Roman Empire, the government of the Romans as conducted by the emperors, of whom Augustus was the first. The history of the Roman Empire, properly so called, extends over a period of rather more than five hundred years, viz. from the battle of Actium, B.C. 31, when Augustus became ruler of the Roman world, to the abdication of Augustulus, A.D. 476. The empire, however, in the sense of the dominion of Rome over a large number of conquered nations, was in full force and had reached wide limits some time before the monarchy of Augustus was established. The notices of Roman histora which occur in the Bible are confined to the last century and a half of the commonwealth and the first century of the imperial monarchy. But in order to appreciate these, some particulars of the condition of the Roman state is necessary. We have not, however, the intention of entering into an account of the rise, progress, state, and decline of the Roman power, but merely to set forth a few of the more essential facts, speaking a little less briefly of the relations formed and sustained between the Romans and the Jews. These, although comparatively late, became eventually important to the last degree. For a description of the capital city, SEE ROME.
I. History. — The foundations of Rome lie in an obscurity from which the criticism of Niebuhr has done little more than remove the legendary charm. Three tribes, however, according to the oldest account, formed the earliest population — namely, the Ramnenses (probably Romanenses, still further abbreviated into Ramnes), the Titienses (shortened into Tities, from Titus Tatius, their head), and the Luceres (probably an Etruscan horde, who migrated to Rome from Solonium, under Lucumo). In order to increase his population, and with a view to that conquest which he afterwards achieved, and which was only a small prelude to the immense dominion subsequently acquired, Romulus opened in Rome an asylum, inviting thereto those who, for whatever cause, fled from the neighboring cities. To Rome accordingly there flocked the discontented, the guilty, the banished, and the aspiring, freemen and slaves. Thus were laid the foundations of the future mistress of the world, according to the ordinary reckoning, B.C. 753, the number of inhabitants at the first not exceeding, it is supposed, four thousand souls. What it arose to in the period of its greatest extent we have not the means of ascertaining. (See below.)
Though the date of the foundation of Rome coincides nearly with the beginning of the reign of Pekah in Israel, it was not till the beginning of the 2d century B.C. that the Romans had leisure to interfere in the affairs of the East. When, however, the power of Carthage had been effectually broken at Zama, B.C. 202, Roman arms and intrigues soon made themselves felt throughout Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor. The first historic mention of Rome in the Bible is 1 Macc. 1:10, where it is stated that there arose "a wicked root, Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been an hostage at Rome." About the year B.C. 161, when Judas Maccabaeus heard of the defeat of Philip, Perseus, and Antiochus, and of the great fame of the Romans, he sent an embassy to them to solicit an alliance, and to obtain protection against the Syrian government (1 Macc. 8:1 sq.; comp. 2 Macc. 11:34; Josephus, Ant. 12, 10, 6; Justin, 36, 3). The ambassadors were graciously received, and Demetrius was ordered to desist from harassing the Jews; but before the answer arrived Judas was slain, having valiantly engaged the whole army of Bacchides sent by Demetrius into Judaea (1 Macc. 11:1-18; Josephus, Ant. 12, 11, 1). In B.C. 143, Jonathan renewed the alliance with the Romans (1 Macc. 12:1-4, 16; Josephus, Ant. 13, 5, 8), the embassy being admitted before the senate (τὸ βουλευτήριον), and on his death, the same year, his brother Simon, who succeeded him, sent also to Rome to again seek a renewal of friendship. The Romans readily acceded to his request, and the valiant deeds of Simon and his predecessors were engraved on tables of brass. Shortly afterwards, Simon sent Numenius to Rome with a great shield of gold, of a thousand pounds' weight, to confirm the league with them. The senate at once consented to its reestablishment, and recognized him as high priest and prince of Judaea. The tables of brass on which the league was written were set up in the Temple (1 Macc. 14:17 sq.;
Josephus, Ant. 13, 7, 3). Lucius, the consul of the Romans, wrote to several kings and nations requesting them to assist the Jews (1 Macc. 15:16-23). See Lycus. Hyrcanus, the successor of Maccabeus, again sent (in B.C. 129) an embassy to Rome, which was favorably received, confirming the alliance already concluded (Josephuis, Ant. 13, 9, 2). In the year B.C. 66, Pompey arrived in the East to take command of the Roman armies, and sent his general, Scaurus, to Syria. While at Damascus, the latter received an offer of 400 talents from Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, who were both fighting for the kingdom, each one wishing to be aided. Scaurus accepted the offer of Aristobulus, and ordered Aretas, who was assisting Hyrcanus, to withdraw his forces, or he would be declared an enemy to the Romans (ibid. 14, 2, 3). The following year Pompey came into Syria, and deprived Antiochus XIII (Asiaticus) of his kingdom, reducing it to a Roman province. Ambassadors were sent to Pompey from the rival princes, and in B.C. 64, when Pompey returned to Damascus from Asia Minor, their respective causes were heard by him. Notwithstanding the prejudices of the people in favor of Aristobulus, Pompey, perceiving the weakness of character and imbecility of Hyrcanus, seemed to incline towards the latter, knowing that it was better to have a weak man under the Roman control. He, however, left the matter undecided, and Aristobulus, seeing that his case was lost, withdrew to make preparations for defense (ibid. 14, 2, 3). Pompey then occupied himself in reducing the forces of Aretas, and afterwards marched against Aristobulus, who fled to Jerusalem. Aristobulus, on his approach, met him, and offered him a large sum of money, and Pompey sent Gabinius to receive it; but on his arrival at Jerusalem he found the gates closed. Aristobulus was then thrown into prison, and Pompey marched to Jerusalem. Hyrcanus opened the gates to him, while the party of Aristobulus, including the priests, shut themselves up in the Temple and withstood a siege of three months. Pompey, observing that the Jews did not work on the seventh day, gained material advantage, and at last took the place by assault, killing, according to Josephus, as many as 12,000 persons, even desecrating the Temple by entering the holy of holies (comp. Tacitus, Hist. 5, 9), though he did not touch any of the treasures. Hyrcanus was then appointed high priest and governor of the country, but was forbidden to wear a diadem (comp. Josephus, Ant. 20, 10). Tribute was also exacted of him, and Pompey took Aristobulus and his two sons, Alexander and Antigonus, prisoners to Rome, whence thev subsequently escaped (ibid. 14, 3, 2; 4, 2; 3, 4; War, 1, 7, 6; Strabo, 16, p. 763).
