindness; they were favored also by Augustus, and by Tiberius, during the latter part of his reign. It is chiefly in connection with St. Paul's history that Rome comes before us in the Bible. In illustration of that history, it may be useful to give some account of Rome in the time of Nero, the "Caesar" to whom St. Paul appealed, and in whose reign, he suffered martyrdom.

The city in Paul's time. - The city at that time must be imagined as a large and irregular mass of buildings unprotected by an outer wall. It had long outgrown the old Servian wall; but the limits of the suburbs cannot be exactly defined. Neither the nature of the buildings nor the configuration of the ground was such as to give a striking appearance to the city viewed from without. "Ancient Rome had neither cupola nor camyanile," and the hills, never lofty or imposing, would present, when covered with the buildings and streets of a huge city, a confused appearance, like the hills of modern London, to which they have sometimes been compared.

The visit of St. Paul lies between two famous epochs in the history of the city, namely, its restoration by Augustus and its restoration by Nero. The boast of Augustus is well known, "that he found the city of brick, and left it of marble." Some parts of the city, especially the Forum and Campus Martius, must have presented a magnificent appearance, of which Niebur's "Lectures on Roman History," ii. 177, will give a general idea; but many of the principal buildings which attract the attention of modern travellers in ancient Rome were not yet built. The streets were generally narrow and winding, flanked by densely crowded lodging-houses, ( insulae ), of enormous height. Augustus found it necessary to limit their height to 70 feet.

St. Paul's first visit to Rome took place before the Neronian conflagration, but even after the restoration of the city which followed upon that event, many of the old evils continued. The population of the city has been variously estimated. Probably, Gibbon's estimate of 1,200,000 is nearest to the truth. One half of the population consisted, in all probability, of slaves. The larger part of the remainder consisted of pauper citizens supported, in idleness, by the miserable system of public gratuities. There appears to have been no middle class, and no free industrial population. Side by side with the wretched classes just mentioned was the comparatively small body of the wealthy nobility, of whose luxury and profligacy, we learn so much from the heathen writers of the time.

Such was the population which St. Paul would find at Rome at the time of his visit. We learn from the Acts of the Apostles that he was detained at Rome for "two whole years," "dwelling in his own hired house with a soldier that kept him,"  Acts 28:16;  Acts 28:30, to whom apparently, according to Roman custom, he was bound with a chain.  Acts 28:20;  Ephesians 6:20;  Philemon 1:13. Here he preached to all that came to him, no man forbidding him.  Acts 28:30-31. It is generally believed that on his "appeal to Caesar" he was acquitted, and after some time spent in freedom, was a second time imprisoned at Rome.

Five of Paul's Epistles, namely, those to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, that to Philemon, and the Second Epistle to Timothy, were, in all probability, written from Rome, the latter, shortly before his death;  2 Timothy 4:6; the others during his first imprisonment. It is universally believed that he suffered martyrdom at Rome.

The localities in and about Rome especially connected with the life of Paul are -

(1) The Appian Way, by which he approached Rome.  Acts 28:15. See Appii Forum .

(2) "The palace," or "Caesar's court." ( praetorium ).  Philemon 1:13. This may mean either the great camp of the Praetorian guards, which Tiberius established outside the walls on the northeast of the city, or, as seems more probable, a barrack attached to the imperial residence on the Palatine. There is no sufficient proof that the word "praetorium" was ever used to designate the emperors palace, though it is used for the official residence of a Roman governor.  John 18:28;  Acts 23:35. The mention of "Caesar's household,"  Philippians 4:22, confirms the notion that St. Paul's residence was in the immediate neighborhood of the emperor's house on the Palatine.

(3) The connection of other localities at home with St. Paul's name rests only on traditions of more or less probability. We may mention especially -

(4) The Mamertine prison, of Tullianum, built by Ancus Martius near the Forum. It still exists beneath the church of St. Giuseppe dei Falegnami. It is said that St. Peter and St. Paul were fellow prisoners here for nine months. This is not the place to discuss the question whether St. Peter was ever at Rome. It may be sufficient to state that though there is no evidence of such a visit in the New Testament, unless Babylon in  1 Peter 5:13 is a mystical name for Rome, yet early testimony and the universal belief of the early Church seems sufficient to establish the fact of his having suffered martyrdom there. See Peter . The story, however, of the imprisonment in the Mamertine prison seems inconsistent with  2 Timothy 4:11.

(5) The chapel on the Ostian road which marks the spot where the two apostles are said to, have separated on their way to martyrdom.

(6)The supposed scene of St. Paul's martyrdom, namely, the church of St. Paolo alle tre fontane on the Ostian road. To these may be added -

(7) The supposed scene of St. Peter's martyrdom, namely, the church of St. Pietro in Montorio, on the Janiculum.

(8) The chapel Domine que Vadis, on the Aypian road; the scene of the beautiful legend of our Lord's appearance to St. Peter, as he was escaping from martyrdom.

(9) The places where the bodies of the two apostles, after having been deposited first in the catacombs, are supposed to have been finally buried - that of St. Paul by the Ostian road, that of St. Peter beneath the dome of the famous Basilica which bears his name. We may add, as sites unquestionably connected with the Roman Christians of the apostolic age -

(10) The gardens of Nero in the Vatican. Not far from the spot where St. Peter's now stands. Here Christians, wrapped in the skins of beasts, were torn to pieces by dogs, or, clothed in inflammable robes, were burnt to serve as torches, during the midnight games. Others were crucified.

(11) The Catacombs. These subterranean galleries, commonly from 8 to 10 feet in height and from 4 to 6 in width, and extending for miles, especially in the neighborhood of the old Appian and Nomentan Ways, were unquestionably used as places of refuge, of worship and of burial by the early Christians. The earliest dated inscription in the catacombs is A.D. 71.

Nothing is known of the first founder of the Christian Church at Rome. Christianity may, perhaps, have been introduced into the city not long after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost , by the "strangers of Rome, who were then at Jerusalem,  Acts 2:10. It is clear that there were many Christians at Rome before St. Paul visited the city.  Romans 1:8;  Romans 1:13;  Romans 1:15;  Romans 15:20. The names of twenty-four Christians at Rome are given in the salutations at the end of the Epistle to the Romans. Linus, who is mentioned  2 Timothy 4:21, and Clement,  Philippians 4:3, are supposed to have succeeded St. Peter as bishops of Rome.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [4]

The church in Rome, to which Paul wrote the Roman letter from Corinth, was not founded by Paul. He had not yet been to Rome, but hoped to visit the city soon and with that church's help go on to preach in Spain ( Romans 15:22-24 ).

The church in Rome was probably founded by early converts, "visitors from Rome, " who had been converted on the Day of Pentecost ( Acts 2:10 ). It seems to have been composed of both Jews ( Romans 7:1,4 ) and Gentiles (11:13) when Paul wrote his letter. The letter addresses problems between the two groups.

