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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


The name was originally confined to the extreme southern point of the Italian peninsula. For the Greeks of the 5th cent. b.c. it denoted the tract along the shore of the Tarentine Gulf, as far as Metapontum, and thence across to the Gulf of Posidonia. By the time of Polybius the name had been extended to the whole peninsula, for he speaks of Hannibal crossing the Alps into Italy, and of the plains of the Padus as part of Italy ( Hist. ii. 14, iii. 39, 54). At a later time, it is true, Gallia Cisalpina was officially regarded as part of Caesar’s province, and therefore not strictly in Italy, which he did not enter till he crossed the Rubicon; but from the Augustan Age onward the word had its present-day meaning. Scarcely any country has more clearly-marked and obvious boundaries.

The Latin language was inscribed upon the Cross of Christ, but none of the books of the NT were written in it. The founders of Christianity were not so greatly influenced by Italian as by Hebraic and Hellenic ideals. Nor did Italy herself dream that she had any kind of evangel for the East which she conquered. Her plain task was to give and maintain law and order everywhere, and her Imperial ideal certainly found its counterpart in the apostolic conception of a world-wide Church. But her own spiritual mission, so far as she was conscious of having one, was merely to be the apostle of Hellenism, of which she had for some centuries been the disciple.

‘The desire to become at least internally Hellenised, to become partakers of the manners and the culture, of the art and the science of Hellas, to be-in the footsteps of the great Macedonian-shield and sword of the Greeks of the East, and to be allowed further to civilise this East not after an Italian but after a Hellenic fashion-this desire pervades the later centuries of the Roman republic and the better times of the empire with a power and an ideality which are almost no less tragic than that political toil of the Hellenes failing to attain its goal’ (T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire 2, Eng. translation, 1909, i. 253).

Some of the cities of Italy-certainly Rome and Puteoli, and probably others, though there is no definite information on the point-had felt the presence of Judaism before they were offered Christianity. Josephus mentions the Jewish colony of Puteoli in his story of the Jewish impostor who claimed to be Alexander the son of Herod (circa, about4 b.c.). ‘He was also no fortunate, upon landing, as to bring the Jews that were there under the same delusion’ ( Ant. xvii. xii. 1), and ‘he got very large presents’ from them ( Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. vii. 1); but Augustus himself was not so easily deceived ( Ant. xvii. xii. 2). Over half a century later, the first Puteolan Christians, whose fellowship St. Paul enjoyed for a week on his way to Rome ( Acts 28:14), were evidently drawn from that same Jewish community and its proselytes. The presence of a great Jewish colony in Rome, dating from the time when Pompey brought his prisoners of war from Jerusalem, is abundantly attested by Latin historians and poets. It is equally certain that they made many proselytes. The swindling of Fulvia, ‘a woman of great dignity, and one that had embraced the Jewish religion’ ( Ant. xviii. iii. 5), by another Jew of the baser type was the signal for an outburst against the whole colony in the time of Tiberius (Tac. Ann. ii. 85; Suet. Tiber. 36). According to  Acts 18:2 Claudius went the length of expelling all the Jews from Rome (cf. Suet. Claud. 25). Even if his decree only amounted to the interdicting of their assemblies (Dio Cassius, lx. 6), this milder measure would doubtless cause a great exodus from the city. Some of the exiles merely emigrated to the neighbourhood, perhaps to Aricia (for the evidence sec E. Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] ii, ii. [1885] 238), but others went abroad. This was the occasion of the journey of Aquila and Priscilla ‘from Italy’ to Corinth ( Acts 18:2).

Italy was the destination of the prisoner Paul when he made his appeal to Caesar ( Acts 27:1). The narrative of his journey from point to point-Caesarea, Myra, Melita, Puteoli, and then overland by the oldest and most famous of Roman roads, the Via Appia -illustrates the fact that ‘most of the realms of the ancient Roman Empire had better connections than ever afterwards or even now.’ Dangers could not be wholly avoided, but ‘travelling … was easy, swift, and secure to a degree unknown until the beginning of the nineteenth century’ (L. Friedländer, Roman Life and Manners under the Early Empire , 1908, i. 268).

