ROME. Of the Indo-European tribes who entered Italy, the Latins formed a separate branch, occupying an enclave round the mouth of the Tiber and the Latium Plain. They were surrounded, and indeed constricted, by the Etruscan Empire in the north, the Greek maritime colonies in the south, and by related but hostile Italic tribes who held the rest of the peninsula and the arc of hill-country, which fenced off the Latin plain. Therefore, a sense of unity arose in the Latin speaking communities, and their scattered groups were linked into leagues and confederacies. The lowlanders built defendable stockaded retreats to which the plainsmen could retire with flocks and families, and located such forts on hills and outcrops of higher land. In this way Rome came into being. Vergil’s idyllic picture of primitive Rome in the Eighth Book of his Aeneid is not far from the truth. The most ancient acropolis could have been the Palatine hill, where the stockade of one shepherd community was built.
But the Palatine was not the only hill of Rome. The Tiber River cut into the soft limestone of the area, and the valley thus formed was further eroded by tributary streams, forming the famous group of hills with which the future city of Rome was always associated. They were the Capitol, the Palatine, and the Aventine, with the Caelian, Oppian, Esquiline, Viminal, and Quirinal as flat-topped spurs. Through the area the river forms an S-shaped curve. In the course of this curve the river grows shallow and forms an island. This point is the one practicable ford on the river between the sea and a very distant locality upstream. The Tiber tends to run narrow and deep. Geography thus played a dominant role in history. The group of hills and spurs were ultimately occupied by separate communities such as those whose ninth-century b.c. traces have been discovered on the Esquiline and the Quirinal. The old habit of Latin federation gave them a sense of unity, which was finally translated into common institutions and defense. Traffic across the Tiber ford necessarily concentrated at this point. Indeed all the trade between the Etruscan north and the Greek and Italian south had to cross the river here. The river valley was also a highway of commerce between the sea and the hills. Salt may have been the principal commodity carried on that route. The group of hill settlements thus straddled central Italy’s main communications, and those who have held such positions of advantage have always grown rich and powerful. Perhaps a faint memory of the significance of the Tiber ford is embedded in the Latin name pontifex, which appears to mean etymologically “bridgemaker.”
Archaeological evidence suggests that the settlements had joined to form the original city of Rome by the sixth century b.c., for burials from the Palatine and Capitoline cemeteries on the edge of the marshy bottom (which was to be the Forum) cease at that time. The Cloaca Maxima, which drained these hollows, may have been built about this date. Synoecism, therefore, took place under the kings whose rule in early Rome, encrusted though it is with legend, is established fact. The Wall of Servius made Rome into a considerable fortress. Over the period of the kings, and especially the Etruscan kings, whose rule closes the regal period of early Roman history, the city built the Pons Sublicius to replace the Tiber ford, developed the Campus Martius as a training-ground, concentrated business activities in the Forum, and began to crowd the hills and hollows with houses and temples. Rome was probably a large populous city by the fourth century b.c. Valleys formed an irregular pattern for roads—a pattern that remained a feature through all history, and by the third century there is evidence of the great “insulae” or tenement houses that were to become another characteristic feature of Rome and that suggest the overcrowding, squalor, and slums of the early capital. It is difficult to obtain a clear picture of a city that has always been occupied, and whose accumulated buildings have limited archaeological investigation. Aqueducts, bridges, quays, temples, porticoes, the monuments of civic and of family pride, followed over the centuries. It is possible to trace great bursts of building activity at certain periods. At the end of the second century b.c., the influx of capital from the beginnings of provincial exploitation promoted expansion. Sulla endeavored to bring order to some of the central urban tangle, Pompey did much to adorn the city, and Augustus boasted that he had “found the city built of brick and left it built of marble.” Augustus set the fashion for two imperial centuries, and it is from the first and second centuries after Christ that most of the surviving ruins date: the great baths of Caracalla, Diocletian, and Constantine, for example, and, most famous of all, the Flavian Amphitheater, called still by the medieval name of Colosseum.
