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Rome is a city in Italy. In New Testament times, Rome ruled a vast empire that covered the Mediterranean region. Paul's final missionary journey was to Rome. Catholic tradition states that Simon Peter also travelled to Rome, and was thus the first Bishop of Rome. The Roman Catholic Church is headquartered in Rome, although the Holy See, also known as the Vatican City, is independent of Italy.

IntroductionEdit

Rome, Italy's largest and most heavily populated city is also its capital. According to legend, Rome was founded in 752BC br Romulus, the city's first King. It was a Republic in 510BC, and later became a vast Empire ruling over the entire Mediterranean region.

During the Republic phase of the government, civil wars over wealth erupted. This resulted in the dissolution of the Republic, and the start of the Empire phase of government based on rule by monarchs rather than the Roman people. The Empire grew large and propserous and remained so for quite some time.[the wealth being obtained from a slave market [25%] the acquisition of new territories,taxes, etc.] However, most of the Emperors adopted economic policies that eroded the Empire's wealth, leaving it with a failed money market and a sluggish economy.

Rome's religion, beng heavily influenced by the Greeks, was polytheistic, entailing the worship of many pagan gods. While the Empire tolerated other religions, with the exception of Christianity, which it severely persecuted, it demanded that everyone worship Roman gods, along with its deified emperors. The most bewildering act to occur near the beginning of the Empire phase was the unjustified crucifixion in 33AD of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate, governor of Judaea. This event was followed by severe persecutions and ghastly murders of Christians. These acts left a huge stain on the face of the Roman government which only began to fade after Christianity had become the the official religion of the Roman Empire--for such deeds had exposed a rulership that was merciless, cruel and extremely destructive.

The Roman RepublicEdit

The Roman Republic was established around 511BC [following the overthrow of the Roman Monarchy], and lasted for over 450 years. During this phase, the government was controlled by the aristocrats, and its constitution was based on the principals of separation of powers and checks and balances. [4] The city of Rome remained the central headquarters for government during this period. [5]

During the 450 years of the Republic, Rome had conquered the rest of Italy, then moved into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa, and Greece. [6]

The EconomyEdit

In spite of Rome's growing prestige and military strength during the Republic phase of government, its economy and its people suffered greatly from policies that led to tax and money-lending abuses. For example, tax farmers [aka publicans, tax collectors] made excessive assessments on the goods they collected so that they could raise the tax on them, leaving the provinces deeply in debt. [7] Lenders charged exorbitant rates of interest on loans to provincial communities making it impossible for them to have raise enough ready cash to pay tax contractors or pay for other fees levied by the governors.

Slaves were important for the economy, and they made up 25% of the population. Rome established slave markets where slaves could be bought and sold and laws that prohibited the mutilation and murder of slaves. Many slaves were eventually freed by their masters for services they had rendered, and others were allowed to buy their freedom.

Society and CultureEdit

Also during this phase of government, Rome came under the influence of Greek culture. We find this to be especially true in its architecture, sculpture, language and religion. For instance, their most prominent deities were based on Greek gods, two being Jupiter (the king God) and Mars (the god of war). [8]

Roman literature was, from its very inception, influenced heavily by Greek authors. [9] The primary language at the time, however, was Latin, while Greek was the secondary language.

At the center of the early social structure was the patrician family which was recognized by Roman law as the only legal entity at the time. Home was often the learning center, where children were taught Roman law, customs, and physical training to prepare the boys to grow as Roman citizens and become prepared for eventual recruitment into the army.

End of the RepublicEdit

The appointment of Octavian as Emperor in 27BC marked the official end of the Republic. This followed Octavian's defeat of Mark Anthony at the Battle of Actium. [1] [2] Thus began a new phase of government widely known as the Roman Empire. [10]

The Roman EmpireEdit

Roman Colosseum With Moon
The Colosseum in Rome

The Imperial form of the Roman government began in 27BC with the appointment of Octavian [Augustus], adopted son of Julius Caesar. He ruled the Empire until 14AD.[3] The Empire lasted 500 years, ending in 476AD. Its territory stretched from Syria to Spain and from Britain to Egypt. The culture and religion from the Republic period carried over into the new phase as it continued to grow from territorial expansion. Rome built extensive public roads, buildings and temples as its wealth increased.

Roman law and culture linked the diverse populations together, with religion, no doubt, being the strongest unifying force. Rome was tolerant towards other polytheistic, pagan religions as long as everyone worshipped the Roman gods and the Emperors who called themselves gods (See "Imperial Cult" [11]). [12]

Economic PoliciesEdit

Many of the economic policies that were carried out, such as the tax and money-lending, seemed motivated more by a desire for wealth and power than for the good of the economy; and they often led to economic failures. Even the reforms that were put forth to remedy the situation failed. It would appear that wealth and power-driven economic policies, even more than foreign invasions, led to the Empire's downfall. Out of all the economic policies, the administering of taxes was the most damaging to the people and to the economy as a whole. Included in the chronology below is a brief explanation of those tax policies which had a strong impact on Rome's economy in some way or other.