Rome was typical of the urban metropolises of the day, filled with arches, streets, and aqueducts, crowded with buildings, and, unlike some others, punctuated with imported Egyptian obelisks. Its population is estimated to have been between six hundred thousand and one million in the first century. Rome was built on seven hills along the east bank of the Tiber River, twenty-two miles from its mouth. The heart of the city was the area between the Palatine and Esquiline Hills, occupied by the Roman Forum and the Imperial Fora. Adjacent to this area on the south was the Colosseum and to the west, between the Palatine and Aventine Hills, stood the Circus Maximus. Not a few ancient Christians lost their lives in this circus. Many impressive buildings, such as temples and bathhouses, were built surrounding this central area. These included the still beautifully preserved Pantheon.

During the period of the Republic, prior to first century b.c., many ancient buildings were restored or rebuilt and the Appian Way, the major road from Rome to points south culminating in Brindisium, was lined with tombs. Paul traveled a part of this road from Capua to Rome as he passed through Three Taverns and the Forum of Appius ( Acts 28:15 ). At the close of this period, Julius Caesar reconstructed the Roman Forum. It has been suggested that Paul probably heard his death sentence in the Basilica Julia at the western end of this forum.

In the period of the empire, the city was greatly expanded, beginning with the work of Augustus, in whose reign Christ was born. The Mausoleum of Augustus was erected in the Campus Martius on the east bank of the Tiber River as was the Pantheon, which was a temple dedicated to all the gods by Augustus's architect Agrippa, between 27,25 b.c.

After the fire of Rome in a.d. 64, which the first-century Roman historian Tacitus insisted was caused by Nero, this depraved emperor rebuilt a considerable portion of the city, including his two hundred-acre imperial palace, the Golden House, which contained a 120 feet high gilded bronze statue of himself as the Sun.

Vespasian began work in 72 on the Colosseum, which his son Titus completed as emperor in 80. It still stands as a landmark in Rome. The beautifully preserved Arch of Titus, giving access to the Forum Romanum from the south, was erected by Domitian and the Senate in honor of Titus in a.d. 81, just after his death. Faced with Pentelic marble, it contained one arch with depictions on the inside. Among other things these include the spoils of Jerusalem's temple being carried away—the minora, the table of showbread, the sacred trumpets, and tablets fastened on sticks.

Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome ( Acts 28:16-30 ) and years later was imprisoned again, awaiting execution ( 2 Timothy 4:6-8 ). It is possible that Paul was incarcerated in the Mammertine Prison, located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill. Since the sixteenth century it has been called San Pietro in Carcere, preserving a tradition that Peter was imprisoned here as well.

Four churches in Rome were possibly directly connected with the New Testament. The Church of St. Peter in the Vatican, on the west side of the Tiber River, has marked the spot where tradition dating to the second century places the burial of Simon Peter. Excavations have produced no conclusive evidence of the bones of Peter as some have claimed.

The Church of St. Clement located in the district of the Caelian Hill, east of the Colosseum, is built over a first-century house that is thought to have belonged to Clement of Rome, who was the probable author of a letter (1Clement) around a.d. 90 from the church in Rome to the church in Corinth.

This may be the person who is referred to by Paul in his letter from Rome to the Philippians (4:3). Irenaeus, in the late second century, wrote that Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome and were succeeded by Linus, Anacletus, and Clement . Jerome seems to have known this church.

The Church of Santa Pudenziana, located on the Via Urbana, between the Viminal and the Esquiline hills, may stand over the site of the house of Pudens, a person referred to by Paul in his last letter, written from Rome ( 2 Timothy 4:21 ). He was a Roman Christian who sent greetings to Timothy via Paul's letter. A tradition suggests that he may have been a senator in whose home Christians met and that the church may preserve the name of his daughter.

The largest church in Rome after St. Peter's is the Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls, located about a mile from the Gate of St. Paul, on the Via Ostiense. No real excavation has been done here, but the site is thought to be the location of the church built by Constantine to replace an oratory that had been built over the place where Lucina, a Roman matron, had buried Paul in her vineyard.

John McRay

Bibliography . M. Cary, A History of Rome Down to the Reign of Constantine  ; S. A. Cook, et al., eds., The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 10, The Augustan Empire 44 B.C.-A.D. 70  ; J. Finegan, The Archaeology of the New Testament: The Mediterranean World of the Early Christian Apostles  ; J. McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

ROME . The beginnings of Rome are shrouded in obscurity. The city was situated on the left bank of the Tiber, about 18 miles from its mouth. The original Rome was built on one hill only, the Palatine, but the neighbouring hills were successively included, and about the middle of the sixth century b.c., according to tradition, a wall was built to enclose the enlarged city. The whole circuit of this wall was about 5 miles, and it was pierced by nineteen gates. Within these was a large area of vacant spaces, which were gradually built on later, and at the beginning of the Empire (roughly middle of 1st cent. b.c.) not only was the city congested with buildings, but large areas without the wall were also covered with houses. The Roman Forum, an open space measuring over 300 ft. in length, and about 150 ft. in breadth, was the centre of political, legal, and commercial life. At one end was the rostra or platform, from which speeches were delivered to the public; at the other end were shops. It was flanked by the senate-house and law-courts. On the top of the Capitoline Hill was the Capitolium , or great temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and on the Palatine Hill the principal residence of the Emperor, and the Temple of Apollo, containing the public libraries, Greek and Latin. In the Imperial period four additional fora were built, devoted entirely to legal, literary, and religious purposes the Forum Iulium begun by Julius Cæsar, the Forum Augustum built by Augustus, the Forum Transitorium completed by Nerva, and the Forum Traiani built by Trajan the most splendid work of Imperial times. Various estimates of the population of Rome in the time of Christ have been given: 2,000,000 seems not unlikely. All nationalities in the Empire were represented among them many Jews, who were expelled by Claudius in a.d. 50, but returned at his death four years later. The slave population was very large.

The Romans began as one of the members of the Latin league, of which, having become presidents, they eventually became masters. After conquering Latium they were inevitably brought into conflict with the other races of Italy, over most of which they were sovereign about the middle of the 3rd cent. b.c. The extension of Roman territory steadily continued until, in the time of Christ, it included, roughly, Europe (except the British Isles, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Russia), the whole of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and the north-west of Africa.

The Roman State was at first ruled by kings, but these gave place to two rulers, known later as consuls . Their powers were gradually circumscribed by the devolution of some of their duties on other magistrates. The period of steady accession of territory was coincident with a bitter struggle between the patrician and the plebeian classes, both of which comprised free citizens. The contest between the orders lasted for about two centuries, and at the end of that period all the offices of State were equally open to both. This was not, however, the establishment of a real democracy, but the beginning of a struggle between the governing class and the mass of the people, which eventually brought the Republic to an end. The civil wars, which during the last century of its existence had almost destroyed it, had shown clearly that peace could be reached only under the rule of one man. The need of the time was satisfied by Augustus, who ruled as autocrat under constitutional forms: the appearance of a republic was retained, but the reality was gone, and the appearance itself gradually disappeared also. For the city of Rome the Empire was a time of luxury and idleness, but the provinces entered upon an era of progressive prosperity. The Emperor was responsible for the government of all provinces where an army was necessary (for instance, Syria), and governed these by paid deputies of his own. The older and more settled provinces were governed by officials appointed by the senate, but the Emperor had his financial interests attended to by procurators of his own even in these. Under the Empire the provinces were much more protected against the rapacity and cruelty of governors than in Republican times. The Emperors themselves stood for just as well as efficient administration, and most of them gave a noble example by strenuous devotion to administrative business.