The restoration of Hyrcanus was, however, merely nominal, as the Idumaean Antipater, an active friend of the Romans, was placed over him as governor of Judaea. "Now began the struggle which was destined to continue with little intermission for nearly two hundred years. It was nourished by feelings of the deadliest animosity on both sides; it was signalized by the most frightful examples of barbarity, in which each of the contending parties strove to outdo the other; but it was directed by a controlling Providence to a beneficial consummation, in the destruction of the Jewish nationality, and the dispersion throughout the world of the Christian communities." (See Merivale, Romans under the Empire [Lond. 1865, 8 vols. 8vo], vol. 21, ch. 29, where the events of the period are admirably summed up). In the year B.C. 57, Alexander, the eldest son of Aristobulus, escaped from Pompey, and took up arms in Judaea. Hyrcanus upon this applied for assistance to Gabinius, the Roman proconsul of Syria, who thereupon sent Mark Antony with a large force into Judaea. Antony, being joined by Antipater with the forces of Hyrcanus, defeated Alexander, and compelled him to fly to Alexandrium. Gabinius soon after arrived, and, through the mediation of the mother of Alexander, made peace with him and allowed him to depart. After these matters were settled, Gabinius went to Jerusalem, and there committed the care of the Temple to Hyrcanus, thus changing the government from a monarchy to an aristocracy. At the same time, he instituted five councils (συνέδρια) instead of the two sanhedrims which had existed in every city, and he distributed these five among five cities. These were Jerusalem, Gadara, Amathus, Jericho, and Sepphoris, in Galilee (Josephus, Ant. 14, 5, 4). In B.C. 54 Gabinius was superseded in the government of Syria by Crassus, who plundered the Temple of about 10,000 talents, not withstanding that a beam of gold of immense value I had been given him, on condition that he would touch nothing else in the Temple (ibid. 14, 7, 1). All this time Antipater was gaining influence with the Romans; and after the death of Pompey, in B.C. 48, he was very useful to Julius Caesar in his war against Egypt. In return for this, he made Antipater procurator of Judaea, gave him the privilege of a citizen of Rome. and freedom from taxes everywhere. Hyrcanus also was confirmed in the priesthood and ethnarchy, the claims of Antigonus, the only surviving son of Aristobulus, being set aside, and thus the aristocratical constitution of Gabinius was abolished (ibid. 14). The ascendency and prosperity of Antipater were now insured. At this period he had four sons. Two of them, Phasael and Herod, were holding important posts, the former being governor of Jerusalem, and the latter governor of Galilee. Finally, Antipater's son, Herod the Great, was made king by Antony's interest, B.C. 40, and confirmed in the kingdom by Augustus, B.C. 30 (ibid. 14, 14; 15, 6). The Jews, however, were all this time tributaries of Rome, and their princes in reality were mere Roman procurators. Julius Ceesar is said to have exacted from them a fourth part of their agricultural produce in addition to the tithe paid to Hyrcanus (ibid. 14, 10, 6). Roman soldiers were quartered at Jerusalem in Herod's time to support him in his authority (ibid. 15, 3, 7). Tribute was paid to Rome, and an oath of allegiance to the emperor as well as to Herod appears to have been taken by the people (ibid. 17,2, 2). On the banishment of Archelaus, A.D. 6, Judsea became a mere appendage of the province of Syria, and was governed by a Roman procurator, who resided at Cesarea. Galilee and the adjoining districts were still left under the government of Herod's sons and other petty princes, whose dominions and titles were changed from time to time by successive emperors. SEE HEROD.