Tiberius&Livia Aureus
Ancient Roman Gold Coin of Tiberius & Livia
Augustus' Reign - Taxes and the CensusEdit

When Augustus became Emperor [27AD], he replaced tax farming with direct taxation. [A direct tax is one paid directly to the government by the persons on whom it is imposed.] A regular census was now required so that the government could count the taxable population and thereby assess taxable property.

We read in the Bible of the following census taken around the time of Jesus' birth:

"1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child" (Luke 2:1-4). [13]

Unfortunately, this policy, while helpful for the economy in various ways, led to internal conflict within the Empire, especially among those who found it oppressive. It is a fact that direct taxes were only exacted from the provinces and not the citizens of Rome [for they continued to pay indirect taxes]. Such being the case, is is worthwhile to understand how the provinces fared under this new system of taxation.

One writer gives a brief description of the Empire's tax policy, focusing on Judea [Palestine], a satellite state of the Roman Empire at the time. He writes as follows: "There were three kinds of taxation within ancient Palestine, the land tax, the head tax, and the customs taxes. The land tax was exclusively experienced by land owners, however those who rented farm land from them most surely experienced the cost through the price of rent. This tax was likely one-tenth of the yield of the land. The head tax [Also see "Poll Tax"] was a basic tax based on periodic censuses. The customs taxes were taxes based off of the transmission of goods over bridges, through gates, etc."

The above writer also says, "The peasants don’t want to pay the tribute. They know just as well as anybody that the imposition of the idolatrous coins is a humiliating power play on top of the economic devastation that the land taxes, custom taxes and tributes wreaked on the peasants who were sorely oppressed to the point of being deprived of their lands by Roman taxes." [14]

New Testament scholar, Willard Swartley wrote: "The tax denoted in the [biblical] text [about the Pharisees and their plot to accuse Jesus of tax resistance] was a specific tax… It was a poll tax [15], a tax instituted in A.D. 6. A census taken at that time [Luke 2:2] to determine the resources of the Jews, in order to have them pay such a tax, provoked the wrath of the country. Judas of Galilee led a revolt (Acts 5:37) which was suppressed only with some difficulty. Many scholars date the origin of the Zealot party and movement to this incident.'" [16]

The Jewish Encyclopedia makes note of the Zealots, stating that "The taking of the census by Quirinus, the Roman procurator [governor], for the purpose of taxation was regarded as a sign of Roman enslavement; and the Zealots’ call for stubborn resistance to the oppressor was responded to enthusiastically." [17]

Emperors after AugustusEdit
  • Caligula's Reign [37-41]

According to Cassius Dio, a financial crisis emerged in 39AD, during Caligula's reign. Caligula’s political payments, generous gifts, and extravagant lifestyle had exhausted the state’s treasury. To offset the money shortages that he had caused, ancient historians state that Caligula began falsely accusing, fining and even killing individuals for the purpose of seizing their estates to obtain riches for himself. In order to gain funds, Caligula asked the public to lend the state money. He levied taxes on lawsuits, marriage and prostitution, and even began auctioning the lives of the gladiators at shows. He confiscated the funds from wills that were originally left to Tiberius by having them reinterpreted. Centurions who had acquired property during plundering were forced to turn over spoils to the state. The current and past highway commissioners were accused of incompetence and embezzlement and forced to repay money. [18]

  • Pertinax's Reign [193-193AD]

Occasionally, the tax burden would be moderated by a cancellation of back taxes or other measures of relief. One such occasion occurred under the brief reign of Pertinax (193-193AD), who replaced the "rapacious" Commodus (A.D. 176-192). Historian Edward Gibbon writes:

"Though every measure of injustice and extortion had been adopted, which could collect the property of the subject into the coffers of the prince; the rapaciousness of Commodus had been so very inadequate to his extravagance, that, upon his death, no more than eight thousand pounds were found in the exhausted treasury, to defray the current expenses of government, and to discharge the pressing demand of a liberal donative, which the new emperor had been obliged to promise to the Praetorian guards. Yet under these distressed circumstances, Pertinax had the generous firmness to remit all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and to cancel all the unjust claims of the treasury; declaring in a decree to the senate, "that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonor." [19] [20]
  • Diocletian's Reign [284 - 305AD]

To secure power for himself, Diocletian separated and enlarged the empire's civil and military services. He then re-organized the empire's provincial divisions, establishing the largest and most bureaucratic government ever to exist in the Empire.