The resident Romans in any province consisted of (1) the officials connected with the Government, who were generally changed annually; (2) members of the great financial companies and lesser business men, whose interests kept them there; (3) citizens of coloniœ (or military settlements), which were really parts of Rome itself set down in the provinces; (4) soldiers of the garrison and their officers; (5) distinguished natives of the province, who, for services rendered to the Roman State, were individually gifted with the citizenship . Such must have been one of the ancestors of St. Paul. The honour was not conferred on all the inhabitants of the Empire till 212 a.d., and in NT times those who possessed it constituted the aristocracy of the communities in which they lived.

The Romans have left a great legacy to the world. As administrators, lawyers, soldiers, engineers, architects, and builders they have never been surpassed. In literature they depended mainly on the Greeks, as in sculpture, music, painting, and medicine. In the arts they never attained more than a respectable standard.

A. Souter.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

Paul's first visit was between the restoration by Augustus, whose boast was "he had found the city of brick and left it of marble" (Suet., Aug. 28), and that by Nero after its conflagration. His residence was near the "barrack" ( Praetorium ) attached to the imperial palace on the Palatine ( Philippians 1:13). (See Palace .) Modern Rome lies N. of ancient Rome, covering the Campus Μartius , or "plain" to the N. of the seven hills; the latter ( Revelation 17:9), the nucleus of the old city, stand on the left bank. On the opposite side of the Tiber is the higher ridge, Janiculum , also the Vatican. The Mamertine prison where legend makes Peter and Paul to have been fellow prisoners for nine months is still under the church of Giuseppe Dei Falegnani ; but see  2 Timothy 4:11. (See Peter .)

The chapel on the Ostian road marks the legendary site of the two parting for martyrdom. The church of Ρaolo Alle Τre Fontane on the Ostian road is the alleged site of Paul's martyrdom. The church of Ρietro In Μontorio on the Janiculum is that of Peter's martyrdom. The chapel " Domine Quo Vadis? " on the Appian road marks where Peter in the legend met the Lord, as he was fleeing from martyrdom. (See Peter .) The bodies of the two apostles first lay in the Catacombs ("Cemeteries" Or Sleeping Places: Eusebius, H. E. Ii. 25) ; then Paul's body was buried by the Ostian road, Peter's beneath the dome of the famous Basilica called after him (Caius, in Eusebius, H. E. ii. 25). All this is mere tradition.

Real sites are the Colosseum and Nero's gardens in the Vatican near to Peter's; in them Christians wrapped in beasts' skins were torn by dogs, or clothed in inflammable stuffs were burnt as torches during the midnight games! Others were crucified (Tacitus, Annals xv. 44). The Catacombs , "subterranean galleries" (Whether Sand Pits Or Excavations Originally Is Uncertain) , from eight to ten feet, high, and four to six wide extending for miles, near the Appian and Nomentane ways, were used by the early Christians as places of refuge, worship, and burial. The oldest inscription is A.D. 71; thence to A.D. 300 less than thirty Christian inscriptions are known bearing dates, 4,000 undated are considered anterior to Constantine.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Rome ( Rôme ). In the New Testament times Rome was the capital of the empire in its greatest prosperity. Among its inhabitants were many Jews.  Acts 28:17. They had received the liberty of worship and other privileges from Cæsar, and lived in the district across the Tiber. We know that as early as a.d. 64, eight or ten years after a church was established there and addressed by Paul,  Romans 1:8;  Romans 16:19, the emperor Nero commenced a furious persecution against its members, which the emperor Domitian renewed a.d. 81, and the emperor Trajan carried out with implacable malice, a.d. 97-117. Seasons of suffering and repose succeeded each other alternately until the reign of Constantine, a.d. 325, when Christianity was established as the religion of the empire. Within the gardens of Nero in the Neronian persecution, a.d. 64, after the great conflagration, Christians, wrapped in skins of beasts, were torn by dogs, or, clothed in inflammable stuffs, were burnt as torches during the midnight games; others were crucified. In the colosseum, a vast theatre, games of various sorts and gladiatorial shows were held, and within its arena many Christians, during the ages of persecution, fought with wild beasts, and many were slain tor their faith. The catacombs are vast subterranean galleries (whether originally sand-pits or excavations is uncertain). Their usual height is from eight to ten feet, and their width from four to six feet, and they extend for miles, especially in the region of the Appian and Nomentane Ways. The catacombs were early used by the Christians as places of refuge, worship, and burial. More than four thousand inscriptions have been found in these subterranean passages, which are considered as belonging to the period between the reign of Tiberius and that of the emperor Constantine. Among the oldest of the inscriptions in the catacombs is one dated a.d. 71. Rome, as a persecuting power, is referred to by the "seven heads" and "seven mountains" in  Revelation 17:9, and is probably described under the name of "Babylon" elsewhere in the same hook.  Revelation 14:8;  Revelation 16:19;  Revelation 17:5;  Revelation 18:2;  Revelation 18:21.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

On the day of Pentecost there were in Jerusalem "strangers from Rome," who doubtless carried with them back to Rome tidings of that great day, and were instrumental in founding the church there. Paul was brought to this city a prisoner, where he remained for two years ( Acts 28:30,31 ) "in his own hired house." While here, Paul wrote his epistles to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, to Philemon, and probably also to the Hebrews. He had during these years for companions Luke and Aristarchus ( Acts 27:2 ), Timothy ( Philippians 1:1;  Colossians 1:1 ), Tychicus ( Ephesians 6 ::  21 ), Epaphroditus ( Philippians 4:18 ), and John Mark ( Colossians 4:10 ). (See Paul .)

Beneath this city are extensive galleries, called "catacombs," which were used from about the time of the apostles (one of the inscriptions found in them bears the date A.D. 71) for some three hundred years as places of refuge in the time of persecution, and also of worship and burial. About four thousand inscriptions have been found in the catacombs. These give an interesting insight into the history of the church at Rome down to the time of Constantine.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [9]

The well-known capital of Italy and the metropolis of the Roman empire. There were 'strangers' from Rome at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, where they would doubtless hear the gospel, some may have been converted, and carried the gospel back with them.  Acts 2:10 . Paul wrote his epistle to the saints at Rome about A.D. 58. He was a prisoner there in his own hired house for two years, about A.D. 61,62, being, as was usual, chained to a soldier. But the gospel spread thereby, and entered Caesar's household.  Philippians 1:13;  Philippians 4:22 .

Papal Rome is clearly spoken of, and its doom announced in  Revelation 17 and   Revelation 18 : "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth." See under Revelation

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

rōm .

I. Development Of The Republican Constituti ON

1. Original Roman State

2. The Struggle between Patricians and Plebeians

3. The Senate and Magistrates

4. Underlying Principles

II. Extension Of Roman Sovereignty

III. The Imperial Government

1. Imperial Authority

2. Three Classes of Citizens

IV. Roman Religion

1. Deities

2. Religious Decay

V. Rome And The Jews

1. Judea under Roman Procurators and Governors

2. Jewish Proselytism

VI. Rome And The Christians

1. Introduction of Christianity

2. Tolerance and Proscription

3. Persecution


Rome (Latin and Italian, Roma  ; Ῥώμη , Rhṓmē ): The capital of the Roman republic and empire, later the center of Lot Christendom, and since 1871 capital of the kingdom of Italy, is situated mainly on the left bank of the Tiber about 15 miles from the Mediterranean Sea in 41 degrees 53' 54 inches North latitude and 12 degrees 0' 12 inches longitude East of Greenwich.