In  Hebrews 13:24 ‘they of Italy’ (οἱ ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰταλίας) join the writer in sending salutations. οἱ ἀπό denotes persons who have come from the place indicated (cf.  Matthew 15:1,  Acts 6:9;  Acts 10:23). It is a mistake to imagine that the writer was himself in Italy, and that he was thinking of the Italian Christians around him there. On the contrary, the phrase implies that the author was absent from and writing to Italy, while there were in his company natives of Italy who had embraced Christianity, and who desired to be remembered to their believing compatriots in some part of the home-land. It is not an equally safe, but still a plausible, conjecture that Italy-probably Rome-was the writer’s own home (see articleHebrews, Epistle to the).

James Strahan.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Italy . This word varied in sense from time to time. It first signified only the Southern (the Greek) part of the peninsula; later it included all the country south of the Lombard plain; and finally, before the time of Christ, it had come to bear the meaning which it has now. Its central position in the Mediterranean, the conformation of its coast, and the capabilities of its soil under proper cultivation, fitted it to be the home and centre of a governing race. In the 1st cent. a.d. there was constant communication between the capital Rome and every part of the Empire, by well-recognized routes. Among the routes to the E., which mainly concern the NT student, was that from Rome along the W. coast of Italy to Campania, where it crossed the country and eventually reached Brundisium. From the harbour there the traveller either sailed across the Adriatic to Dyrrhachium, and went by the Egnatian road to Thessalonica and beyond, or sailed across to the Gulf of Corinth, transhipped from Lechæum to Cenchreæ (wh. see), and from there sailed to Ephesus or Antioch or Alexandria, as he desired. The best account of a home journey is in   Acts 27:1-44 . The Jews poured into Italy, especially to Rome, and had been familiar to the Italians long before Christianity came.

A. Souter.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

Not mentioned in the Old Testament, unless under general terms, as Chittim, Isles of the sea. In the New Testament,  Acts 18:2   27:1,6   Hebrews 13:24 , it is chiefly of interest on account of Rome, Romans which see. The Italian band, mentioned in  Acts 10:1 , was probably a Roman cohort from Italy, stationed at Cesarea; so called to distinguish it from the other troops, which were drawn from Syria and the adjacent regions.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

It'aly. This word is used in the New Testament,  Acts 18:2;  Acts 27:1;  Hebrews 13:24, in the usual sense of the period, that is, in its true geographical sense, as denoting the whole natural peninsula, between the Alps and the Straits of Messina.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

The well-known country, of which Rome was the capital. It is only incidentally mentioned in scripture.  Acts 18:2;  Acts 27:1,6 ,  Hebrews 13:24 .

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 Acts 18:2 Acts 27:1 27:6  Hebrews 13:24

John McRay

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [7]

The peninsula from the Alps to the straits of Messina ( Acts 18:2;  Acts 27:1;  Hebrews 13:24).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Acts 18:2 27:1,6 Hebrews 13:24

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

( Ι᾿Ταλία , of uncertain etymology), the name of the country of which Rome was the capital ( Acts 18:2;  Acts 27:1;  Acts 27:6;  Hebrews 13:24). This, like most geographical names, was differently applied at different periods. In the earliest times the name "Italy" In cluded only the little peninsula of Culabrias (Strabo, 5, 1). The country now called Italy was then inhabited by a number of nations distinct in origin, language, and government, such as the Gauls, Ligurians, and Veneti on the north, and the Pelasgi, Sabines, Etrurians, etc., on the south. But, as the power of Rome advanced, these nations were successively annexed to the great state and the name "Italy" extended also, tin it came to be applied to the whole country south of the Alps, and Polybius seems to use it in this sense (1, 6; 2, 14). For the progress of the history of the world, see Smith's Dictionary Of Classical Geography, s.v. From the time of the close of the republic it was employed as we employ it now, i.e. in its true geographical sense, as denoting the whole natural peninsula between the Alps and the Straits of Messina. In the New Testament it occurs three or, indeed, more correctly speaking, four times. In  Acts 10:1, the Italian cohort at Caesarea ( Σπεῖρα Καλουμένη Ι᾿Ταλικη , A.V. Italian band"), consisting, as it doubtless did, of men recruited in Italy, illustrates the military relations of the imperial peninsula with the provinces. (See Army).