A vivid picture of the perils and inconveniences of life in the great city at the turn of the first century of our era is found in the Third Satire of Juvenal, a rhetorical poem. In population the city of Rome probably passed the million mark at the beginning of the Christian era, and during the first century may have risen somewhat above this figure. It was a motley and cosmopolitan population. Early in the second century Juvenal numbers the foreign rabble as one of the chief annoyances of urban life, to be ranked with traffic dangers, fire, and falling houses. In the third and fourth centuries, a time of urban decay all over the Empire, the city declined, and the population probably fell to something near half a million by the last days of the Western Empire.
It is possible roughly to estimate the proportion of Christians over the imperial centuries. In the Catacombs, ten generations of Christians are buried. It is difficult to reach an accurate estimate of the extent of these galleries in the limestone rock or of the number of graves they contain. The lowest estimate of the length is 350 miles (583 km.), the highest 600 miles (1,000 km.). The lowest estimate of the burials is 1,175,000, the highest 4,000,000. Given a population averaging one million over the ten generations of the church’s witness, and this is rather high in view of the third- and fourth-century decline, we have on the first figure a Christian population averaging 175,000 per generation, and on the higher figure one averaging 400,000 per generation. Such averaging is obviously inaccurate, for the number of the Christian population would be smaller in the earlier and larger in the later centuries. But if the figure of 175,000 is taken to represent a middle point in the period, say about the middle of the third century after Christ, it becomes clear that Gibbon’s well-known estimate is hopelessly awry. Gibbon suggested that, at this time, probably one-twentieth of the population of the city were Christians. The most conservative estimate from the evidence of the Catacomb burials is that at least one-fifth were Christians, and that probably the proportion was much larger.
Orr pointed out in his Morgan Lectures some eight-five years ago (Neglected Factors in the History of the Early Church) that the Catacombs also provide evidence of the vertical spread of Christianity in the imperial society of the capital. He likewise refuted Gibbon’s statement that the church was “almost entirely composed of the dregs of the populace.” The case of Pomponia Graecina, for example, reported by Tacitus (Ann., 13.32), may be traced to the Catacombs. De Rossi established the fact that the Crypt of Lucina was connected with the Pomponian family and suggested plausibly that Lucina may have been the Christian or baptismal name of Pomponia herself. From Tacitus’s report, she appears to have faced a domestic tribunal because of a Christian faith. If Pomponia was, in fact, a Christian, since she lived on into the principate of Domitian, she may have had part in two aristocratic conversions of which there is evidence—those of Flavius Clemens the consul and of Domitilla, his wife. The former was the cousin and the latter was the niece of Domitian himself. Dio Cassius (67:44) informs us that these two were accused of “atheism,” a common allegation against Christians, and of “going astray after the custom of the Jews.” Flavius Clemens was put to death and his wife banished. De Rossi appears to have established the fact that the illustrious pair were Christians. He discovered the crypt of Domitilla and also an elegantly constructed “crypt of the Flavians.” Harnack’s contention that “an entire branch of the Flavian family embraced Christianity” thus seems established. Next to Domitian, Flavius Clemens and Domitilla held the highest rank in the Empire. Their two sons had even been designated by Domitian as his heirs. It seems, as James Orr remarked (ibid., pp. 117ff.), “almost as if, ere the last Apostle had quitted the scene of his labors, Christianity was about to mount the seat of Empire.”
Rome, like Babylon, became a symbol of organized paganism and opposition to Christianity in the Bible. In the lurid imagery of Revelation, John mingles Empire and City in his symbolism of sin. Chapters 17 and 18 of the Apocalypse envisage the fall of Rome. Chapter 17, passionate, indeed shocking in its imagery, shows Rome like a woman of sin astride the seven hills, polluting the world with her vice. The second of the two chapters reads like a Hebrew “taunt-song.” It pictures, in imagery reminiscent of Ezekiel on Tyre, the galleys loading for Rome in some Eastern port. There were “cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth,... ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble,...cinnamon and spice,...cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and bodies and souls of men.” The climax is bitter, as John pictures Rome under the smoke of her burning, the voice of gladness stilled.