Diocletian was an autocratic ruler. He spent huge amounts of revenue on expanding the empire's beaucracies and military as well as on constant campaigns and construction projects. Such excesses greatly increased the state's expenditures, and made it necessary to come up with a comprehensive tax reform. He found it necessary, therefore, to levy the imperial tax at higher rates. [21]

As things became more desperate, Diocletian took steps to stop the inflation with an extensive system of price controls on all services and commodities. These strict controls were justified by Diocletian's belief that the inflation was due mainly to speculation and hoarding, rather than debasement of the currency.

Despite the fact that the death penalty applied to violations of the price controls, they were a total failure. A contemporary of Diocletian's tells us that much blood was shed over "small and cheap items" and that goods disappeared from sale. Yet, "the rise in price got much worse." Finally, "after many had met their deaths, sheer necessity led to the repeal of the law."

Diocletian's New Tax Revenue Policy

In addition to the failed reform mentioned above, money was now worthless due to a on-going debasement of coins. Diocletian had to act quickly to save the already failing economy. He set up a new system of tax collection whereby taxes would be collected in the form actual goods and services, but put into a budget that would show exactly what the state needed and would show the taxpayers exactly how much they had to pay. Careful calculations were made of precisely how much grain, cloth, oil, weapons or other goods were necessary to sustain a single Roman soldier. There was a calculation of what the taxpayers were able to provide in terms of the necessary goods and services. This required a massive census, not only of people but of resources, especially cultivated land. Workers were organized into guilds and businesses into corporations (See "Collegia"). [22]

  • Constantine's Reign [308-337AD]

Emperor Constantine continued Diocletian's policies of regimenting the economy by tying workers and their descendants even more tightly to the land or their place of employment. For example, in 332 he issued the following order: "Any person in whose possession a tenant that belongs to another is found not only shall restore the aforesaid tenant to his place of origin but also shall assume the capitation tax for this man for the time that he was with him. Tenants also who meditate flight may be bound with chains and reduced to a servile condition, so that by virtue of a servile condemnation they shall be compelled to fulfill the duties that befit free men."

After Constantine [355AD]Edit

Around 355AD, the Roman tax burden roughly doubled, making it impossible for small farmers to live on their production. This is what led to the final breakdown of the economy. As the historian Lactantius puts it: "The number of recipients began to exceed the number of contributors by so much that, with farmers' resources exhausted by the enormous size of the requisitions, fields became deserted and cultivated land was turned into forest". [23]

Jesus Christ and Roman TaxationEdit

005 Tiberius
Roman Tribute Penny [silver denarius] from the Bible, Depicting Tiberius

Our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, witnessed the impact of Rome's unfair tax policy on the inhabitants of Judea. Christ's position of neutrality on the tax issue, however, baffled many of the Jews [namely, the Zealots] who thought that he had come to militarily restore Israel to them. They firmly felt that Rome's oppressive taxes should not be paid and that Christ shared their sentiments. Most were not yet able to understand the higher purpose of His mission - to save the lost people of the earth - not combat the tyrants of the earth -- at least not at that time. Jesus' reply to a question about whether one should pay taxes to Caesar or not, was, "pay back Caesar's things to Caesar and God's things to God." Jesus Christ's sentiments are best understood, however, in the reading of His parables as well as his actions and comments.


  • The Parable of "The Pharisee and the Publican"

During the New Testament times, publicans [governmental servants such as tax farmers] were seen chiefly as tax collectors by provincial peoples because they were best known for collecting taxes. It is in this sense that the term is used in Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). During the first century, Pharisees were men of high standing in the religious community and were well known for their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, and Publicans were Jews who collaborated with the Roman Empire. In the parable, Jesus presents these two men in the context of the popular stereotype of the time, and the common practice by those of high standing in the Temple to look down upon others. [24]

Christ thus says, "10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about [a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
14" I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." [25]


Tax Collectors who followed JesusEdit
  • Matthew

The Apostle Matthew was once a publicanus [tax collector] living in the village of Capernaum in the province of Galilee during the time of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was at a time when Tiberius was ruler. To show that a person's occupation has no relevance in God's eyes, Jesus Christ chose Matthew to be one of His followers. We read of Christ's actions in Matthew 9:9 which states, "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him." [26]

  • Zacchaeus

Again, Jesus shows his concern for the salvation of the person rather than the person's occupation in the case of Zaccheus, a chief tax gatherer in Jericho. We find at Luke 19:1-10, that Jesus chose to dine with him. The account reads as follows:

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.' "
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."
9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." [27]

Moved by Jesus' great mercy, Zacchaeus publicly repents of his former deeds of corruption and vows to make restitution for them. According to Clement of Alexandria, in his book Stromata, Zaccheus was surnamed Matthias by the apostles, and took the place of Judas Iscariot after Jesus's ascension. The Apostolic Constitutions identify "Zacchaeus the Publican" as the first bishop of Caesarea. [28]