The Jewish people, being at last worn out with the disputes and cruelties of the Herods, sent a mission to Rome, begging that Judaea might be made a Roman province. In the year A.D. 6, Archelaus was banished, and Judaea put under the government of Rome. The first procurator appointed was Coponius, who accompanied Cyrenius (the Greek form of the Roman name Quirinus) into Syria. The latter had been sent to take an account of their substance, and to make a census or ἀπογράφη, SEE CHRONOLOGY; SEE CYRENIUS, of the inhabitants of Judaea (Lu 2; Lu 1; Josephus, Ant. 17, 13, 5; 18, 1, 1; War, 2, 8, 1). In A.D. 9 Coponius was succeeded by Marcus Ambivius, who remained at the head of the government till A.D. 12, and was then replaced by Annius Rufus. On the accession of Tiberius, Valerius Gratus was made procurator, a post he filled for eleven years, and was succeeded (A.D. 26) by Pontius Pilate (Josephus, Ant. 18, 2, 2), who entered Jerusalem with the military ensigns, on which were the effigies of the emperor. The Jewish law forbids the making of images, and a great tumult arose, and shortly Tiberius ordered him to withdraw them (ibid. 18, 3, 1; War, 2, 9, 3). Pilate tyrannically governed the Jews till A.D. 36; and at last, owing to continual complaints, was ordered by Vitellius, the president of Syria, to proceed to Rome to give an account of his administration. Tiberius died before he arrived, and he put an end to his life at the commencement of the reign of Caius (Caligula) (Josephus, Ant. 18, 3, 1-3; 4, 1; War, 2, 9, 2; Euseb. H.E. 2, 7). It was during his administration that our Lord was condemned and crucified (Matthew 27;
Mr 15; Lu 3:1; Lu 23; Joh 18; Joh 19). On Pilate's departure, Marullus was appointed over Judaea by Vitellius (Josephus, Ant. 18, 4, 2). The new emperor, Caius, however, superseded him, and appointed Marcellus procurator of Judaea (ibid. 18, 6, 10). In A.D. 40 Vitellius was recalled, and Petronius sent as president of Syria, with orders from Caius to set up his statue in the Temple. This insult caused the whole nation to rise. The intercession of Agrippa, and ultimately the death of the tyrant, prevented this order from ever being executed (ibid. 18; War, 2, 10; Philo, Leg. ad Caiumn, 26). In the Acts it is recorded that the churches had rest through all Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria (9, 31), doubtless owing to the impious attempt of Caligula (Josephus, Ant. 18, 8, 2-9). Under Claudius, who succeeded to the throne in A.D. 41, the Jews had some peace. Agrippa I was nominally king from that period to A.D. 44, when he died, leaving one son. Claudius wished to allow the young Agrippa to rule his father's kingdom, but, evidently by persuasion, sent a Roman procurator to govern the province (Tacit. Hist. 5, 9). Cuspius Fadus was the first appointed (Josephus, Ant. 19, 9, 2; 20, 5, 1), A.D. 45. It was under his administration that a movement of the whole Jewish people broke forth, in consequence of the sacred vestments being placed under his charge. Longinus, the governor of Syria, interfered, an embassy was sent to Rome, and the matter ended in the Jews being permitted to retain these vestments under their care. Judaea was cleared of robbers by the care and providence of Fadus (ibid. 20, 1, 1, 2). He was succeeded by Tiberius Alexander, a renegade Jew, and nephew of Philo (ibid. 20, 5, 2; War, 2, 11, 6). In A.D. 49 Tiberius was recalled, and Ventidius Cumanus appointed in his stead. During his government a fearful tumult ensued, which would have spread far and wide had not Quadratus, the governor of Syria, interfered. The matter ended in the banishment of Cumanus and the appointment of Felix, the brother of Pallas, the favorite of Claudius, as procurator (Ant. 20, 6; 7, 1; War, 2, 12; comp. Tacit. Ann. 12, 54). Felix was procurator A.D. 53-55. Of his government Tacitus speaks: "Per omnem saevitiam ac libidinem jus regium servili ingenio exercuit" (Hist. 5, 9), and his corruptness is shown by his expecting to receive money from St. Paul (Ac 24:26). He had induced Drusilla, the daughter of Agrippa I, to live with him. She was with him when Paul preached "of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come" (ver. 25). Felix, however, did some good services while he was in power; for, the country being infested with robbers and impostors, he cleared several parts of it. He also drove out the Egyptian impostor (comp. Ac 21:38). These are, doubtless, the very worthy deeds alluded to by Tertullus (24, 2). Bearing ill will against Jonathan, the high priest, Felix had him barbarously murdered. By treachery, also, he put to death Eleazar, the captain of a company of robbers (Josephus, Ant. 20, 8, 5). At last his misgovernment caused his recall, and Porcius Festus succeeded. His government seems to have been milder (ibid. 21, 8, 9; War, 2, 14, 1). He heard Paul with king Agrippa at Caesarea (Ac 25; Ac 26). Festus died after two years. He was succeeded by Albinus, a bad and cruel man, who, on hearing that Gessius Florus was coming to succeed him, brought out all the prisoners who seemed most worthy of death, and put them to death, and at the same time released many of them, but only on receiving a bribe (Josephus, Ant. 20, 9, 5; War, 2, 14, 1). He was recalled in A.D. 65, and Gessius Florus appointed in his stead. He was the last and the worst of the Roman procurators (Ant. 20, 9, 1; 11, 1; War, 2, 14, 1). Josephus does not hesitate to accuse him of the most flagrant and horrid crimes (Ant. 20, 11, 1; War, loc. cit.); and even Tacitus says that the Jewish patience could endure the yoke no longer — "duravit patientia Judaeis usque ad Gessium Florum" (Hist. 5, 10). In A.D. 66, Cestius Gallus, the praefect of Syria, found it necessary to march a powerful army into Palestine. He was, however, defeated with great loss, and immediately sent word to Nero, laying the whole blame on Florus — Florus, likewise, laying the blame on him. He soon afterwards died, as some have supposed, from chagrin or disappointment (Josephus, War, 2, 19; Sueton. Vesp. 4; Tacit. Hist. 5, 10). SEE GOVERNOR. The following year Nero sent Vespasian into Judaea (Josephus, War, 3, 1, 2). (Accounts of the war and siege of Jerusalem will be found in the article SEE JERUSALEM.) In 68, Nero died; Galba, Otho, and Vitellius followed in quick succession; and Vespasian himself was elected emperor by the legions in Judaea. In A.D. 70, Titus was sent by his father to conduct the war; and after a four months' siege Jerusalem was taken. Josephus states that 1,100,000 were killed during the siege (ibid. 6, 9, 3), that several were allowed to depart, and an immense number sold to the army and carried captive. These numbers are of course exaggerated See Lu 21:24.
Under Trajan the Jews again broke out into open revolt, and the disturbances continued under Hadrian. At last, A.D. 131, one Bar-cocheba, the son of a star, was placed at the head of the Jews. Several times the Roman arms were defeated; but Julius Severus, by reducing their fortresses one by one, finally defeated him in A.D. 135. Dion Cassius says that 580,000 Jewish people were slain in these battles (69, 14). This statement is as extravagant as that of Josephus (ut sup.).
In A.D. 136 the emperor Hadrian founded a new city, under the name of AElia Capitolina, to which he gave the privileges of a colony. None but Christians and pagans were allowed to enter (Dion Cass. 69, 12; comp. Gibbon).