In  Acts 18:2, where we are told of the expulsion of Aquila and Priscilla with their compatriots  ; from Italy," we are reminded of the large Jewish population which many authorities show that it contained.  Acts 27:1, where the beginning of St. Paul's voyage to Italy' is mentioned, and the whole subsequent narrative. illustrate the trade which subsisted between the peninsula and other parts of the Mediterranean. Lastly, the words in  Hebrews 13:24, "They of Italy ( Οἰ Ἀπὸ Τῆς Ιταλίας ) salute you," whatever they may prove for or against this being the region in which the letter was written (and the matter has been strongly argued both ways), are interesting as a specimen of the progress of Christianity in the West. A concise account of the divisions and history of ancient Italy may be found in Anthon's Class. Dict. s.v. Italia. (See Rome).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [10]

The central one of three peninsulas stretching into the Mediterranean Sea, in the S. of Europe, has the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas respectively on the E. and W., and is separated from France, Switzerland, and Austria in the N. by the various ranges of the Alps. Between the Alps and the Apennines lies the extensive, fertile plain of Lombardy, watered by the river Po, and containing several large lakes, such as Garda, Como, and Maggiore. The Apennines form a very picturesque chain of mountains 5000 ft. high down the centre of the country. The climate varies in different districts, but is mostly warm. Malaria curses many parts in autumn. Agriculture is extensive, but primitive in manner, and the peasantry are very poor. The most important crops are cereals, including rice and maize, grapes, olives, and chestnuts, and in the S. oranges and lemons. Italian wines are of indifferent quality. Coal and iron are scarce; sulphur is produced in large quantities in Sicily. There are large quarries of marble and alabaster. The most important industries are silk, glass, and porcelain. There is an extensive foreign trade, chiefly with France and Great Britain; the exports consist of silk, sulphur, marble, fruit, and wine; the imports of coal, iron, and textile goods. The religion is Roman Catholic; education is now compulsory. The Gothic kingdom of Italy was founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire, A.D. 489. In succession the country was conquered by the forces of the Byzantine Empire, by the Lombards, and by the Franks. From the 11th century onwards its history has been one of constant internal strife and confusion. The presence of the papal power in Rome, the rise of such rich trading republics as the cities of Milan, Florence, Naples, Genoa, and Venice, the pretensions of French kings and German emperors, and factions like those of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, produced endless complications and ruinous wars. In the 16th century the influence of the Austro-Spanish house of Charles V. became dominant; his son, Philip II., was king of Milan and Naples. In more recent times the small states of Italy were continually involved in the wars which devastated Europe, and passed in alliance or in subordination into the hands of Austria, France, and Spain alternately. The last 50 years have seen the unification of the kingdom. After the abortive movement of Mazzini came Cavour and Garibaldi, who, after severe struggles against the Austrians in the North and the despots of Southern Italy, proclaimed Victor Emmanuel king of Italy in 1861. By various steps the whole of the peninsula, with the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, have been brought into the kingdom. The temporal power of the Pope ceased in 1870. The Government is a con stitutional monarchy. Franchise is exercised by every citizen who can read and write. Conscription is in force for army and navy. These are both strong, the navy one of the best in Europe. Finances are bad; the debt amounts to £520,000,000, and taxation is ruinous.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

it´a - 51 ( Ἰταλία , Italı́a ): At first confined as a name to the extreme southern part of the Italian peninsula in the region now called Calabria, whence its application was gradually extended. In Greek usage of the 5th century bc, the name was applied to the coasts as far as Metapontum and Posidonia, being synonymous with Oenotria. The Oenotrians are represented as having assumed the name of Italians ( Itali ) from a legendary ruler Italus (Dionysius, i.12,35; Vergil, Aen . i.533). The extension of Roman authority seems to have given this name an ever-widening application, since it was used to designate their allies generally. As early as the time of Polybius the name Italy was sometimes employed as an appellation for all the country between the two seas (Tyrrhenian and Adriatic) and from the foot of the Alps to the Sicilian Straits (Polyb. i.6; ii.14; iii.39,54), although Cisalpine Gaul was not placed on a footing of complete equality with the peninsula as regards administration until shortly after the death of Julius Caesar. From the time of Augustus the term was used in practically its modern sense (Nissen, Italische Landeskunde , I, 57-87).

The name Italy occurs 3 times in the New Testament:  Acts 18:2 , Aquila "lately come from Italy," because of the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudius;  Acts 27:1 , the decision that Paul be sent to Italy;  Hebrews 13:24 , salutation from those "of Italy." The adjective form is found in the appellation, "Italian band" ( cohors Italica ,  Acts 10:1 ).

The history of ancient Italy, in so far as it falls within the scope of the present work, is treated under Rome (which see).