Jesus' Views on Paying TaxesEdit
Izokefalizm
Christ and the Tribute Penny
  • The Plot of the Pharisees

It was during the reign of Tiberius that the foregoing incident took place. The Temple Priests who desired to have Christ killed had devised a crafty scheme [regarding the payment of taxes] in the hope of trapping Jesus by his own words. They knew that anyone who refused to pay Roman taxes, or engaged in or even promoted anti-tax feelings could be killed or arrested. [Recall that, at his sham of a trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was accused of promoting resistance to Caesar's tax. The whole assembly [of accusers] then rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ/Messiah, a king.” (Luke 23:1-4)] The tax plot, though, occurred prior to His trial, and is recorded at Luke 20:20-26. It reads as follows:

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 "Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?"
"Caesar's," they replied.
25 He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent. [29]

We see here that Christ's views on paying taxes was a neutral one.

Roman SocietyEdit

The basic social structure of he Roman government through its different phases didn't change much. The society, from its beginning, had been divided into separate classes with defined privileges. The Patricians or nobles were at the top, the Plebs were in the middle, and the slaves were at the bottom of the social pyramid. There were also knights (Equites) and free merchant foreigners ("Clientes").

The "plebs" were the largest group, and consisted of the common folk who were usually poor. They main occupation was working the land for the patricians. [30] Movement across social classes was possible, and more so during the Empire where poor plebeians might sell themselves or their children into slavery in the hope of acquiring a rich and possibly caring master, and slaves could pay their way out of slavery.

The result of the Republic system was a degree of fairer share of power. The seats of government which at first could only be held by Patricians were now shared, or new ones were created to allow a more equitable balance in power across society. The Patricians had the Senate and the Plebeians had the Assembly. There were two Consuls ruling the city and with time only one could be Patrician and the other had to be Plebeian.

Roman ReligionEdit

Religious tolerance existed whereby non-Romans could worship their personal gods as long as their worshipped Roman gods at the same time. Christianity, however, was not tolerated, and was banned by the Empire. Christians were persecuted and even murdered for practicing their faith as in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. [31]

PaganismEdit
ForumRomanum
Temple of Saturn, Roman Forum

The Romans practiced a paganistic religion. This meant that they worshipped false gods. Strict laws demanded that all those within the Empire adhere to their religious practices. Temples were built in honor of the various gods in th Roman pantheon such as Jupiter, Mars, Zeus and VenuS. Anyone who did not worshiop these deities were subject to severe penalties.[32]

The Imperial CultEdit

The Empire also forced its inhabitants to participate in the Imperial cult. [4] This means that they had to worship the emperors and members of the imperial family as gods [Deification]. This could easily be accepted by other faiths as Roman liturgy and ceremonies were frequently tailored to fit local culture and identity. An individual could attend to both the Roman gods representing his Roman identity and his own personal faith, which was considered part of his personal identity.

Since the Romans worshipped Apollo, the Delphian oracle was consulted as early as the period of the kings during the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, and in 430 a temple was dedicated to Apollo during a pestilence. [5] Augustus, who considered himself under the special protection of Apollo and was even said to be his son, ordered that the populace worship him as one of the chief gods of Rome. After the battle of Actium, Augustus even enlarged his old temple, dedicated a portion of the spoil to him, and instituted quinquennial games in his honor. [(See Imperial Cult) [33]].

It is well-known that Caligula began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules, Mercury, Venus and Apollo. Reportedly, he began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians, and was referred to as Jupiter on occasion in public documents.

JudaismEdit

Western wall jerusalem night
Western Wall, Jerusalem

Judaism is a monotheistic religion established by God [Yahweh] at the time of the founding Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and based on the Mosaic Law Covenant. It's beliefs and practices originate in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) [[[Old Testament]]] and is further explained in other texts. It is the oldest monotheistic religion known to exist and is still practiced by Jews today.[34]

Judaism was tolerated by the Empire until the rebellion in Judea in AD 66. The Jews, who were already offended because of their subjugation by a power that didn't respect their religion or their God Yahweh, were very discontented and angry over Rome's excessive taxes, and this led to acts of rebellion (See Sicarii [35]).

Before 66AD, Julius Caesar declared Synagogues colleges so that Jews could worship freely. Tiberius forbade Judaism in Rome, but they quickly returned to their former protected status established by Julius Caesar. According to one historian, "Riots again erupted in Alexandria in 40AD between Jews and Greeks. Jews were accused of not honoring the emperor. Also, disputes occurred in the city of Jamnia. Jews were angered by the erection of a clay altar and destroyed it. In response, Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem, a demand in conflict with Jewish monotheism. In this context, Philo wrote that Caligula "regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only persons who cherished wishes opposed to his." [36]

ChristianityEdit

Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New Testament. Christians are those who faithfully believe that Jesus is the Christ[Messiah]that was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible and that He is the Son of God, Savior and Lord. They further believe that Jesus Christ suffered, died, was resurrected, and after 3 days, ascended back into heaven.