The New Test. history falls within the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. Only Augustus (Lu 2:1), Tiberius (3, 1), and Claudius (Ac 11:28; Ac 18:2) are mentioned; but Nero is alluded to in the Acts from ch. 35 to the end, and in Php 4:22. The Roman emperor in the New Test. is usually called Caesar (Ac 25:10-12,21), though sometimes Augustus (Σεβαστός, ver. 21:25), and once Lord (ὁ κύριος, ver. 26). We thus find many characteristics of the Roman rule constantly before us in the New Test.: we hear of Caesar the sole king (Joh 19:15) of Cyrenius, "governor of Syria" (Lu 2:2); of Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus, the "governors," i.e. procurators, of Judaea; of the "tetrarchs" Herod, Philip, and Lysanias (3:1); of "king Agrippa" (Ac 25:13); of Roman soldiers, legions, centurions, publicans; of the tributemoney (Mt 22:19); the taxing of the whole world" (Lu 2:1); Italian and Augustan cohorts (Ac 10:15; Ac 27:1); the appeal to Caesar (Ac 25:11). Several notices of the provincial administration of the Romans and the condition of provincial cities occur in the narrative of Paul's journeys (13:7; 18:12; 16:12, 35, 38; 19:38). SEE JUDEA.
II. Extent of the Empire. — Cicero's description of the Greek states and colonies as a "fringe on the skirts of barbarism" (Cicero, De Rep. 2, 4) has been well applied to the Roman dominions before the conquests of Pompey and Caesar (Merivale, Rom. Empire, 4, 409). The Roman empire was still confined to a narrow strip encircling the Mediterranean Sea. Pompey added Asia Minor and Syria; Caesar added Gaul. The generals of Augustus overran the northwest portion of Spain and the country between the Alps and the Danube. The boundaries of the empire were now, the Atlantic on the west; the Euphrates on the east; the deserts of Africa, the cataracts of the Nile, and the Arabian deserts on the south; the British Channel, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Black Sea on the north. The only subsequent conquests of importance were those of Britain by Claudius, and of Dacia by Trajan. The only independent powers of importance were the Parthians on the east and the Germans on the north.
The population of the empire in the time of Augustus has been calculated at 85,000,000 (Merivale, Rom. Empire, 4, 442-450). Gibbon, speaking of the time of Claudius, puts the population at 120,000,000 (Decline and Fall, ch. 2). Count Franz de Champagny adopts the same number for the reign of Nero (Les Cesars, 2, 428). All these estimates are confessedly somewhat uncertain and conjectural.
This large population was controlled, in the time of Tiberius, by an army of twenty-five legions, exclusive of the praetorian guards and other cohorts in the capital. The soldiers who composed the legions may be reckoned in round numbers at 170,000 men. If we add to these an equal number of auxiliaries (Tacit. Ann. 4, 5), we have a total force of 340,000 men. The praetorian guards may be reckoned at 10, 000 (Dion Cass. 4, 24). The other cohorts would swell the garrison at Rome to 15,000 or 16,000 men. For the number and stations of the legions in the time of Tiberius, comp. Tacit. Ann. 4, 5.
The navy may have contained about 21,000 men (Les Cesars, 2, 429; comp. Merivale, 3, 534). The legion, as appears from what has been said, must have been "more like a brigade than a regiment," consisting, as it did, of more than 6000 infantry with cavalry attached (Conybeare and Howson, 2, 285).
III. Home Rule. — The Roman government was at first kingly. Romulus, the first monarch, was probably succeeded by six others, during a period of two hundred and forty-four years, till in the year B.C. 509 kingly government was abolished when in the hands of Tarquinius Superbus, in consequence of his arrogant and oppressive despotism. A consular form of government succeeded, which was at the first of an essentially aristocratic character, but was compelled to give way by degrees to popular influence, till men of plebeian origin made their way to the highest offices and first honors in the State, when the government became an oligarchy; then fell into anarchy, from which it was rescued by the strong hand of Octavius Csesar, who became sole master of the world by defeating Antony at Actium on Sept. 2, A.D. 723 (B.C. 31), though it was not till the year 725 that the senate named Octavius Imperator, nor till the year 727 that he received the sacred title of Augustus I. When Augustus became sole ruler of the Roman world, he was in theory simply the first citizen of the republic, intrusted with temporary powers to settle the disorders of the State. Tacitus says that he was neither king nor dictator, but "prince" (Ann. 1, 9), a title implying no civil authority, but simply the position of chief member of the senate (princeps senatus). The old magistracies were retained, but the various powers and prerogatives of each were conferred upon Augustus, so that while others commonly bore the chief official titles, Augustus had the supreme control of every department of the State — above all, he was the emperor (imperator). This word, used originally to designate any one intrusted with the imperium, or full military authority over a Roman army, acquired a new significance when adopted as a permanent title by Julius Caesar. By his use of it as a constant prefix to his name in the city and in the camp he openly asserted a paramount military authority over the State. Augustus, by resuming it, plainly indicated, in spite of much artful concealment, the real basis on which his power rested — viz. the support of the army (Merivale, Rom. Empire, vol. 3). In the New Test. the emperor is commonly designated by the family name "Caesar, " or the dignified and almost sacred title "Augustus" (for its meaning, comp. Ovid, Fasti, 1, 609). Tiberius is called by implication ἡγεμών in Lu 3:1, a title applied in the New Test. to Cyrenius, Pilate, and others. Notwithstanding the despotic character of the government, the Romans seem to have shrunk from speaking of their ruler under his military title (see Merivale, Rom. Empire, 3, 452, and note) or any other avowedly despotic appellation. The use of the word ὁ κύριος, dominius, "my lord, " in Ac 25:26, marks the progress of Roman servility between the time of Augustus and Nero. Augustus and Tiberius refused this title. Caligula first bore it (see Alford's note in loc. cit.; Ovid, Fasti, 2, 142). The term βασιλεύς, "king, " in Joh 19:15; 1Pe 2:17, cannot be closely pressed.