It would be impossible in the limited space assigned to this article to give even a comprehensive outline of the ancient history of the Eternal City. It will suit the general purpose of the work to consider the relations of the Roman government and society with the Jews and Christians, and, in addition, to present a rapid survey of the earlier development of Roman institutions and power, so as to provide the necessary historical setting for the appreciation of the more essential subjects.

I. Development of the Republican Constitution.

1. Original Roman State:

The traditional chronology for the earliest period of Roman history is altogether unreliable, partly because the Gauls, in ravaging the city in 390 BC, destroyed the monuments which might have offered faithful testimony of the earlier period (Livy vi. 1). It is known that there was a settlement on the site of Rome before the traditional date of the founding (753 BC). The original Roman state was the product of the coalition of a number of adjacent clan-communities, whose names were perpetuated in the Roman genres, or groups of imaginary kindred, a historical survival which had lost all significance in the period of authentic history. The chieftains of the associated clans composed the primitive senate or council of elders, which exercised sovereign authority. But as is customary in the development of human society a military or monarchical regime succeeded the looser patriarchal or sacerdotal organs of authority. This second stage may be identified with the legendary rule of the Tarquins, which was probably a period of Etruscan domination. The confederacy of clans was welded into a homogeneous political entity, and society was organized for civic ends, upon a timocratic basis. The forum was drained and became a social, industrial and political center, and the Capitoline temple of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva (Etruscan pseudo-Hellenic deities) was erected as a common shrine for all the people. But above all the Romans are indebted to these foreign kings for a training in discipline and obedience which was exemplified in the later conception of magisterial authority signified by the term imperium .

The prerogatives of the kings passed over to the consuls. The reduction of the tenure of power to a single year and the institution of the principle of colleagueship were the earliest checks to the abuse of unlimited authority. But the true cornerstone of Roman liberty was thought to be the lexicon Valeria , which provided that no citizen should be put to death by a magistrate without being allowed the right of appeal to the decision of the assembly of the people.

2. The Struggle Between Patricians and Plebeians:

A period of more than 150 years after the establishment of the republic was consumed chiefly by the struggle between the two classes or orders, the patricians and plebeians. The former were the descendants of the original clans and constituted the populus , or body-politic, in a more particular sense. The plebeians were descendants of former slaves and dependents, or of strangers who had been attracted to Rome by the obvious advantages for industry and trade. They enjoyed the franchise as members of the military assembly ( comitia centuriata ), but had no share in the magistracies or other civic honors and emoluments, and were excluded from the knowledge of the civil law which was handed down in the patrician families as an oral tradition.

The first step in the progress of the plebeians toward political equality was taken when they wrested from the patricians the privilege of choosing representatives from among themselves, the tribunes, whose function of bearing aid to oppressed plebeians was rendered effective by the right of veto ( intercessio ), by virtue of which any act of a magistrate could be arrested. The codification of the law in the Twelve Tables was a distinct advantage to the lower classes, because the evils which they had suffered were largely due to a harsh and abusive interpretation of legal institutions, the nature of which had been obscure (see Roman Law ). The abrogation, directly thereafter, of the prohibition of intermarriage between the classes resulted in their gradual intermingling.

3. The Senate and Magistrates:

The kings had reduced the senate to the position of a mere advising body. But under the republican regime it recovered in fact the authority of which it was deprived in theory. The controlling power of the senate is the most significant feature of the republican government, although it was recognized by no statute or other constitutional document. It was due in part to the diminution of the power of the magistrates, and in part to the manner in which the senators were chosen. The lessening of the authority of the magistrates was the result of the increase in their number, which led not only to the curtailment of the actual prerogative of each, but also to the contraction of their aggregate independent influence. The augmentation of the number of magistrates was made necessary by the territorial expansion of the state and the elaboration of administration. But it was partly the result of plebeian agitation. The events of 367 Bc may serve as a suitable example to illustrate the action of these influences. For when the plebeians carried by storm the citadel of patrician exclusiveness in gaining admission to the consulship, the highest regular magistracy, the necessity for another magistrate with general competency afforded an opportunity for making a compensating concession to the patricians, and the praetorship was created, to which at first members of the old aristocracy were alone eligible. Under the fully developed constitution the regular magistracies were five in number, consulship, praetorship, aedileship, tribunate, and quaestorship, all of which were filled by annual elections.

Mention has been made of the manner of choosing the members of the senate as a factor in the development of the authority of the supreme council. At first the highest executive officers of the state exercised the right of selecting new members to maintain the senators at the normal number of three hundred. Later this function was transferred to the censors who were elected at intervals of five years. But custom and later statute ordained that the most distinguished citizens should be chosen, and in the Roman community the highest standard of distinction was service to the state, in other words, the holding of public magistracies. It followed, therefore, that the senate was in reality an assembly of all living ex-magistrates. The senate included, moreover, all the political wisdom and experience of the community, and so great was its prestige for these reasons, that, although the expression of its opinion ( senatus consultum ) was endowed by law with no compelling force, it inevitably guided the conduct of the consulting magistrate, who was practically its minister, rather than its president.

When the plebeians gained admission to the magistracies, the patriciate lost its political significance. But only the wealthier plebeian families were able to profit by this extension of privilege, inasmuch as a political career required freedom from gainful pursuits and also personal influence. These plebeian families readily coalesced with the patricians and formed a new aristocracy, which is called the nobilitas for the sake of distinction. It rested ultimately upon the foundation of wealth. The dignity conferred by the holding of public magistracies was its title to distinction. The senate was its organ. Rome was never a true democracy except in theory. During the whole period embraced between the final levelling of the old distinctions based upon blood (287 BC) and the beginning of the period of revolution (133 BC), the magistracies were occupied almost exclusively by the representatives of the comparatively limited number of families which constituted the aristocracy. These alone entered the senate through the doorway of the magistracies, and the data would almost justify us in asserting that the republican and senatorial government were substantially and chronologically identical.

The seeds of the political and social revolution were sown during the Second Punic War and the period which followed it. The prorogation of military authority established a dangerous precedent in violation of the spirit of the republic, so that Pub. Cornelius Scipio was really the forerunner of Marius, Julius Caesar, and Augustus. The stream of gold which found its way from the provinces to Rome was a bait to attract the cupidity of the less scrupulous senators, and led to the growth of the worst kind of professionalism in politics. The middle class of small farmers decayed for various reasons; the allurement of service in the rich but effete countries of the Orient attracted many. The cheapness of slaves made independent farming unprofitable and led to the increase in large estates; the cultivation of grain was partly displaced by that of the vine and olive, which were less suited to the habits and ability of the older class of farmers.