The Roman Empire's intolerance and hostility towards Christianity was heightened after the resurrection of Christ [37]. They and the Jewish priests saw the new religion as a threat to their political and religious and authority since Christians were known to pray for God's kingdom to come on earth. This phrase as taughty by Jesus Christ, was no doubt misinterpreted as treasonous. On the contrary, Christ taught His followers to pay tribute to Rome as required by Law . We read at Matthew 17:26-27, "…Jesus said to him. 27"But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours" [38]

Jesus Christ of NazarethEdit

The founder of Christianiy is Jesus Christ. He is revered by Christians as the Son of God and the incarnation of God [Yahweh]. Incidentally, during Tiberius' reign, Christianity was known as, "The Way". [39] During its early stage, Christianity was viewed by the Romans as a branch of Judaism, and not as a separate religion. After Christ's resurrection, however, this view changed.

Bloch-SermonOnTheMount
Christ's Sermon on the Mount


His TeachingsEdit

Contrary to what others said about Jesus Christ, His message was one of peace, [Note the Bible verse which reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…" [Colossians 3:15]. [40]

His Crucifixion by Pontius PilateEdit

Jesus Christ's crucifixion in 33AD is the major part of God's plan of salvation. It was God's final and eternal means of saving (See Isaiah 53). [41]). The crucifixion of Jesus takes place in Jerusalem following the Lord's Last Supper on Nisan 14 [42]) [43] with His twelve apostles, and is recorded in the New Testaments books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The blood that He shed during this event was the blood that brings atonement for sinners and redeems them from sin and death. Only Christ could make a sacrifice of such magnitude for no one one else in heaven or on earth could meet God's legal requirements regarding perfection and purity.

As the gospels point out, the Lord rose from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion , was seen throughout forty days by His disciples, then ascended back into heaven from whence he had come. There are clear, notable signs that followed His crucifixion such as the tearing of the Temple curtain in Jerusalem in two, an earthquake in Jerusalem, and the resurrection of saints [Matthew]. Jesus' redemptive suffering and death by crucifixion are referred to as "the Passion", from the Latin verb patior, to experience. [44]

Rome's Persecution of His ChurchEdit
The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer
The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer

After Christ's death, the Romans [and others] tried desperately to supress Christianity through the persecution and death of His followers. Jesus forewarned His disciples: 17"Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles [Matthew 10:17 &18]. [45] In another verse where Christ is being criticized for healing on the Sabbath Day, an actual murder plot against him is revealed. It reads: "13Then he [Jesus Christ] said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus" [Matthew 12:13]. [46] Rome's persecution of Christians went on for two more centuries following Nero's death. One source notes, "The Diocletianic Persecution (303–311), the empire's last, largest, and bloodiest official persecution of Christianity…." [47]

His Apostles in RomeEdit

Rome was visited by the Christ's apostles Peter and Paul in the lst century AD. In regards to Peter being in Rome, however, there is no historical evidence to prove it, and there are those who disagree with this contention. Nevertheless, a letter from Dionysius of Corinth to the Church of Rome [c170AD] lends credence to the belief that the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul were both in Rome.

It reads:

"You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time. [48]
The Apostle PeterEdit
Saint Peter statue
Statue of St. Peter

The Apostle Peter (c.1-64AD) was a leader of the early Christian church [See the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles]. According to Biblical accounts, he was one of Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus Christ during his first gathering of disciples. The Apostle Peter was also a Galilean fisherman who was given a leadership role by Jesus (Matthew 16:18), and was with Christ during His Transfiguration and other remarkable events.

The Apostle was also the first Patriarch of Antioch; and, according to Catholic tradition, the first Bishop [Pope] of Rome. In keeping with Catholic tradition, he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero [54-68AD] and buried there as well. According to this tradition, therefore, the Pope is Peter's successor and the rightful superior of all other bishops. Nevertheless, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox do not recognize the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter, but the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople sends a delegation each year to Rome to participate in the celebration of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. [49]

The Apostle Peter is also the author of two canonical epistles in the New Testament [1st Peter and 2nd Peter]. His memoirs are traditionally cited as the source of the Gospel of Mark.

  • The Apostle Peter's Martydom
Caravaggio-Crucifixion of Peter
The Crucifixion of St. Peter

The Annuario Pontificio gives the year of Peter's death as 64AD or 67AD. Early church tradition says Peter probably died at the time of the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64.