The empire was nominally elective (Tacit. Ann. 13, 4)., but practically it passed by adoption (see Galba's speech in Tacit. Hist. 1, 15); and till Nero's time a sort of hereditary right seemed to be recognized. The dangers inherent in a military government were, on the whole, successfully averted till the death of Pertinax, A.D. 193 (Gibbon, 3, 80); but outbreaks of military violence were not wanting in this earlier period (comp. Wenck's note on Gibbon, loc. cit.). The army was systematically bribed by donatives at the commencement of each reign, and the mob of the capital continually fed and amused at the expense of the provinces. We are reminded of the insolence and avarice of the soldiers in Lu 3:14. The reigns of Caligula, Nero, and Domitian show that an emperor might shed the noblest blood with impunity, so long as he abstained from offending the soldiery and the populace.
IV. Foreign Dependencies. — The subjugated countries that lay beyond the limits of Italy were designated by the general name of provinces. The first provisions necessary on the conquest of a country by the Roman arms were made with a view to secure the possession by the victorious general, in virtue of the power and authority (imperium) intrusted to him by the government at home. Accordingly the earliest object of attention was the ordering of the military power, and the procuring of suitable resources for subsisting the troops. These arrangements, however, were made not without a regard to the pacific relations into which the conquerors and the conquered had mutually entered. Acting on the principle that all unnecessary evil was gratuitous folly, the general availed himself of the aid afforded by existing institutions, and only ventured to give displeasure by establishing new ones in cases where the laws and customs of a country were insufficient for his purposes. The civil government was, however, recognized, modified, or remodelled by the conqueror, provisionally, and only until the Roman senate had made its behests known. Ordinarily, however, the general who had conquered the province constituted its government, in virtue of a law or decree of the senate in which the constitution (forma provincioe) was set forth and established, or the provisional appointments already made were sanctioned and confirmed. In order to complete these structural arrangements, the general received special aid from ten senators appointed for the purpose, whose counsel he was obliged to make use of. In thus reforming the legal and social life of a province, the conquerors had the good sense to act, in general, with prudence and mildness, having regard in their appointments to local peculiarities and existing institutions, so far as the intended adjunction to the Roman power permitted, in order to avoid giving the provincials provocation for opposing their new masters. Under ordinary circumstances the government of the provinces was conducted by authorities sent for the purpose from Rome. Sometimes, however, as we have seen, petty sovereigns were left in possession of a nominal independence on the borders, or within the natural limits, of the province. Such a system was useful for rewarding an ally, for employing a busy ruler, for gradually accustoming a stubborn people to the yoke of dependence. There were differences, too, in the political condition of cities within the provinces. Some were free cities, i.e. were governed by their own magistrates, and were exempted from occupation by a Roman garrison. Such were Tarsus, Antioch in Syria, Athens, Ephesus, Thessalonica. See the notices of the "politarchs" and "demos" at Thessalonica (Ac 17:5-8); also the "town-clerk" and the assembly at Ephesus (19:35, 39 [Conybeare and Howson, Life of St. Paul, 1, 357; 2, 79]). Occasionally, but rarely, free cities were exempted from taxation. Other cities were "colonies," i.e. communities of Roman citizens transplanted, like garrisons of the imperial city, into a foreign land. Such was Philippi (Ac 16:12). Such, too, were Corinth, Troas, the Pisidian Antioch. The inhabitants were, for the most part, Romans (ver. 21), and their magistrates delighted in the Roman title of Praetor (στρατηγός), and in the attendance of lictors (ῥαβδουχοί), Ac 16:35 (Conybeare and Howson, 1, 315). SEE COLONY.
Augustus divided the provinces into two classes — (1) Imperial; (2) Senatorial — retaining in his own hands, for obvious reasons, those provinces where the presence of a large military force was necessary, and committing the peaceful and unarmed provinces to the senate. The imperial provinces, at first, were Gaul, Lusitania, Syria, Phoenicia, Cilicia, Cyprus, and Egypt. The senatorial provinces were Africa, Numidia, Asia, Achaea and Epirus, Dalmatia, Macedonia, Sicily, Crete and Cyrene, Bithynia and Pontus, Sardinia, Baetica (Dion Cass. 53, 12). Cyprus and Gallia Narbonensis were subsequently given up by Augustus, who in turn received Dalmatia from the senate. Many other changes were made afterwards. The governors of those provinces which were assigned to the senate were called proconsuls (ἀνθύπατοι, deputies; A.V. Ac 13:7; Ac 18:12; Ac 19:38), whatever their previous office may have been (Dion. Cass. 53, 13). The imperial provinces, on the other hand, were governed by a Legatus (πρεσβυτὴς) or propraetor (ἀντιστράτηγος), even if the officer appointed had been consul. The minor districts of the imperial provinces were governed by a procurator (ἐπίτροπος, Dion Cass. 53, 15, "steward, " Mt 20:8). Augustus brought all the procurators under his control (Dion Cass. 53, 32). Under the republic they had managed the affairs of private citizens, but under the empire they discharged the duties performed by the quaestors in the senatorial provinces. They controlled the revenue and collected the taxes, and their power extended from these matters to justice and administration (Tacit. Hist. 1, 11). The procurators of Judaea seem to have been under the control of the proconsul of Syria, as Quadratus condemned the indiscretion of the procurator Cumanus (Josephus, Ant. 20, 6, 3; Tacit. Ann. 12, 54). They are called "governors" (ἡγεμόνες) in the New Test. The verb ἡγεμονεύω is employed in Lu 2:2 to show the nature of the government of Quirinus over Syria. Asia and Achaia were assigned to the senate, and in each case the title of the governor in the Acts is proconsul (ἀνθύπατος, 18:12; 19:38). Dion Cass. (53, 12) informs us that Cyprus was retained by the emperor; but Sergius Panlus is called in the Acts (Ac 13:7) "proconsul." This is quite correct, as Dion adds that Augustus restored Cyprus to the senate in exchange for another district of the empire. Coins and inscriptions of Cyprus also bear the title "proconsul" (comp. Conybeare and Howson, Life of St. Paul, 1, 173 sq.; Akerman, Num. Ill. of New Test. p. 41). SEE PROCONSUL.