The more immediate cause of the revolution was the inability of the senate as a whole to control the conduct of its more radical or violent members. For as political ambition became more ardent with the increase in the material prizes to be gained, aspiring leaders turned their attention to the people, and sought to attain the fulfillment o.f their purposes by popular legislation setting at nought the concurrence of the senate, which custom had consecrated as a requisite preliminary for popular action. The loss of initiative by the senate meant the subversion of senatorial government. The senate possessed in the veto power of the tribunes a weapon for coercing unruly magistrates, for one of the ten tribunes could always be induced to interpose his veto to prohibit the passage of popular legislation. But this weapon was broken when Tib. Gracchus declared in 133 Bc that a tribune who opposed the wishes of the people was no longer their representative, and sustained this assertion.

4. Underlying Principles:

It would be foreign to the purpose of the present article to trace the vicissitudes of the civil strife of the last century of the republic. A few words will suffice to suggest the general principles which lay beneath the surface of political and social phenomena. Attention has been called to the ominous development of the influence of military commanders and the increasing emphasis of popular favor. These were the most important tendencies throughout this period, and the coalition of the two was fatal to the supremacy of the senatorial government. Marius after winning unparalleled military glory formed a political alliance with Glaucia and Saturninus, the leaders of the popular faction in the city in 100 BC. This was a turning-point in the course of the revolution. But the importance of the sword soon outweighed that of the populace in the combination which was thus constituted. In the civil wars of Marius and Sulla constitutional questions were decided for the first time by superiority of military strength exclusively. Repeated appeals to brute force dulled the perception for constitutional restraints and the rights of minorities. The senate had already displayed signs of partial paralysis at the time of the Gracchi. How rapidly its debility must have increased as the sword cut off its most stalwart members! Its power expired in the proscriptions, or organized murder of political opponents. The popular party was nominally triumphant, but in theory the Roman state was still an urban commonwealth with a single political center. The franchise could be exercised only at Rome. It followed from this that the actual political assemblies were made up largely of the worthless element which was so numerous in the city, whose irrational instincts were guided and controlled by shrewd political leaders, particularly those who united in themselves military ability and the wiles of the demagogue. Sulla, Crassus, Julius Caesar, Antony, and lastly Octavian were in effect the ancient counterpart of the modern political "boss." When such men realized their ultimate power and inevitable rivalry, the ensuing struggle for supremacy and for the survival of the fittest formed the necessary process of elimination leading naturally to the establishment of the monarchy, which was in this case the rule of the last survivor. When Octavian received the title Augustus and the proconsular power (27 BC), the transformation was accomplished.


The standard work on Roman political institutions is Mommsen and Marquardt, Handbuch der klassischen Altertumer . Abbott, Roman Political Institutions , Boston and London, 1901, offers a useful summary treatment of the subject.

II. Extension of Roman Sovereignty.

See Roman Empire And Christianity , I.


Only the most important general works on Roman history can be mentioned: Ihne, Romische Geschichte (2nd edition), Leipzig, 1893-96, English translation, Longmans, London, 1871-82; Mommsen, History of Rome , English translation by Dickson, New York, 1874; Niebuhr, History of Rome , English translation by Hare and Thirlwall, Cambridge, 1831-32; Pais, Storia 501 Roma , Turin, 1898-99; Ferrero, Greatness and Decline of Rome , English translation by Zimmern, New York, 1909.

III. The Imperial Government.

1. Imperial Authority:

Augustus displayed considerable tact in blending his own mastery in the state with the old institutions of the republican constitution. His authority, legally, rested mainly upon the tribunician power, which he had probably received as early as 36 BC, but which was established on a better basis in 23 BC, and the proconsular prerogative ( imperiurn proconsulare ), conferred in 27 BC. By virtue of the first he was empowered to summon the senate or assemblies and could veto the action of almost any magistrate. The second title of authority conferred upon him the command of the military forces of the state and consequently the administration of the provinces where troops were stationed, besides a general supervision over the government of the other provinces. It follows that a distinction was made (27 BC) between the imperial provinces which were administered by the emperor's representatives ( legati Augusti pro praetore ) and the senatorial provinces where the republican machinery of administration was retained. The governors of the latter were called generally proconsuls (see Province ). Mention is made of two proconsuls in the New Testament, Gallio in Achaia ( Acts 18:12 ) and Sergius Paulus in Cyprus ( Acts 13:7 ). It is instructive to compare the lenient and common-sense attitude of these trained Roman aristocrats with that of the turbulent local mobs who dealt with Paul in Asia Minor, Judea, or Greece (Tucker, Life in the Roman World of Nero and Paul , New York, 1910, 95).

2. Three Classes of Citizens:

Roman citizens were still divided into three classes socially, senatorial, equestrian, and plebeian, and the whole system of government harmonized with this triple division. The senatorial class was composed of descendants of senators and those upon whom the emperors conferred the latus clavus , or privilege of wearing the tunic with broad purple border, the sign of membership in this order. The quaestorship was still the door of admission to the senate. The qualifications for membership in the senate were the possession of senatorial rank and property of the value of not less than 1,000,000 sesterces (,000). Tiberius transferred the election of magistrates from the people to the senate, which was already practically a closed body. Under the empire senatus consulta received the force of law. Likewise the senate acquired judicial functions, sitting as a court of justice for trying important criminal cases and hearing appeals in civil cases from the senatorial provinces. The equestrian class was made up of those who possessed property of the value of 400,000 sesterces or more, and the privilege of wearing the narrow purple band on the tunic. With the knights the emperors filled many important financial and administrative positions in Italy and the provinces which were under their control.

IV. Roman Religion.

1. Deities:

(1) The Roman religion was originally more consistent than the Greek, because the deities as conceived by the unimaginative Latin genius were entirely without human character. They were the influences or forces which directed the visible phenomena of the physical world, whose favor was necessary to the material prosperity of mankind. It would be incongruous to assume the existence of a system of theological doctrines in the primitive period. Ethical considerations entered to only a limited extent into the attitude of the Romans toward their gods. Religion partook of the nature of a contract by which men pledged themselves to the scrupulous observance of certain sacrifices and other ceremonies, and in return deemed themselves entitled to expect the active support of the gods in bringing their projects to a fortunate conclusion. The Romans were naturally polytheists as a result of their conception of divinity. Since before the dawn of science there was no semblance of unity in the natural world, there could be no unity in heaven. There must be a controlling spirit over every important object or class of objects, every person, and every process of nature. The gods, therefore, were more numerous than mankind itself.

(2) At an early period the government became distinctly secular. The priests were the servants of the community for preserving the venerable aggregation of formulas and ceremonies, many of which lost at an early period such spirit as they once possessed. The magistrates were the true representatives of the community in its relationship with the deities both in seeking the divine will in the auspices and in performing the more important sacrifices.

(3) The Romans at first did not make statues of their gods. This was partly due to lack of skill, but mainly to the vagueness of their conceptions of the higher beings. Symbols sufficed to signify their existence, a spear, for instance, standing for Mars. The process of reducing the gods to human form was inaugurated when they came into contact with the Etruscans and Greeks. The Tarquins summoned Etruscan artisans and artists to Rome, who made from terra cotta cult statues and a pediment group for the Capitoline temple.