  • The Apostle Peter's Tomb

According to tradition, the Apostle Peter lies buried in his tomb which lies beneath the high altar of the Basilica of Saint Peter [50]. For this reason, many Popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. [51]

It is also believed that the Apostle's remains were buried just outside the Circus, on the Mons Vaticanus across the Via Cornelia from the Circus, less than 150 metres (490 ft) from his place of death. A shrine was built on this site a few years later. Nearly three hundred years after the building of the Apostle's memorial shrine, the "old" Saint Peter's Basilica [52] was constructed over the same site.

  • Archaeology

On December 23, 1950, in his pre-Christmas radio broadcast to the world, Pope Pius XII announced the discovery of Saint Peter's tomb. This was the culmination of 10 years of archaeological research under the crypt of the basilica, an area inaccessible since the 9th century. Indeed, the area now covered by Vatican City had been a cemetery for some years before the Circus of Nero [53]was built. It was a burial ground for the numerous state executions in the Circus, and for many years after the burial place of Saint Peter, of many Christians who chose to be buried near him. [54]

The Apostle PaulEdit
St. Paul ElGreco
St. Paul by El Greco
Justin MatasAdded by Justin Matas

The Apostle Paul [aka "Saul of Tarsus"] was a devoted follower and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, and was of the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin. Before is conversion to Christianity, however, he was a Roman citizen who had worked as a guard for the Empire. Following his conversion, he, along with the Barnabas [55], established a major Church base in Syrian Antioch [Turkey], as well as in many other cities throughout the Roman Empire and made it his primary goal to convert all non-Jews to the Christian faith. For his teaching about Christ, he was crucified.

The Apostle began his missionary journeys around 37AD. He had been sent on an official mission to Damascus in order to find and arrest the Christians who were staying there. On his way to Damascus, however, he received a vision of the resurrected Christ. This event had a profound spiritual effect on the apostle. He converted to Christianity and made it his primary goal to follow Christ and to spread the good news about Him to the world. [Paul describes in Galatians, how three years after his conversion, he went to Jerusalem, where he met James, and stayed with Simon Peter for 15 days (See Galatians 1:11–24 and Galatians 2:1-10).

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"Conversion of St. Paul"
  • An Apostle to the Gentiles

The Apostle Paul became known as "the Apostle to the Gentiles." Led by Holy Spirit, he began his missionary journeys to cities throughout the great Mediterranean region in order to reach Jews and non-Jews, and share with them the good news about Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

His missionary journeys took him to places such as Cyprus, Asia Minor (modern Turkey), mainland Greece, Crete, and Rome - places where he also established churches. Paul wrote epistles to the many of the churches that he had established or visited. [[56]

  • His Teachings to the Gentiles

The Apostle Paul encouraged his non-Jewish listeners to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, for Christ had given His life for them as a ransom sacrifice for their sins. In Paul's letter to the Romans, he expounds deeply on this subject (Romans 3:34 and 5:59). Paul further explained that salvation through Christ was a gift [grace] that was to be received in faith (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:9). Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith" (Romans 3:28-30). [57] [58]

  • St. Clement's Acknowledgement of the Apostle

In his first epistle, St. Clement writes of Paul

"By reason of jealousy and strife, Paul, by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance."
  • Achievements

He wrote thirteen epistles that are found in the New Testament. These epistles were circulated within the Christian community at an early time and were read aloud in the churches. They were accepted early as scripture and later established as Canon of Scripture. Critical scholars regard Paul's epistles (written 50-62) to be the earliest written books of the New Testament, being referenced as early as 96AD by Clement of Rome.

Paul's influence on Christian thinking arguably has been more significant than any other New Testament author. Christianity is commonly said to owe as much to Paul as to Jesus. Paul exalted the Christian church as the body of Christ. Before Paul, Christianity still had been maintaining cultural traditions that tied them to Judaisim, but Paul insisted that faith in Christ was sufficient for salvation. In his epistles, Paul highlights the profound differences between Judaism and Christianity by stressing the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did away with the need for animal sacrifices and atoning rituals by His own [sacrificial and atoning] death.

According to one writer, the success of Paul's efforts sped up the split between Christianity and mainstream Judaism, even though Paul wanted no such split himself. Without Paul's success against the legalists who opposed him, Christianity would never have been more than a dissenting sect within Judaism.


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The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls ("San Paolo fuori le mura")
  • Paul's Death/Martyrdom

Paul suffered many persecutions thoughout his Christian life. He was ridiculed and abused by his own people, the Jews--and even targeted for death. He was cast into prison several times until finally winding up in a jail in Rome, the city in which he was crucified and buried.

Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, wrote that Paul was beheaded during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. This event has been dated to the year 64AD when Rome was devastated by a fire [67AD according to other sources]. The San Paolo alle Tre Fontane church was built on the location where the execution was believed to have taken place. A Roman Catholic liturgical solemnity of Peter and Paul, celebrated on June 29, may reflect the day of his martyrdom.