The government of the senatorial provinces lay between the consuls, for whom, after they had completed their consular office, two provinces were appointed; the other provinces were allotted to the praetors. Suetonius adds (Octav. 47) that Augustus sometimes made changes in this arrangement. Quaestors, chosen by lot out of those who were named for the year, went with the proconsuls into the provinces of the senate. Into the provinces of the emperor, legati, or lieutenants, were sent, with proprsetorial power, to act as representatives of their master: they wore the sword as an index of military authority, and had power of life and death over the soldiers — two distinctions which were not granted to the proconsuls, or governors of the senatorial provinces. The imperial lieutenants remained many years in the provinces; until, indeed, it pleased the emperor to recall them. Quaestors were not sent into the imperial provinces, but their place was supplied by "procuratores, " called at a later period "rationales," who were generally taken from the equestrian order. They raised the revenue for the imperial treasury, and discharged the office of paymaster of the army. There was also in the senatorial provinces a procurator, who raised the income intended, not for the treasury, but for the emperor's privy purse: the smaller provinces, like Judaea, which belonged to Syria, were altogether governed by such. SEE PROCURATOR.
The proconsuls, propraetors, and propraetorial lieutenants, when about to proceed into their several provinces, received instructions for their guidance from the emperor; and in cases in which these were found insufficient, they were to apply for special directions to the imperial head of the State. A specimen of such application may be found in Pliny's letter to Trajan, with the emperor's rescript, regarding the conduct which was to be observed towards the already numerous and rapidly growing sect of Christians. The administration of justice, so far as it did not belong to the province itself, was in the governor or lieutenants assembled in a conventus; an appeal lay from this court to the proconsul, and from him to Caesar. Criminal justice was wholly in the hands of the local governor, and extended not only over the provincials, but the Roman citizens as well: in important cases the governors applied for a decision to the emperor. The procurator sometimes had the power of life and death, as in the case of Pontius Pilate (Tacitus, Ann. 15, 44). SEE PROVINCE.
The procurator of Judaea resided principally at Caesarea, and the military forces were generally stationed there (Josephus, Ant. 18, 3, 1). During the Passover the troops were stationed at Jerusalem, in order to prevent any insurrection from the multitude of visitors at that festival (Ac 21:31; Ac 22:24; Ac 23:23; Josephus, Ant. 20, 5, 3). The troops consisted of infantry and cavalry (Ac 23:23), and were commanded by tribunes (χιλιάρχοι, ver. 17) and centurions (κεντυρίωνες, Mr 15:39,44-45; ἑκατοντάρχοι, Mt 8:5; Mt 27:54; Ac 10:1,22). The former were at the head of the cohorts (σπεῖραι), and the latter at the head of the centuria. of which two made a maniple. SEE ARMY. It was the duty of the soldiers to execute the sentence of death and to keep guard over the prisoners (Mt 27:27 sq.; Joh 19:23 sq.; comp. Ac 22:25), and the garments of those who were executed became their perquisite (Joh 19:23). They also guarded the prisoners (Ac 23:23; Ac 27:31). In Ac 10:1 mention is made of the Italian band at Caesarea. This was probably a cohort serving in Syria composed of natives of Italy, and called Ι᾿ταλική to distinguish it from those which consisted of troops raised in Syria (Josephus, Ant. 14, 15, 10; War, 1, 17, 1), as we know from Gruter (Inscr. 334, 1) that Italian cohorts were serving in Syria. The Σπείρη Σεβαστή (Ac 27:1) could not well be a cohors Augusta, for no legions were in Syria or Judaea bearing that title, nor could it be the band levied from Samaria (ἵλη ίππέων καλουμένη Σεβαστηνῶν, Josephus, Ant. 19, 9, 2; 20, 6, 1; War, 2, 12, 5). Wieseler suggests that it was the Augustani mentioned by Tacitus (Ann. 14, 15) and Suetonius (Nero, 20, 25). The first levying of this band by Augustus is recorded by Dion Cassius (45, 12).
The provinces were heavily taxed for the benefit of Rome and her citizens. In old times the Roman revenues were raised mainly from three sources: 1, the domain lands; 2, a direct tax (tributum) levied upon every citizen; 3, from customs, tolls, harbor duties, etc. The agrarian law of Julius Caesar is said to have extinguished the first source of revenue (Cicero, Ad Att. 2, 16; Dureau de la Malle, 2, 430). Roman citizens had ceased to pay direct taxes since the conquest of Macedonia, B.C. 167 (Cicero, De Off. 2, 22; Plutarch, Emil. Paul. 38), except in extraordinary emergencies. The main part of the Roman revenue was now drawn from the provinces by a direct tax (κῆνσος, φόρος, Mt 22:17; Lu 20:22), amounting probably to from five to seven percent on the estimated produce of the soil (Dureau de la Malle, 2, 418). The indirect taxes, too (τέλη, vectigalia, Mt 17:25; Dureau de la Malle, 2, 449), appear to have been very heavy (ibid. 2, 448, 452). Augustus, on coming to the empire, found the regular sources of revenue impaired, while his expenses must have been very great. To say nothing of the pay of the army, he is said to have supported no less than 200,000 citizens in idleness by the miserable system of public gratuities. Hence the necessity of a careful valuation of the property of the whole empire, which appears to have been made more than once in his reign. SEE CENSUS. Augustus appears to have raised both the direct and indirect taxes (ibid. 2, 433, 448).