The types of the Greek deities had already been definitely established when the Hellenic influence in molding Roman culture became predominant. When the form of the Greek gods became familiar to the Romans in works of sculpture, they gradually supplanted those Roman deities with which they were nominally identified as a result of a real or fancied resemblance. See Greece , Religion In .

(4) The importation of new gods was a comparatively easy matter. Polytheism is by its nature tolerant because of its indefiniteness. The Romans could no more presume to have exhaustive knowledge of the gods than they could pretend to possess a comprehensive acquaintance with the universe. The number of their gods increased of necessity as human consciousness of natural phenomena expanded. Besides, it was customary to invite the gods of conquered cities to transfer their abode to Rome and favor the Romans in their undertakings. But the most productive source for religious expansion was the Sibylline Books. See Apocalyptic Literature , V. This oracular work was brought to Rome from Cumae, a center of the cult of Apollo. It was consulted at times of crisis with a view to discover what special ceremonies would secure adequate divine aid. The forms of worship recommended by the Sibylline Books were exclusively Greek As early as the 5th century Bc the cult of Apollo was introduced at Rome. Heracles and the Dioscuri found their way thither about the same time. Later Italian Diana was merged with Artemis, and the group of Ceres, Liber, and Libera were identified with foreign Demeter, Dionysus, and Persephone. Thus Roman religion became progressively Hellenized. By the close of the Second Punic War the greater gods of Greece had all found a home by the Tiber, and the myriad of petty local deities who found no counterpart in the celestial beings of Mt. Olympus fell into oblivion. Their memory was retained by the antiquarian lore of the priests alone. See Roman Empire And Christianity , III, 1.

2. Religious Decay:

Roman religion received with the engrafted branches of Greek religion the germs of rapid decay, for its Hellenization made Roman religion peculiarly susceptible to the attack of philosophy. The cultivated class in Greek society was already permeated with skepticism. The philosophers made the gods appear ridiculous. Greek philosophy gained a firm foothold in Rome in the 2nd century BC, and it became customary a little later to look upon Athens as a sort of university town where the sons of the aristocracy should be sent for the completion of their education in the schools of the philosophers. Thus at the termination of the republican era religious faith had departed from the upper classes largely, and during the turmoil of the civil wars even the external ceremonies were often abandoned and many temples fell into ruins. There had never been any intimate connection between formal religion and conduct, except when the faith of the gods was invoked to insure the fulfillment of sworn promises.

Augustus tried in every way to restore the old religion, rebuilding no fewer than 82 temples which lay in ruins at Rome. A revival of religious faith did occur under the empire, although its spirit was largely alien to that which had been displayed in the performance of the official cult. The people remained superstitious, even when the cultivated classes adopted a skeptical philosophy. The formal religion of the state no longer appealed to them, since it offered nothing to the emotions or hopes. On the other hand the sacramental, mysterious character of oriental religions inevitably attracted them. This is the reason why the religions of Egypt and Syria spread over the empire and exercised an immeasurable influence in the moral life of the people. The partial success of Judaism and the ultimate triumph of Christianity may be ascribed in part to the same causes.

In concluding we should bear in mind that the state dictated no system of theology, that the empire in the beginning presented the spectacle of a sort of religious chaos where all national cults were guaranteed protection, that Roman polytheism was naturally tolerant, and that the only form of religion which the state could not endure was one which was equivalent to an attack upon the system of polytheism as a whole, since this would imperil the welfare of the community by depriving the deities of the offerings and other services in return for which their favor could be expected.


Marquardt, Romische Staatsverwaltung , III, 3, "Das Sacralwesen"; Wissowa, Religion u. Kultus der Romer , Munich, 1902; Boissier, La religion romaine , Paris, 1884.

V. Rome and the Jews.

1. Judea Under Roman Procurators and Governors:

Judaea became a part of the province of Syria in 63 Bc (Josephus, Bj , vii, 7), and Hyrcanus, brother of the last king, remained as high priest ( archiereús kaí ethnárches  ; Josephus, Ant. , Xiv , iv, 4) invested with judicial as well as sacerdotal functions. But Antony and Octavius gave Palestine (40 BC) as a kingdom to Herod, surnamed the Great, although his rule did not become effective until 3 years later. His sovereignty was upheld by a Roman legion stationed at Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. , XV, iii, 7), and he was obliged to pay tribute to the Roman government and provide auxiliaries for the Roman army (Appian, Bell. 104 ., v. 75). Herod built Caesarea in honor of Augustus (Josephus, Ant. , XV, ix, 6), and the Roman procurators later made it the seat of government. At his death in 4 Bc the kingdom was divided between his three surviving sons, the largest portion falling to Archelaus, who ruled Judea, Samaria and Idumaea with the title ethnarchēs (Josephus, Ant. , Xvii , xi, 4) until 6 AD, when he was deposed and his realm reduced to the position of a province. The administration by Roman procurators (see Procurator ), which was now established, was interrupted during the period 41-44 AD, when royal authority was exercised by Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, over the lands which had been embraced in the kingdom of his grandfather (Josephus, Ant. , Xix , viii, 2), and, after 53 AD, Agrippa 2 ruled a considerable part of Palestine (Josephus, Ant. , XX, vii, 1; viii, 4).

After the fall of Jerusalem and the termination of the great revolt in 70 AD, Palestine remained a separate province. Henceforth a legion ( legio 10 Fretensis ) was added to the military forces stationed in the land, which was encamped at the ruins of Jerusalem. Consequently, imperial governors of praetorian rank ( legati Augusti pro praetore ) took the place of the former procurators (Josephus, Bj , VII, i, 2,3; Dio Cassius lv. 23).

Several treaties are recorded between the Romans and Jews as early as the time of the Maccabees (Josephus, Ant. , Xii , x, 6; Xiii , ix, 2; viii, 5), and Jews are known to have been at Rome as early as 138 BC. They became very numerous in the capital after the return of Pompey who brought back many captives (see Libertines ). Cicero speaks of multitudes of Jews at Rome in 58 Bc ( Pro Flacco 28), and Caesar was very friendly toward them (Suetonius Caesar 84). Held in favor by Augustus, they recovered the privilege of collecting sums to send to the temple (Philo Legatio ad Caium 40). Agrippa offered 100 oxen in the temple when visiting Herod (Josephus, Ant. , Xvi , ii, 1), and Augustus established a daily offering of a bull and two lambs. Upon the whole the Roman government displayed noticeable consideration for the religious scruples of the Jews. They were exempted from military service and the duty of appearing in court on the Sabbath. Yet Tiberius repressed Jewish rites in Rome in 19 Ad (Suetonius Tiberius 36) and Claudius expelled the Jews from the city in 49 Ad (Suetonius Claudius 25); but in both instances repression was not of long duration.

2. Jewish Proselytism:

The Jews made themselves notorious in Rome in propagating their religion by means of proselytizing (Horace Satires i. 4,142; i. 9,69; Juvenal xiv. 96; Tacitus Hist . v. 5), and the literature of the Augustan age contains several references to the observation of the Sabbath (Tibullus i. 3; Ovid Ars amatoria i. 67,415; Remedium amoris 219). Proselytes from among the Gentiles were not always required to observe all the prescriptions of the Law. The proselytes of the Gate ( sebómenoi ), as they were called, renounced idolatry and serious moral abuses and abstained from the blood and meat of suffocated animals. Among such proselytes may be included the centurion of Capernaum (  Luke 7:5 ), the centurion Cornelius ( Acts 10:1 ), and the empress Poppea (Josephus, Ant. , XX, viii, 11; Tacitus Ann . xvi. 6).