Catholic tradition maintains that the Apostle Paul was interred with Saint Peter in the Catacombs known as Catacumbas by the via Appia until moved to what is now the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. [59] [60]

The Catacombs of RomeEdit
A-Procession-in-the-Catacomb-of-Callistus
A Procession in the Catacomb of Callistus

The first large-scale catacombs were excavated from the 2nd century onwards. Originally they were carved through soft rock outside the boundaries of the city, because Roman law forbade burial places within city limits. At first they were used both for burial and the memorial services and celebrations of the anniversaries of Christian martyrs (following similar Roman customs). They probably were not used for regular worship. Many modern depictions of the catacombs show them as hiding places for Christian populations during times of persecution.

There are forty known subterranean burial chambers in Rome. They were built along Roman roads, like the Via Appia, the Via Ostiense, the Via Labicana, the Via Tiburtina, and the Via Nomentana. Names of the catacombs – like St Calixtus and St Sebastian, which is alongside Via Appia – refer to martyrs that might be buried there. [61]

ChristPeterPaul
Christ Between Peter and Paul, 4th Century
  • Symbol of Survival

Societies of Christians in Hellenistic Greece and Roman Greece, prior to the Edict of Milan, protected their congregations by keeping their meetings secret. In order to point the way to ever-changing meeting places, they developed a symbol which adherents would readily recognize, and which they could scratch on rocks, walls and the like, in advance of a meeting. The symbol was the ichtys or fish symbol.

The ichthys is also seen in first century catacombs in Rome. It is known colloquially as the "sign of the fish" or the "Jesus fish." [The use of the Ichthys symbol by early Christians appears to date from the end of the 1st century AD. Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ, Greek for fish) can be read as an acrostic, a word formed from the first letters of several words. It complies with "Jesus Christ, God's son, savior," in ancient Greek "Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ", Iēsous Khristos Theou Huios, Sōtēr.

Ephesus IchthysCrop
Early Christian Ichthys Sign (Ephesus)

Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for Jesus.

Chi (kh) is the first letter of Khristos (Χριστóς), Greek for "Christ" or "anointed".

Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), that means "God's", genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, "God".

Upsilon (u) is the first letter of huios (Υἱός), Greek for Son.

Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for Savior.

Modern Christians pass on stories about their ancient predecessors describing the time when they were threatened by Romans [in the first centuries after Christ] and therefore, using the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from enemies.

Stele Licinia Amias Terme 67646
Funerary stele with the inscription ΙΧΘΥC ΖΩΝΤΩΝ ("fish of the living")

The periodical, "Christianity Today," for instance, has taken part in this tradition: "…when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current bumper-sticker and business-card uses of the fish hearken back to this practice. The symbol is still used today to show that the bearer is a practicing Christian." (from "Christianity Today", by Elesha Coffman, "Ask the Editors")

One probable explanation for the use of the symbol is that it is a reference to the scripture in which Jesus miraculously feeds 5,000 people with fish and bread (Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:4-13). The ichthys may also relate to Jesus or his disciples as "fishers of men" (e.g., Mark 1:17). Tertullian, in his treatise On Baptism, makes a pun on the word, writing that "we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water." [62]

Christianity Becomes Rome's New ReligionEdit

By the 4th century (300-400AD), Christianity had become so widespread that it became officially tolerated and established by Emperor Constantine I in 380AD as the Empire's official religion. By the 5th century, it was the predominant religion of the Roman Empire, changing the face of Rome forever. [63]

The Fall of RomeEdit

The Roman Empire came to an end in 476AD. The end was characterized by a halt of growth in territories, a fall in population, a loss of learning, cultural degradation, and economic failure. The lack of new conquests meant that its economic well-being would have to depend on internal production which, by this time, had returned to primarily sheep and cattle farming and wool production.

The money economy broke completely down in the third century A.D., yet the military demands of the state remained high. Therefore, the revenues of the state were too inadequate to maintain the national defense. This was critical because Rome's borders were under continual pressure from Germanic tribes in the North and from the Persians in the East.

With the collapse of the money economy, the normal system of taxation also broke down. This forced the state to directly appropriate whatever resources it needed wherever they could be found. Food and cattle, for example, were requisitioned directly from farmers. The state was forced to compel individuals to continue working and producing. People had to work at their given place of employment and remain in the same occupation, with little freedom to move or change jobs. Farmers were tied to the land, as were their children, and similar demands were made on all other workers, producers, and artisans as well. Even soldiers were required to remain soldiers for life, and their sons compelled to follow them. The remaining members of the upper classes were pressed into providing municipal services, such as tax collection, without pay. And should tax collections fall short of the state's demands, they were required to make up the difference themselves.

