JOURNEY’S END (ACTS 28:11-16). After wintering three months on Malta, the sailing season opened in late February or early March of A.D. 60. The travelers (all or some of 276) boarded an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. Ironically, Greek mythology held that “Castor and Pollux” were the twin sons of Zeus and were revered as the protectors of men on the sea. Many Roman ships bore their image as a plea for safety.
It was 80 miles to Syracuse, another 70 to Rhegium, and about 180 to Puteoli, the port of Naples. This time the south wind was exactly what they needed in order to make the voyage quickly and safely.
In Puteoli, Paul, Luke and Aristarchus, along with Julius and the other prisoners and soldiers were urged by the believers to stay and rest for a week. Julius gave his consent. The centurion knew that Paul had saved their lives, and perhaps was getting interested in what these Christians had to offer. By now there were tremors in Paul’s heart for he was on the very threshold of the capital of the world, immortal Rome. How would a little Jewish man fare in the greatest city of the world?
The Imperial City of Rome
“And so we came to Rome,” writes Luke. The Roman fleet was in the harbor—Rome was stamped on everything they saw. Yet, they still had to travel the 125 miles of the famous Appian Way, which led from the coast to Rome. They observed a group of men approaching. The brothers had heard that they were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius (43 miles from Rome) and the Three Taverns (33 miles from Rome) to meet them. The Greek suggests these greeters were a deputation that came to meet a general or king. At the sight of these men, the apostle thanked God and was encouraged. There was sudden realization that the three friends were not alone!
At last they entered the city of Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. This was not a punishment but a means of detention until trial. Hence, he had a great deal of liberty.
ROME (ROMA). 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 land of the Mediterranean basin. The Iberian, Italian, and Greek peninsulas were infiltrated in successive waves. During the eighth and seventh century B.C., Rome begins to emerge with Latin speaking tribesmen around the lower Tiber valley. The scattered groups cohered into various leagues and communities. The Palatine hill was probably the first acropolis of the shepherds and peasants of the fertile plain.
Through an irregular terrain, the Tiber makes an “S” curve, shallows and divides to form an island. At this point is found the only practical fording place between the river mouth and upper reaches of its waterway. Around this point, the population of Italy matured and grew, as the occupants of the hills by the ford found themselves in natural control of the trade and communications between the higher civilizations to the North and South. The city was situated on the left bank of the Tiber, about 19 miles from its mouth.
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 a world empire began. It was 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.
For the city of Rome, the Empire was a time of luxury and idleness, while the provinces entered upon an era of progressive prosperity. The Emperor was responsible for the government of all provinces where an army was necessary, and governed these by paid deputies of his own. The older and more settled provinces were governed by an official appointed by the senate, but the Emperor had his financial interests attended to by procurators in these. Emperors themselves stood for justice as well as efficient administration, and most of them gave a noble example by strenuous devotion to administrative business.
The population of Rome had been estimated about two million in the first century A.D. However, an inscription uncovered in 1941 at Ostia indicates in A.D. 14 the population of the Imperial City was over four million. All nationalities in the Empire were represented. It was as cosmopolitan as New York and London. Theaters, amphitheaters, baths, circuses and luxurious private dwellings filled the city. In the Circus Maximus on the Appian Way, the famous chariot races were held. Underneath the city run catacombs with some four million graves.
The Roman Forum, an open space measuring over 300 feet in length, and about 150 feet in breadth, was the center of political, legal, and commercial life. At the one end was the rostra (platform) from which speeches were delivered to the public; at the other end was shops. It was flanked by the senate-house and law courts. On the top of the Capitoline Hill was the Capitolium, a 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.
Paul found a Christian church already active in Rome when he arrived under escort in March A.D. 60. The origin of this church is unknown. When and by whom Christianity was first introduced at the imperial city is a mystery. That this church should gain a prominent role in history is not surprising since it was located in Imperial city, the capital of the whole Mediterranean basin. Just when Christianity became a religio illicita is unknown. At the time Paul was acquitted by Nero, it was no crime to be a Christian. Nero’s persecution of Christians was for burning the city, not for faith. The next persecution, during the reign of Domitian in A.D. 95, was religious.
It is estimated the Jewish population in Rome at this time was between 20,000 and 30,000. The Jews worshiped in seven well-established synagogues and owned three cemeteries. Most of these Roman Jews were the descendants of slaves captured during the campaigns of Pompey, Cassius and Anthony. That many of these freedmen Jews were wealthy is evident from the large sums annually sent to Jerusalem.
Rome, like Babylon, became an image of carnal, organized paganism in chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation. Rome sat on seven hills, populating the world with its vice.