The provinces are said to have been better governed under the empire than under the commonwealth, and those of the emperor better than those of the senate (Tacitus, Ann. 1, 76; 4, 6; Dion, 53, 14). Two important changes were introduced under the empire. The governors received a fixed pay, and the term of their command was prolonged (Josephus, Ant. 18, 6, 5). But the old mode of levying taxes seems to have been continued. The companies who farmed the taxes, consisting generally of knights, paid a certain sum into the Roman treasury, and proceeded to wring what they could from the provincials, often with the connivance and support of the provincial governor. The work was done chiefly by underlings of the lowest class (portitores). These are the publicans (q.v.) of the New Test.
On the whole, it seems doubtful whether the wrongs of the provinces can have been materially alleviated under the imperial government. It is not likely that such rulers as Caligula and Nero would be scrupulous about the means used for replenishing their treasury. The stories related even of the reign of Augustus show how slight were the checks on the tyranny of provincial governors. See the story of Licinius in Gaul (Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Romans Biog. s.v.), and that of the Dalmatian chief (Dion, 55). The sufferings of Paul, protected as he was, to a certain extent, by his Roman citizenship, show plainly how little a provincial had to hope from the justice of a Roman governor.
V. Roman Citizenship. — Seeing how great the privileges of a Roman citizen were, the eagerness with which it was sought, and the earnestness with which it was pleaded in case of any unjust treatment, is not to be wondered at. The freedom of Rome was often obtained by purchase for great sums (Ac 22:28), though at the time of Claudius it is said that it became so cheap that it might be bought for a little broken glass (Dion Cass. 55, 17). A citizen under the republic could in criminal cases, if he were so minded, appeal from the magistrates to the people, for without the acquiescence of the whole Roman people no man could be put to death (Cicero, Tusc. Quoest. 4, 1; In Verr. 54, 57). At the commencement of the imperial period it was, however, necessary that the appeal should be made to the emperor, who had assumed the privilege of final adjudication. It was thus that Paul, when being tried before Festus, "appealed unto Caesar" (Ac 25:11; Ac 26:32), fulfilling our Lord's words that he should "bear witness also at Rome" (23, 11; 27:23; 28:14, 16, 17; 2Ti 1:17; 2Ti 4:17). The scourging of a Roman citizen was contrary to the law, and Paul, by the assertion of his Roman citizenship, prevented Claudius Lysias from ordering him to be scourged (Ac 22:26-29; Ac 23:27). At an earlier period Paul and Silas had been scourged (16:37), and two Roman laws thereby violated (Lex Valeria, B.C. 508; Lex Porcia, B.C. 300). They were also illegally treated, being "uncondemned" (Cicero, Verr. 1, 9; Tacitus, Hist. 1, 6). See Sigonius, De Antiquo Jure Civ. Romans (Paris, 1572); also in Graevii Thesaurus, vol. 1; Spanheim, Orbis Romans (Lond. 1703); Cellarii Dissertatt. p. 715 sq.; Fabricius, Bibliograph. Antiq. p. 724 sq. SEE CITIZENSHIP.
VI. Religious Toleration. — The treatment that the Jews received at the hands of the Romans was at times very moderate. Under Julius Caesar they were not forbidden to live according to their customs even in Rome itself (Josephus, Ant. 14, 10, 8), and Augustus ordered that they should have full freedom of worship, hold their assemblies, and make gifts to their Temple;
they were even admitted with the citizens to a share in the largesses of corn (Philo, Ad Cai. p. 1015; comp. Horace, Sat. 1, 9, 69); and when it fell upon the Sabbath day, Augustus allowed it to be put off to the next day. They were also exempted from military service on account of their religious prejudices (Josephus, Ant. 14, 10, 11-19; 16, 6; comp. 19, 5, 3). Suetonius (Coes. 84) records that the Jews were in great grief at the death of Augustus. Tiberius and Claudius banished them from Rome, the latter on account of tumults caused by a certain Chrestus (Tacitus, Ann. 2, 85; Suetonius, Tib. 36; comp. Josephus, Ant. 18, 3, 5; Suetonius, Claud. 25; Ac 18:2); but the expulsion by Claudius is contradicted by Dion Cassius (55, 6), and a few years after the Jews were again at Rome in great numbers (Ac 28:17 sq.). The interference of the Roman government was confined to keeping peace at the great festivals at Jerusalem; for which purpose a guard was stationed in the fortress of Antonia, overlooking the city (Ac 22:24). The administration of religious ceremonies was committed to the high priest and Sanhedrim; civil and criminal jurisprudence was retained by them, and they were allowed to pass the sentence of condemnation, but its execution depended upon the procurator (Josephus, Ant. 20, 9, 1; Mr 14:53-55,62-65). They were also permitted to inflict lesser punishments, especially for infractions of the Mosaic law; but the power of life and death was taken from them (Joh 18:31). (See Alford's note on this passage, and Biscoe On the Acts, p. 134- 167.) The stoning of Stephen probably took place during a tumult, and not with the sanction of the procurator (Ac 7:28). Even beyond the borders of Palestine the Jews exercised among themselves the civil jurisdiction according to their laws. Josephus (Ant. 14, 10, 17) gives a Roman decree to the city of Sardis sanctioning this privilege.