On "proselytes of the Gate," Gjv 4 , III, 177, very properly corrects the error in Hjp . These "Gate" people were not proselytes at all; they refused to take the final step that carried them into Judaism - namely, circumcision (Ramsay, The Expositor , 1896, p. 200; Harnack, Expansion of Christianity , I, 11). See Devout; Proselytes .

Notwithstanding the diffusion of Judaism by means of proselytism, the Jews themselves lived for the most part in isolation in the poorest parts of the city or suburbs, across the Tiber, near the Circus Maximus, or outside the Porta Capena. Inscriptions show that there were seven communities, each with its synagogue and council of elders presided over by a gerusiarch. Five cemeteries have been discovered with many Greek, a few Latin, but no Hebrew inscriptions.


Ewald, The Hist of Israel , English translation by Smith, London, 1885; Renan, Hist of the People of Israel , English translation, Boston, 1896; Schurer, The Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ , English translation by MacPherson, New York.

VI. Rome and the Christians.

1. Introduction of Christianity:

The date of the introduction of Christianity into Rome cannot be determined. A C hristian community existed at the time of the arrival of Paul ( Acts 28:15 ), to which he had addressed his Epistle a few years before (58 AD). It is commonly thought that the statement regarding the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius on account of the commotion excited among them by the agitation of Chrestus (Suetonius Claudius 25: Iudaeos impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantis Roma expulit ), probably in 49 AD, is proof of the diffusion of Christian teaching in Rome, on the ground that Chrestus is a colloquial, or mistaken, form of Christus. It has been suggested that the Christian faith was brought to the capital of the empire by some of the Romans who were converted at the time of Pentecost ( Acts 2:10 ,  Acts 2:41 ). It would be out of place to discuss here the grounds for the traditional belief that Peter was twice in Rome, once before 50 Ad and again subsequent to the arrival of Paul, and that together the two apostles established the church there. Our present concern is with the attitude of the government and society toward Christianity, when once established. It may suffice, therefore, to remind the reader that Paul was permitted to preach freely while nominally in custody ( Philippians 1:13 ), and that as early as 64 Ad the Christians were very numerous (Tacitus Ann . xv. 44: multitudo ingens ).

2. Tolerance and Proscription:

At first the Christians were not distinguished from the Jews, but shared in the toleration, or even protection, which was usually conceded to Judaism as the national religion of one of the peoples embraced within the empire. Christianity was not legally proscribed until after its distinction from Judaism was clearly perceived. Two questions demand our attention: (1) When was Christianity recognized as distinct from Judaism? (2) When was the profession of Christianity declared a crime? These problems are of fundamental importance in the history of the church under the Roman empire.

(1) If we may accept the passage in Suetonius cited above ( Claudius 25) as testimony on the vicissitudes of Christianity, we infer that at that time the Christians were confused with the Jews. The account of Pomponia Graecina, who was committed to the jurisdiction of her husband (Tacitus Ann . xiii. 32) for adherence to a foreign belief ( superstitionis externae rea ), is frequently cited as proof that as early as 57 Ad C hristianity had secured a convert in the aristocracy. The characterization of the evidence in this case by the contemporary authority from whom Tacitus has gleaned this incident would apply appropriately to the adherence to Judaism or several oriental religions from the point of view of Romans of that time; for Pomponia had lived in a very austere manner since 44 AD. Since there is some other evidence that Pomponia was a Christian, the indefinite account of the accusation against her as mentioned by Tacitus is partial proof that Christianity had not as yet been commonly recognized as a distinct religion (Marucchi, Elements d'archeologie chretienne I, 13). At the time of the great conflagration in 64 Ad the populace knew of the Christians, and Nero charged them collectively with a plot to destroy the city (Tacitus Ann. xv. 44). The recognition of the distinctive character of Christianity had already taken place at this time. This was probably due in large measure to the circumstances of Paul's sojourn and trial in Rome and to the unprecedented number of converts made at that time. The empress Poppea, who was probably an adherent of Judaism (Josephus, Ant. , XX, viii), may have enlightened the imperial court regarding the heresy of the Christians and their separation from the parent stock.

(2) In attempting to determine approximately the time at which Christianity was placed under the official ban of the imperial government, it will be convenient to adopt as starting-points certain incontestable dates between which the act of prosecution must have been issued. It is clear that at the time of the great conflagration (64 AD), the profession of Christianity was not a ground for criminal action. Paul had just been set at liberty by decree of the imperial court (compare  2 Timothy 4:17 ). Moreover, the charge against the Christians was a plot to burn the city, not adherence to a proscribed religion, and they were condemned, as it appears, for an attitude of hostility toward the human race (Tacitus Ann. xv. 44). While governor of Bithynia (circa 112 AD), Pliny the younger addressed Trajan in a celebrated letter (x.96) asking advice to guide his conduct in the trial of many persons who were accused as Christians, and inquiring particularly whether Christianity in itself was culpable, or only the faults which usually accompanied adherence to the new faith. The reply of the emperor makes quite plain the fundamental guilt at that time of adherence to Christianity, and it supposes a law already existing against it (x.97). It follows, therefore, that the law against Christianity which was the legal basis for persecution must have been issued between the conflagration in 64 Ad and Pliny's administration of Bithynia.

We cannot define the time of this important act of legislation more closely with absolute certainty, although evidence is not wanting for the support of theories of more or less apparent probability. Tradition ascribes a general persecution to the reign of Domitian, which would imply that Christianity was already a forbidden religion at that time. Allusions in Revelation (as  Revelation 6:9 ), the references to recent calamities in Rome by Clement in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Ad Cor.), the condemnation of Acilius Glabrio (Dio Cassius lxvii. 13), a man of consular rank, together with the emperor's cousin Flavius Clemens (Dio Cassius, xiii) and Flavia Domitilla and many others on the charge of atheism and Jewish customs (95 AD), are cited as evidence for this persecution. The fact that a number of persons in Bithynia abandoned Christianity 20 years before the judicial investigation of Pliny (Pliny x. 96) is of some importance as corroborative evidence.

But there are grounds worthy of consideration for carrying the point of departure back of Domitian. The letter of Peter from Babylon (Rome ?) to the Christians in Asia Minor implies an impending persecution ( 1 Peter 4:12-16 ). This was probably in the closing years of the reign of Nero. Allard cleverly observes ( Histoire des persecutions , 61) that the mention of the Neronian persecution of the Christians apart from the description of the great fire in the work of Suetonius (Ner. 16), amid a number of acts of legislation, is evidence of a general enactment, which must have been adopted at the time of, or soon after, the proceedings which were instituted on the basis of the charge of arson. Upon the whole theory that the policy of the imperial government was definitely established under Nero carries with it considerable probability (compare Sulpitius Severus, Chron ., ii. 41).