The city appears several times in a historical context, the most notable being Paul’s enforced stay there. Paul landed at Puteoli; and alerted by the little church there (
The oldest settlement was made seventeen miles NE upstream from the Tiber mouth on the Tyrrhenian coast of the Italian peninsula, where a cluster of hills provided a natural location for village farming complexes. The river valley itself was too swampy and unhealthy for original occupation, but provided a burial ground both for cremation (Villanovan; northern) and inhumation (Picene; southern) practices from the ninth to the sixth centuries b.c., the Tiber serving as a rough distinguishing boundary. At the site of Rome, however, their overlapping complicates the use of burial practice for identifying its particular settlers. The late first-century annalist Tacitus summarized the most ancient history of Rome thus: “In the beginning Rome was ruled by kings.” His predecessor Titus Livius set the traditional date of foundation at 21 April 753 b.c.
With the passing of the kings the Republic came into being, late enough in time (509 b.c.) for its chroniclers not to resist the achievement before them of the democratic governments of the Greek city-states, especially Magna Graecia and Sicily. The defining event which initiated actual Roman achievement was the sacking of the city in 387 b.c. by marauding Gauls. Thereafter Rome by sword wielded, colonies founded, and roads constructed brought all Italy south of the Po into a political confederation. For eight centuries the city was to stand inviolate, confirming in history her own mythos, but by no means immune from internal wranglings. Gradually the exploiting of party politics and the city's inhabitants transformed the republican empire into the imperial state. Yet the architectural impact of this process, with corresponding levels of “full” employment throughout the Roman world as well as in the city, was remarkable. The enormous profits from political murders and confiscations were turned into building programs that gave external symbolization to the revolution. Pompey brought Rome its first stone theatre, the Campus Martius; Caesar built a great new basilica in the republican forum, and to its north began a new Forum which was to serve as prototype for his imperial successors.
By the time of Augustus the population seems to have been well over one million. The period from Augustus to Diocletian and the next great reform of state, a span of three full centuries, may be divided into two phases. The first lists those sixteen emperors beginning with Tiberius and ending with Commodus, through the first two centuries a.d., of whom eight died natural deaths, ten had reigns of ten years, and three (Tiberius, Hadrian,* *) more than twenty. While unrest beset succession with the suicide of Nero,* the whole period has been termed Pax Romana, reflecting the stability of the internal economy and the transfer of power as well as of the external peace.
It was during this phase that Christianity came into being. Individual Christians, presumably undifferentiated from Jews, were in Rome already in the reign of Claudius, as his edict forcing Jews to leave the city affected Priscilla and Aquila. Yet Paul's* letter to the Romans, written not later than a.d. 56, reflects a continuing church there which he had not yet visited. Acts* terminates with Paul's arrival and initial work in Rome. The tradition, as cited by Irenaeus and Eusebius, denotes by unbroken list the succession from Paul and Peter,* beginning with Linus,* but records and dates are scanty before the Latin- speaking Victor* at the end of the second century. Apart from Paul and Peter, five names are given for the first century, nine for the second, and seventeen (including two antipopes) until the reign of Diocletian.* Of these the two dissidents, Hippolytus* and Novatian,* are best known, though to the first-century Clement* is ascribed a near-canonical epistle.
Those decisions of Roman policy made about Christianity are also a reflection of the currents constituting the other side of the Pax Romana; even Augustus had not finally solved the larger human problem inherited from the Republic. Under at least six of the rulers of the first phase of the succession, Christianity was beset by some governmental opposition, with increasing severity as the Flavian century wore on. Such interaction between church and state inspired the apologetic series of Christian literature.