Constant involvement of the state in the intimate workings of the economy made it less productive. The result was increasing feudalization of the economy and a total breakdown of the division of labor. People fled to the countryside and took up subsistence farming or attached themselves to the estates of the wealthy. A large amount of land was abandoned and remained fallow or fell into the hands of the state, whose mismanagement generally led to a decline in production.

Roman citizens in the provinces had developed a love for the finer things in life, and most, if not all of which came from the East. This meant a continuous outflow of wealth towards the East in order to pay for such imports. Unfortunately, the produce of the West was of little interest to the East and led to a gradual impoverishment.[64]

Large, powerful landowners, able to avoid taxation through legal or illegal means, began to organize small communities around them. Small landowners, crushed into bankruptcy by the heavy burden of taxation, threw themselves at the mercy of the large landowners, signing on as tenants or even as slaves. [65]

Although Constantine made an effort to restore the currency, subsequent emperors resumed the debasement, resulting in renewed price inflation.

One source writes that the fall of Rome was basically due to economic deterioration resulting from excessive taxation, inflation, and over-regulation. Higher and higher taxes failed to raise additional revenues because wealthier taxpayers could evade such taxes while the middle class--and its taxpaying capacity--was exterminated. Although the final demise of the Roman Empire in the West (its Eastern half continued on as the Byzantine Empire) was an event of great historical importance, for most Romans it was a relief. [66]

Rome TodayEdit

The Roman Catholic ChurchEdit
StPetersBasilicaEarlyMorning
St.Peter's Basilica at Early Morning

The Roman Catholic Church is the Christian Church in the Vatican. It is currently led by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome. [67]. The Pope is held to be the "successor of Peter", and therefore charged with leadership of all Christians, along with the bishops that are in communion with him.

Catholic tradition teaches that the Roman Catholic Church is the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus, and that it was instituted for the salvation of all people. It seeks to accomplish this goal through its teaching, and through the administration of seven sacraments [holy Christian rites]. The Church's teachings are based on both Scripture [the Holy Bible] and traditions of the church which it believes to have been passed down from the Twelve Apostles or from Jesus himself. The Nicene Creed [68] and the Apostles' Creed are considered fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church.

An official census reveals that the Catholic Church has a membership of over one billion people - about half of the estimated 2.1 billion Christians worldwide. [69]

The Episcopal See of the Roman Catholic ChurchEdit
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Pope Benedict XVI during visit to São Paulo, Brazil

[The episcopal is the seat or office of the chief bishop of a particular church.] The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome,commonly known as the Pope [currently Pope Benedict XVI]; and is the preeminent episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. Therefore, diplomatically, and in other areas, the Holy See acts and speaks for the whole Catholic Church.

The Holy See is also recognized as a sovereign entity, headed by the Pope, with which diplomatic relations can be maintained. The Holy See dates back to early Christian times. It is located in the Bishop's principal church. [70] [71]

Vatican City [or The Vatican]Edit

This is the international headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and is located in Rome, Italy, though considered it's own country. Vatican City, officially known as the State of the Vatican City, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. The City came into existence in 1929 and is thus distinct from the central authority of the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Holy See. Vatican City is the "smallest country in the world by both area and population." It is only 110 acres in size with a population of about 900. [72]

ConclusionEdit

Visitors to Rome today will see only the ruins of what once was a powerful and oftentimes ruthless Empire that ruled extensively throughout the entire Mediterranean region and beyond. Visiting Christians and others will also marvel as they look upon the amazing churches, cathedrals and basillicas of Christianity and see the gloriousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today the city of Rome is the seat of the Italian Republic which governed by a Mayor and a city council. It is also the official residences of the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and the Italian Prime Minister, the seats of both houses of the Italian Parliament and that of the Italian Constitutional Court. [73]


References

  1. List of Roman Emperors [1]) Julius Caesar [2]
  2. Historians disagree when the Roman Republic turned into Imperial Rome: the reason is that the first Emperors were given their head of state powers gradually in a government system that in appearance did not originally much differ from the Roman Republic. [3]
  3. The emperor's legal authority was really derived from the concentration of individual powers and offices in existence from the time of the Republic rather than from a new political office (emperors regularly had themselves elected to the consulship [the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire] and the censorate [maintains the census, finances ]; the emperor actually held the non-"imperial" offices of princeps senatus (parliamentary leader of the Senate) and pontifex maximus (chief priest of the Roman state religion). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_emperor]
  4. The central elements of the cult complex were next to a temple; a theatre or amphitheatre for gladiator displays and other games as well as public bath complex [most likely for pagan rituals]. Sometimes the imperial cult was added to the cults of an existing temple or celebrated in a special hall in the bath complex.
  5. Together with Athena, Apollo (under the name Phevos) was controversially designated as a mascot of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. The worship of Apollo has revived with the rise of Hellenismos, and the contemporary Pagan movement. One example of this revival is the group, Kyklos Apollon.

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