3. Persecution:

Although the original enactment has been lost the correspondence of Pliny and Trajan enables us to formulate the imperial policy in dealing with the Christians during the 2nd century. Adherence to Christianity was in itself culpable. But proceedings were not to be undertaken by magistrates on their own initiative; they were to proceed only from charges brought by voluntary accusers legally responsible for establishing the proof of their assertions. Informal and anonymous information must be rejected. Penitence shown in abjuring Christianity absolved the accused from the legal penalty of former guilt. The act of adoring the gods and the living emperor before their statues was sufficient proof of non-adherence to Christianity or of repentance.

The attitude of the imperial authorities in the 3century was less coherent. The problem became more complicated as Christianity grew. Persecution was directed more especially against the church as an organization, since it was believed to exert a dangerous power. About 202 AD, Septimius Severus issued a decree forbidding specifically conversion to Judaism or Christianity (Spartianus, Severus , 17), in which he departed from the method of procedure prescribed by Trajan ( conquirendi non sunt ), and commissioned the magistrates to proceed directly against suspected converts. At this time the Christians organized funerary associations for the possession of their cemeteries, substituting corporative for individual ownership, and it would appear that under Alexander Severus they openly held places of worship in Rome (Lampridius, Alexander Severus , 22,49). The emperor Philip (244-49) is thought to have been a Christian at heart (Eusebius, He , VI, 34). A period of comparative calm was interrupted by the persecution under Decius (250-51 AD), when the act of sacrifice was required as proof of non-adherence to Christianity. Several certificates testifying to the due performance of this rite have been preserved.

Under Valerian (257 AD) the Christian organizations were declared illegal and the cemeteries were sequestrated. But an edict in 260 Ad restored this property (Eusebius, VII, 13). A short persecution under Aurelian (274 AD) broke the long period of calm which extended to the first edict of persecution of Diocletian (February 24,303). The Christians seem to have gained a sort of prescriptive claim to exist, for Diocletian did not at first consider them guilty of a capital crime. He sought to crush their organization by ordering the cessation of assemblies, the destruction of churches and sacred books, and abjuration under pain of political and social degradation. (Lactantius, De Morte Persecutorum , x.11,12, 13; Eusebius, VIII, 2; IX, 10). Later he ordered the arrest of all the clergy, who were to be put to death unless they renounced the faith (Eusebius, VIII, 6). Finally the requirement of an act of conformity in sacrificing to the gods was made general. This final persecution, continuing in an irregular way with varying degrees of severity, terminated with the defeat of Maxentius by Constantine (October 29,312). The Edict of Milan issued by Constantine and Licinius the following year established toleration, the restoration of ecclesiastical property and the peace of the church. See Roman Empire And Christianity , Iii., Iv., V


Allard, Histoire des persecutions , Paris, 1903; Le christianisme et l'empire romain , Paris, 1903; Duchesne, Histoire ancienne de l'eglise , Paris, 1907 (English translation); Marucchi, Elements d'archeologie chretienne , Paris, 1899-1902; Hardy, Christianity and the Roman Government , London, 1894; Renan, L'eglise chretienne , Paris, 1879; Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire , London, 1893.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Rome, the famous capital of the Western World, and the present residence of the Pope, stands on the River Tiber, about fifteen miles from, its mouth, in the plain of what is now called the Campagna, in lat. 41° 54′ N., long. 12° 28′ E. The country around the city is not a plain, but a sort of undulating table-land, crossed by hills, while it sinks towards the south-west to the marshes of Maremma, which coast the Mediterranean. In ancient geography the country, in the midst of which Rome lay, was termed Latium, which, in the earliest times, comprised within a space of about four geographical square miles the country lying between the Tiber and the Numicius, extending from the Alban Hills to the sea, having for its chief city Laurentum. Here, on the Palatine Hill, was the city of Rome founded, but it was extended, by degrees, so as to take in six other hills, at the foot of which ran deep valleys that, in early times, were in part overflowed with water, while the hill sides were covered with trees. The site occupied by modern Rome is not precisely the same as that which was at any period covered by the ancient city: the change of locality being towards the north-west, the city has partially retired from the celebrated hills. About two-thirds of the area within the walls (traced by Aurelian) are now desolate, consisting of ruins, gardens, and fields, with some churches, convents, and other scattered habitations. Originally the city was a square mile in circumference. The ground on which the modern city is built covers about one thousand acres, or one mile and a half square; its walls form a circuit of fifteen miles, and embrace an area of three thousand acres. Three of the seven hills are covered with buildings, but are only thinly inhabited. The greatest part of the population is now comprised within the limits of the Campus Martius. The ancient city, however, was more than treble the size of the modern, for it had very extensive suburbs beyond the walls. The population in 1836 consisted of 153,078, exclusive of Jews, who amount to 3700.

The connection of the Romans with Palestine caused Jews to settle at Rome in considerable numbers. On one occasion, in the reign of Tiberius, when the Jews were banished from the city by the emperor, for the misconduct of some members of their body, not fewer than four thousand enlisted in the Roman army which was then stationed in Sardinia. From Philo also it appears that the Jews in Rome were allowed the free use of their national worship, and generally the observance of their ancestral customs. Then, as now, the Jews lived in a part of the city appropriated to themselves, where with a zeal for which the nation had been sometime distinguished, they applied themselves with success to proselytizing. They appear, however, to have been a restless colony; for when, after their expulsion under Tiberius, numbers had returned to Rome, they were again expelled from the city by Claudius. It is probable that the Christians, as well as the Jews, properly so called, were included in this expulsion.

The question, Who founded the church at Rome? is one of some interest as between Catholic and Protestant. The former assigns the honor to Peter, and on this grounds an argument in favor of the claims of the papacy. There is, however, no sufficient reason for believing that Peter was ever even so much as within the walls of Rome.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [12]

Since 1871 capital of the modern kingdom of Italy ( q. v .), on the Tiber, 16 m. from its entrance into the Tyrrhenian Sea; legend ascribes its foundation to Romulus in 753 B.C., and the story of its progress, first as the chief city of a little Italian kingdom, then of a powerful and expanding republic (510 B.C. to 30 B.C.), and finally of a vast empire, together with its decline and fall in the 5th century (476 A.D.), before the advancing barbarian hordes, forms the most impressive chapter in the history of nations; as the mother-city of Christendom in the Middle Ages, and the later capital of the Papal States ( q. v .) and seat of the Popes, it acquired fresh glory; it remains the most interesting city in the world; is filled with the sublime ruins and monuments of its pagan greatness and the priceless art-treasures of its mediæval period; of ruined buildings the most imposing are the Colosseum (a vast amphitheatre for gladiatorial shows) and the Baths of Caracalla (accommodated 1600 bathers); the great aqueducts of its Pre-Christian period still supply the city with water from the Apennines and the Alban Hills; the Aurelian Wall (12 m.) still surrounds the city, enclosing the "seven hills," the Palatine, Capitoline, Aventine, &c., but suburbs have spread beyond; St. Peter's is yet the finest church in the world; the Popes have their residence in the Vatican; its manufactures are inconsiderable, and consist chiefly of small mosaics, bronze and plaster casts, prints, trinkets, &c.; depends for its prosperity chiefly on the large influx of visitors, and the court expenditure of the Quirinal and Vatican, and of the civil and military officials.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rome'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.