The second phase of the succession from the Severi to Diocletian involves no less than twenty-eight imperial claimants, of whom only one (Septimus Severus) died a natural death, and only one other (Alexander Severus) reigned more than ten years. Nevertheless only four of the names (if one excludes Diocletian) are identified as persecutors. In this phase the church as institution emerged with properties, some at least above the subterranean level of the catacombed cemeteries-all of which lay outside the walls of the city (see Catacombs). But of the estimated 450 older churches now within urban Rome, not one survives as a pre-Constantinian structure in whole or part, though it may be definitely asserted that such “house-churches” existed in this phase, as both the interrogation of martyrs and imperial rescripts of restitution bear witness. That pre- Constantinian imperial public buildings were later converted into churches of the post-Constantinian state only reflects the subsequent changed relationship of church and state.
Diocletian's reorganization of the Empire, though attacked by Lactantius* as a result of the emperor's renewed assault upon the highly organized church, was a genuine effort to salvage the state by terminating military anarchy and recognizing East-West division. That the main beneficiary in time to come was the church reflects the debt owed to him. While Rome remained capital of the Western portion, the division posed the problem of retaining unity for a state with two centers. Constantine* was committed to Diocletian's genuine reform program, and at his death there emerged the dual state with two capitals after his creation of the “New Rome” in the East. Constantinople* was built from the ground up as a Christian version of the imperial capital.
While Diocletian and Constantine might restore the internal stability by economic measures and political reorganization, nothing could alter the developing situation beyond the frontiers of the fourth-century empire. The increased Germanic pressures on the Rhine-Danube line were matched beyond the Euphrates by the resurgence of a new Sassanid Persia. Rome itself as capital became less advantageous, and once it had proved vulnerable to Visigothic assault in a.d. 410 it was not long before all vestige of imperial government was withdrawn to safer terrain less distant from the fronts. That the sacking of the city after 800 years proved critical for a state newly allied to Christianity is borne out by Augustine's City of God. But that the city, now grossly reduced in dignity and size-estimates suggest a fourth-century population as low as half a million-should become instead the Christian Rome is but a reflection of its bishop being the sole remaining officer of rank within, when first the imperial government was transferred north, and then in 476 officially ceased to exist.
The symbolism of Rome's change of hands is best illustrated in its bishop, Leo, assuming the defunct title pontifex maximus. The Christian Church was thus successor to the ancient religion which was the city, and in such terms the primacy of the Church of Rome came to be declared. Thereby also the city was prepared to survive, though barely, the sequence of besieging disasters that followed: in 455 at Visigothic hands; in 537-38, 546, and 549 in the wars between Ostrogoths and Byzantines, both equally destructive of the city. The latter events saw the city become at one point uninhabited and her aqueducts destroyed (her water supply unrenewed until the sixteenth century). The Saracen threat of 846 saw Leo IV enwall the Vatican, where the circus of Gaius and gardens of Nero had given way to Constantine's basilica dedicated to Peter-the center of a Christian Rome.
S. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire (1899; rep. 1958); R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (1939); C.N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine (1944); A.H.M. Jones, The Later, 284-602 (2 vols., 1964); A. Alföldi, Early Rome and the Latins (1965); M. Sharp, A Guide to the Churches of Rome (1966); G. Barraclough, The Medieval Papacy (1968); R.M. Grant, Augustus to Constantine: The Thrust of the Christian Movement into the Roman World (1970).
ROME (̔Ρώμη, G4873). In the second millennium b.c. there was a time of “folk-wandering.” The Indo-European tribes who were to form the ethnic pattern of Europe until modern times were on the move, and a strong drift in the tribal movement was toward the warmer lands of the Mediterranean basin. The Iberian, Italian, and Greek peninsulas were infiltrated in successive waves, and the language map of Italy reveals something of the process of occupation. It would appear that one tribal group moved down the W coast, left a group of its nationals around the mouth of the Tiber, and proceeded to found settlements in Sicily. Linguistic correspondences between Latin and Sicilian dialects prompt this conjecture.