The Romans could not remain masters of the country so long without leaving many traces of their occupation: the Latin language became known, the imperial weights and measures as well as modes of reckoning time were adopted, many Latinisms passed into common use (occasionally met with in the New Test.), and judicial proceedings were conducted in that language. Yet Latin literature never exercised the same influence on the Jewish mind which the Greek philosophy did, of which we have the most remarkable example in the Jewish school of Alexandria. Indeed, the Romans carefully abstained from forcing their own language upon the inhabitants of the countries they conquered, though the strictness with which every official act, even to the farthest limits of the empire, was carried out in the Roman language was never relaxed, but the edicts were generally translated into Greek (Josephus, Ant. 14, 10, 2). The better educated Romans undoubtedly spoke Greek. The inscription on the cross was written in Hebrew, Roman, and Greek (Lu 23:38; Joh 19:20); the Hebrew for the common people, the Latin, the official language, and the Greek, that usually spoken (Alford, ad loc.). All the official inscriptions put up by the Romans were called tituli (comp. Suetonius, In Calig. 34; In Dom. 10); and John (loc. cit.) uses the same expression (ἔγραψε τίτλον).
The freedom of religious worship enjoyed by the nations subject to Rome was remarkably great, though foreign religions were not allowed to be introduced among the Romans (Livy 39, 16); and it is recorded by Dion Cassius (52, 36) that Maecenas advised Augustus not to permit such innovations, as they would only tend to destroy the monarchy. This rule was strictly maintained by all his successors. Judaism was an exception, though, as we have seen, the Jews were sometimes expelled from Rome.
VII. The condition of the Roman empire at the time when Christianity appeared has often been dwelt upon, as affording obvious illustrations of Paul's expression that the "fulness of time had come" (Ga 4:4). The general peace within the limits of the empire, the formation of military roads, the suppression of piracy, the march of the legions, the voyages of the corn fleets, the general increase of traffic, the spread of the Latin language in the West as Greek had already spread in the East, the external unity of the empire, offered facilities hitherto unknown for the spread of a worldwide religion. The tendency, too, of a despotism like that of the Roman empire to reduce all its subjects to a dead level was a powerful instrument in breaking down the pride of privileged races and national religions, and familiarizing men with the truth that "God hath made of one blood all nations on the face of the earth" (Ac 17:24,26). But still more striking than this outward preparation for the diffusion of the Gospel was the appearance of a deep and wide spread corruption which seemed to defy any human remedy. It would be easy to accumulate proofs of the moral and political degradation of the Romans under the empire. It is needless to do more than allude to the corruption, the cruelty, the sensuality, the monstrous and unnatural wickedness of the period as revealed in the heathen historians and satirists. "Viewed as a national or political history," says the great historian of Rome, "the history of the Roman empire is sad and discouraging in the last degree. We see that things had come to a point at which no earthly power could afford any help; we now have the development of dead powers instead of that of a vital energy" (Niebuhr, Lect. 5, 194). Notwithstanding the outward appearance of peace, unity, and reviving prosperity, the general condition of the people must have been one of great misery. To say nothing of the fact that probably one half of the population consisted of slaves, the great inequality of wealth at a time when a whole province could be owned by six landowners, the absence of any middle class, the utter want of any institutions for alleviating distress, such as are found in all Christian countries, the inhuman tone of feeling and practice generally prevailing, forbid us to think favorably of the happiness of the world in the famous Augustan age. We must remember that "there were no public hospitals, no institutions for the relief of the infirm and poor, no societies for the improvement of the condition of mankind from motives of charity. Nothing was done to promote the instruction of the lower classes, nothing to mitigate the miseries of domestic slavery. Charity and general philanthropy were so little regarded as duties that it requires a very extensive acquaintance with the literature of the times to find any allusion to them" (Arnold, Later Roman Commonwealth, 2, 398). If we add to this that there was probably not a single religion, except the Jewish, which was felt by the more enlightened part of its professors to be real, we may form some notion of the world which Christianity had to reform and purify.
Notwithstanding the attempts of Augustus to stop all tendencies to corruption by punishing immorality, it was chiefly immorality that undermined the empire. With a high civilization, a flourishing commerce, and general outward refinement was associated a terrible depravity of morals. Yet the prosperous state of the empire was confessed by the provinces as well as the Romans. "They acknowledged that the true principles of social life, laws, agriculture, and science, which had been first invented by the wisdom of Athens, were now firmly established by the power of Rome, under whose auspicious influence the fiercest barbarians were united by an equal government and common language" (Gibbon, ch. 2). The cruelties and exactions of the provincial magistrates were suppressed by Augustus and Tiberius (Tacitus, Ann. 4, 6). Roads were constructed and commerce increased, but all of no avail. Society would not be reformed, and Paul draws a striking picture of the corruption of the age (Ro 1:14-23). But the spirit of Christianity was floating in the atmosphere, and "the wisdom of providence was preparing a knowledge which struck root as deeply as the literature of the Augustan age had been scattered superficially" (Arnold, loc. cit.).
The Roman empire terminated with the anarchy which followed the murder of Justinian II, the last sovereign of the family of Heraclius; and Leo III, or the Isaurian, must be ranked as the first Byzantine monarch (Finlay, Greece under the Romans, p. 433).
The chief prophetic notices of the Roman empire are found in the book of Daniel, especially in Da 11:30-40, and in Da 2:40; Da 7:7,17-19, according to the common interpretation of the "fourth kingdom" (comp. 2 Esdr. 11:1). SEE DANIEL. According to some interpreters the Romans are intended in De 28:49-57. For the mystical notices of Rome in the Revelation, comp. SEE ROME.
On the general subject of this article, consult Eschenberg, Classical Manual, § "Roman Antiquities" (Lond. 1844); Ruperti, Handbuch der romisch. Alterthumer (Hanover, 1841, 2 vols. 8vo); Maillott and Martin, Recherches sur les Costumes, les Maurs, etc., des Anciens Peuples. See also Unger, Sitten und Gebrauche der Romer (Vienna, 1805); Arnold, Hist. of Rome. Much information may be found by the English reader on the state of manners in the first centuries after Christ in the following fictions: Lockhart, Valerius; Bulwer, Pompeii; Ware, Palmyra; and in Milman, Hist. of Latin Christianity. But especially consult Merivale, Hist. of the Roman Empire (Lond. 1864, 8vo).