Tribes speaking a distinct but allied dialect, either following the same invasion routes or crossing the Adriatic, enfolded the enclave by the Tiber mouth. These were the Umbrianand Oscan-speaking peoples. In the middle of Italy lay the cities of an alien race from Asia Minor, the Etruscans, whose name survives in modern Tuscany. These non-Europeans, still imperfectly known to history, had a higher culture than the incoming nomads, and during the first half of the first millennium b.c. they held an empire which extended to the northern Lombardy plains. They dominated Rome itself in its early years. Add the Gr. settlements all around the coast of the southern half of the land mass, and the picture of the Italian peninsula about the 8th and 7th centuries, the traditional period of Rome’s first appearance, begins to emerge. It was an enclave of Lat.-speaking tribesmen around the lower Tiber valley, a dominant Etruscan empire in the Upper Tiber and Arno valleys and in the N. Indo-European tribesmen established throughout the mountain spine of the long peninsula, and in the Campanian plain and Gr. cities in an irregular chain around the southern coastline from Cumae to Tarentum.
Alien occupation of the arc of hill country which fenced off the area of the Tiber mouth, the effective barrier of Etruscan occupation to the N, and the Oscan possession of Campania to the S, imposed a certain unity on the Lat.-speaking agriculturalists who held the narrow enclave by the river. Their scattered groups cohered into various leagues and communities. There was also the need for common defense against the mountaineers, those traditional raiders of adjacent lowlands in all historical contexts. It was the fashion to build stockaded retreats, preferably on an outcrop of rock like the Acropolis of Athens or some similar eminence to which the plainsmen could retreat with flocks and families, while a fighting task force dealt with the raiding hillmen.
In such fashion Rome came into existence. The Palatine hill was prob. the first “acropolis” of the shepherds and peasants of the fertile plain. Where the Tiber pursues its lower westward course to the sea, the river valley forms a deep trough, averaging a m. in width, and cuts into the soft volcanic tufa which at this point floors the river basin, the same geological material which made it so easy to cut the hundreds of m. of catacomb galleries which run beneath the city. The edges of this wide depression were eroded in prehistoric times by tributary waterways to shape the famous group of hills on which Rome stood. They were the Capitol, the Palatine, the Aventine, the Caelian, the Oppian, the Esquiline, the Viminal, and the Quirinal. The Vatican might be added, making nine, rather than the traditional seven, but some of them were no more than flat-topped spurs.
In modern Rome it is difficult to distinguish the group. Twenty-seven centuries of continuous human occupation have filled valley bottoms, cut away edge, escarpment, and eminence, and leveled down what once must have been a striking group of strongholds, each the fort and stockaded retreat of some family group of the peasant community which occupied the adjacent territory.
Through this irregular terrain the Tiber makes an “S” curve, shallows, and divides to form an island. At this point is found the only practicable fording place between the river mouth and the upper reaches of its waterway. Thus it was that geography played its eternal role in history, because, as the population of Italy matured and grew, the occupants of the hills by the ford found themselves in natural control of the trade and communications between the higher civilizations of the Etruscans to the N of them, and the Greek cities to the S. Another road, perhaps a “salt route,” ran from the sea up the valley to serve the highland tribes.
Cities set on a crossroads of trade are inevitably cast for a role of greatness. They attract immigration and form strong outward-looking communities with some interest in a larger world. Archeological evidence, the sole source of the knowledge of primitive Rome, suggests that the hill forts by the Tiber coalesced to form a federation by the 6th cent. b.c. Burials from the Capitoline and Palatine hills on the edge of the marshy valley bottom which was to be the Forum cease about this time, and the Cloaca Maxima, the Great Sewer, first of the vast engineering works which was to be a major Rom. contribution to the world, seems to have been started about the same time to drain the now common territory of the united community.
It would therefore appear that Rome found her name and unity in the half legendary period of her kings, whose rule, encrusted though it became with Rom. folklore, is established fact. The famous foundation legends, such as the tales of Aeneas coming from far Troy to father a new race, and of Romulus and Remus suckled by the wolf, are inventions on the model of Gr. foundation myths, perhaps actually the inventions of canny Greeks of the S Italian Gr. cities that marked the rising power on the Tiber.
The later kings were certainly Etruscans, and Tarquin is an Etruscan name. The story of “false Sextus” and “Tarquin the Proud,” and their expulsion from Rome, with Horatius Cocles holding the bridge against their counterattack, are parts of a saga of the Lat. city’s struggle for liberation from alien rule. There is fact in the stories; the battle for Lat. independence was an experience which hardened and consolidated the young city, and left a horror of royal rule so strong that Julius Caesar was forced at the height of his power to refuse the title of king. Fragments of the Servian Wall reveal that Rome at this time was a fortified city, able to close its gates against the stranger and resist alien domination.
The traditional date for the founding of the Republic is 510 b.c., and at that point in time the tremendous story of Rome’s move to world empire began. Professor A. J. Toynbee, in his famous Study of History (1. 271-355), develops the thesis of “Challenge and Response.” All human progress, the historian avers, is the result of a successful reaction to some confrontation with difficulty, danger, or hardship. The story of Rome’s expansion provides a striking illustration. The population which now filled the hills and valley floors was a composite community, gravely divided, as the old stories of patricians and plebeians indicate, over questions of status and privilege. She was also an upstart among Italy’s peoples, holding coveted advantages, and still hemmed in by the powerful empire of the Etruscans to the N, whose powerful stronghold, Veii, was only twelve m. distant, by the more remote but rich Gr. colonies to the S, and by the tough Oscan and Umbrian tribes of the hinterland and central Italy. Perhaps it was the military menace from without which imposed unity within and prompted that resourcefulness which traditionally, in early Rome, solved political problems without bloodshed. It is part of the wonder of Rom. history that, until the onset of the intractable constitutional problems of the two centuries b.c. which finally brought the Republic to ruin, Rome resolved the vast tensions of her class struggle by debate, wise compromise, and a legal inventiveness which laid the foundations for another tremendous contribution of Rome to human history—Rom. law. By the middle of the 4th cent. b.c. the Republic had solved the problems of internal schism, economic, ethnic, or whatever tension it was which divided “the orders,” and was reacting to that long quest for a stable frontier, which took her first to the Alps and the sourrounding seas and finally to the Tyne, the Euphrates, and the R ed Sea.
By this time, too, Rome was large and populous. The valleys and levels between the ancient hills afforded a natural road-building pattern which remained recognizable through all the history of Rome, even to the present day, vast though the accumulation of human debris is on the site. The story of building, rebuilding, destruction, and reconstruction is one which, on a site so securely occupied, archeology will never have the opportunity fully to investigate. When the city began to build her brief stretch of underground railway a generation ago, construction proceeded at a snail’s pace as the tunnelers passed through the rubble and ruin of centuries of Republican Rome.
The adjective “Republican” must be used with some reserve. Theoretically, a species of democracy and popular voting existed, and there was wide privilege of office. In practice, however, the ancient families, not all of whom the Romans called “patrician,” dominated the Senate, and provided the sort of leadership which Britain knew in the days of her ruling aristocracy. It was, in fact, an oligarchy of blood, wealth, and experience which functioned well, and guided Rome through two vital centuries. It is prob. true to say that the common people had in practice no great power or influence, but their sovereignty was legally recognized. To rest on the letter of the law was a Rom. instinct which by-passed and modified much social stress.
Those two vital centuries saw the dynamic Republic break the encirclement of the hill tribes, reduce the Etruscans to impotence, dominate Southern Italy with its Gr. cities and tribal hinterland, and become a world power. Egypt, under the Ptolemies of Alexandria, signed a treaty with Rome in 273 b.c., and it was not long after this that Rome discovered that the central Mediterranean itself was too small for one power based in Italy, and another, of alien breed, based in Africa across the narrow waist of the Inland Sea, esp. since Sicily lay as a bridgehead of contention between the two. The Carthaginian wars which filled half a cent., and left Rome established in Spain, southern Gaul, and Africa, and in confrontation with the Hel. monarchies of the Eastern Mediterranean, an encounter which, little by little, with the decline of Gr. power, took Rome to the destiny of Middle Eastern empire.
As empire in the geographical sense of that word grew, so the city by the Tiber expanded. A city is a magnet, and draws in a varied population. The second clash with Carthage had seen Hannibal’s invasion of Italy, and the peninsula did not really recover from the burning and devastation of that decade of disaster. The small peasantry suffered, and with the simultaneous flowing into Rome of tribute and loot from abroad, as history moved on through the 2nd cent. b.c., a change came over the land utilization of Italy. The rich landholders bought out the independent farmers, who had once been the backbone of the land, and the dole-fed urban mob, the tool and weapon of the demagogue through the cent. of constitutional strife and city disorder which destroyed Republican Rome, was daily swollen by new accretions from the countryside. Add to these the drifters who always congregate where wealth, vice, opportunity, and entertainment are plentiful, and the pattern of Rome’s urban growth may be guessed from the analogy of many a modern city.
As early as the 3rd cent. there is evidence of the great insulae, the “islands,” or huge tenement houses, which were a feature of later Rome, and suggest the overcrowding, the squalor, and the slums which were creeping around and amid the mansions of senator, aristocrat, and “knight,” the term applied to the new class of business men and tax farmers, the hated publicani, whose exploitation of the provinces was another factor in the decay of Republican Rome.
Amid squalor there was also magnificence, and it is possible from the records to piece together the story of varied building activity. At the end of the 2nd cent. b.c., when Rome was penetrating the Hel. lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, there was a tremendous influx of wealth and capital from the newly constituted provinces, and the opportunities for exploitation their government afforded the new ruling class. Much of this new wealth found expression in architecture. Pompey, the great soldier who organized the eastern provinces into ordered and coherent form in the sixties of the 1st cent. b.c., also did much to adorn and beautify Rome.
Augustus, the first of the emperors, whose leadership and diplomatic genius gave peace to Rome after the ordeal of her two civil wars and cent. of strife, also gave attention to the restoration of the damaged city and to its further adornment. In an inscr. discovered on the wall of a temple built in his honor at Ancyra, Augustus boasts that he “found Rome built of brick, and left it built of marble.” Augustus also made a bold and far-sighted attempt to give life again to Rome’s old religion, and to establish above all the worship of Apollo, whose youthful godhead was a symbol to him of the restoration he sought for the sorely damaged state. The architectural consequence was a great upsurge in temple building, and most notably a magnificent library and shrine dedicated to the ruler’s favorite god, a building of which remnants still stand.
Augustus thus set the fashion for the emperors who came after him, and it is, in fact, from the early centuries of the Christian era that most of Rome’s surviving ruins date, the great baths of Caracalla and Diocletian, for example, and those of Constantine, columns and triumphal arches, and the most striking of all the city’s surviving memorials, the Flavian Amphitheater, still called by its medieval name of Colosseum.
A vivid picture of life in Rome at the end of the 1st cent. is found in the third satire of the embittered poet Juvenal, a mordant description imitated for Paris by Boileau, and for London by. Juvenal knew Rome from the slum pavement, from the viewpoint of the poor and the underprivileged, and he wrote savagely of the poverty and the inhumanity of the great metropolis with the cruel inequalities between the absurdly rich and the shockingly poor.
The population prob. passed the million mark about this time, and the city was as cosmopolitan as New York and London. “The Syrian Orontes is now a tributary of the Tiber,” shouted Juvenal in the satire quoted, and in his list of the pains and misfortunes of his small world he included the foreign rabble with the perils of fire, traffic, assault and battery, and the collapse of jerry-built slum hovels.
Paul found a Christian church already active in Rome when he arrived under escort in March, a.d. 59. Perhaps Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews in a.d. 49 (see nodetitle) marked some of the tensions in the ghetto associated with the first Christian intrusion into the synagogue. It is a fair guess that the Christian Gospel was preached there first in the latter half of the fifth decade of the cent. The strength of the Christian population may be calculated from the burials in the catacombs. Reliable calculations suggest that the vast tangle of the catacombs contains up to 600 m. of galleries. The lowest estimate of the graves they contain is 1,750,000; an admissable probability is something like 4,000,000. This is obviously a question which could be settled quite conclusively. At any rate, some ten generations of Christians are buried in the catacombs, so that, on the second figure, there was a Christian population in and about Rome of 400,000 for one generation. On the smaller computation the number would be 175,000.
Such averaging, of course, is not good statistical method, for the number of Christians was smaller in the earlier, and larger in the later generations of the period concerned. If the figure of 175,000 is taken as representing a middle point in that period, perhaps about the middle of the 3rd cent. a.d., those who remember Gibbon’s estimate of the Christian population of Rome will immediately mark a huge discrepancy.
Gibbon’s guess, recorded in his Decline and Fall of the, was that the Christians at the end of the 3rd cent. numbered something like one-twentieth of the population of Rome. That population is reliably estimated at something like one million. The most conservative interpretation of the catacomb burial figures would, therefore, suggest that not one-twentieth but one-fifth of Rome’s people in the middle Empire were Christians and it is possible that the proportion was at times much greater. To quote in conclusion the writer’s Cities of the (p. 87):
“Rome, like Babylon, became an image of carnal, organized paganism. In the lurid poetry of the document of protest which closes the canon of the New Testament, empire and city are mingled as symbols of sin. Chapters 17 and
“The climax is shocking, as the writer pictures Ostia, the Tiber port of Rome, in the stark ruin which, indeed, it may be seen today, its great warehouses empty shells revealed by the archeologist’s spade, its streets empty, and its courtyards desolate. Amid all the voices of praise from the first century one alone cried protest against Rome’s domination of the souls of men. That voice was a Christian voice, and history took heed of it.”
W. W. Fowler, Social Life at Rome in the Age of Cicero (1908); W. E. Heitland, The Roman Republic, 3 vols. (1909); T. Rice Holmes, The Roman Republic (1909); CAH, VIIIX (1924-1939); D. R. Mac Iver, Italy Before the Romans (1928); J. Scullard, A History of the Roman World, 753-146 b.c. (1939); F. B. Marsh, A History of the Roman World, 146-30 b.c. (1939); R. Syme, The Roman Revolution (1939); R. W. Moore, The Roman Commonwealth (1942); T. Frank, Rome and Italy of the Republic ( Pageant Books, 1959); E. M. Blaiklock, The Century of the NT (1962); The Cities of the NT (1965); A. H. McDonald, Republican Rome (1966).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. DEVELOPMENT OF THE REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION
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
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
Rome (Latin and Italian, Roma; Rhome): 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 thein 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 po1itical 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 di 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 , Gallio in Achaia (
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 ($45,000; œ9,000). 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.
(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.
(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, sec. 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 (archiereus kai ethnarches; 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. Civ., 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 ethnarches (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, 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 X 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 (sebomenoi), 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 (
On "proselytes of the Gate," GJV4, 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).
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, 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 Christian community existed at the time of the arrival of Paul (
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 Christianity 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
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 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 (
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 3rd century 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). Theissued 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, London, 1893.
George H. Allen