Arrival in Rome and House Arrest

c. 60 AD - From Puteoli, Paul presumably went to Copua, twenty miles away, to take the Via Appia (below), the main highway to Rome. Called "the queen of the long roads," it was built by Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 BC from Rome to Copua; by around 244 BC, it was extended to reach the port of Brandisium.

Below, Paul's route following the Via Appia from Puteoli

Below, the section of the Via Appia

via appia

 

Forum of Appius

Forty-three miles from Rome, Paul, Luke, Aristarchus and Julius came to the Forum (market) of Appius, described by the Roman poet Horace as being "full of stingy tavern keepers." Alerted by the small church at Puteoli, members of Rome's Christian community met the foursome there. Below, view of the surrounding area.

 

Three Taverns

Ten miles further (about thirty-three miles south of Rome) was the village of Three Taverns or "Tres Tabernae" (remains below). It was the first halting-place for relays from Rome, or the last on the way to the city. The term "tavern" designated any kind of shop, and three were located there: a general store, a blacksmith, and a refreshment house. Thus, it should more properly called "three shops." Other Roman Christians, possibly some of those listed in Romans 16, came out to Three Taverns to great Paul, including a number of his relatives living in the city. At the sight of them he thanked God and was greatly encouraged, a show of support that must have astonished the centurion Julius.

three taverns along the Appian Way

Continuing on the Via Appia, Paul crossed the low plain surrounding the city. The plain was dotted with villas, houses and gardens. Nearing the city the houses were smaller and built closer together.

Paul probably entered Rome through the Porta Capena (Capena Gate) (below).

Capena Gate in the Servian Wall

The Porta Capua was one of sixteen gates in the old Servian Wall (remnant below), a defensive barrier constructed around Rome in the early 4th century BC by the Roman senate and allegedly named for the sixth Roman king, Servius (6th century BC).

servian wall remnant

Nearby ran the Claudia aqueduct (below), with its 110 feet-high arches, completed in 50 AD by Emperor Claudius, about a decade before Paul's arrival.

Claudia Aqueduct

 

Rome

In New Testament times, Augustus Caesar rebuilt Rome, claiming to have found "the city built of brick" and "left it built of marble." 

With an estimated population of 1,200,000, Rome was alternately described as the glorious crowning achievement of mankind or, as the aristocratic historian Sallust stated, "the common cesspool of the world." The city had reasons for both civic pride in its architecture and shame for staggering social problems, not unlike cities today.

Once inside the Servian Wall Julius took his group past the Circus Maximus and the nearby Palatine (below), adorned with imperial palaces.

Paletine Hill with remains of palaces

The group then followed the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) through the Roman Forum (below), the symbolic center of the city. Center: Curia Julia (Senate house), lower left corner: three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, twin sons of Jupiter; left center, triple triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, erected 203 AD,

Roman Forum today

Finally Julius brought his entourage to the Castra Praetoria (below, extant remains), the barracks (castra) of the Praetorian Guard built during the rule of emperor Tiberius on the northeastern fringe of Rome.

Castra Praetoria

Here Julius reported to the commandant of the camp of the Praetorian Guard, delivering Paul and the other prisoners with the documents spelling out the indictments against them. He may have said a few things in Paul's favor to the commandant.

Since Paul had committed no serious crime and was not politically dangerous he was allowed to live in his own rented house, possibly in one of the apartments (below) called insulae ("islands") interspersed throughout the city, "with a soldier to guard him" (in other words, he was placed under house arrest). Although the exact place where Paul lived is unknown, it must have been in the vicinity of the Castra Praetoria, in a house roomy enough to accommodate the "large numbers" mentioned in Acts 28:23.

Ancient Roman apartments

 

Paul in Rome
(c. 59-62 AD)

Three days after his arrival in Rome, Paul resumed his mission. He sent a message to leaders of the Jewish community to meet with him. The expulsion decree of Tiberius had been allowed to lapse, and the Jews had since returned to the city with their leaders. Paul said to them:

"My brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and wanted to release me, because I was not guilty of any crime deserving death. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar--not that I had any charge to bring against my own people. For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain."

They replied, "We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of the brothers who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect."

With open minds the leaders of the Roman synagogues made an appointment to bring their members to hear him. On the appointed day, large numbers came and Paul spoke all day on Jesus as fulfillment of the Law and that he was the Messiah foretold by the Prophets. However, with some exceptions, the Jews were not convinced. Paul then told them:

"I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

Paul’s “rented house” was a busy place. Men came and went, bringing news from distant churches and returning with news from their founder, including: Timothy, Onesimus, Tychicus, Luke, Demas, Epaphras, Aristarchus and John Mark.

Luke, Paul's traveling companion on the hazardous voyage from Caesarea, began writing his gospel and Paul received word of troubles in the church at Colossae, including divisions among the believers and acceptance of false teachers who undermine the gospel. Epaphras traveled to Rome to get instruction from Paul on how to address these issues. Along the way he stopped at Philippi to check out some troubles they are having as well. He also ran into Onesimus, a slave from Colossae, who run away from his owner, Philemon, and stole money from him. Epaphras brought him to Rome with him.

Epaphraditus arrived from Philippi and Epaphras, who started the churches at Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis in the Lycus River valley, some 100 miles east of Ephesus, came to see him.

Yet another guest was the slave Onesimus, who had run away from his master Philemon of Colossae. Possibly he had heard of Paul in his master’s home, or met him during his long stay in Ephesus. Paul grew to love him and wanted to keep him. Instead, he wrote a very personal letter asking that Philemon forgive Onisemus and take him back, not "as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother." Paul wrote a letter to the Colossian church as well and asked Onisemus and Tychicus to carry both back to Colossae.

Paul writing one of his letters

Spring of 62 AD - Although he planned on traveling to Philippi upon his release, Paul felt he must address continuing issues there persecution by pagans, agitation by Jewish missionaries and infighting. Therefore he wrote his letter to the Philippians. In it he expressed his attitude on his imprisonment:

"And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ." (Philippians 1:12-14)

The letter to the church in Philippi also gives the best summary of the success of Paul’s Rome ministry:

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."

In his closing for Philippians Paul stated there was even a growing group of Christians in Nero’s palace, the Domus Transitoria:

"All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household."

Other visitors to Paul's home included Demas, a Gentile Christian, and Jesus, called Justus, a Jewish Christian. John Mark also came and made his peace with Paul. The two talked about Barnabas and Mark’s mother Mary, in whose Jerusalem home the Christians met. Mark also must have told Paul of the gospel he had written, or was about to write.

Paul writing letter while under house arrest

 

What happened then and what of Paul's fate?

Luke concludes his account with:

"Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 28:31)

His purpose in his letter to "Theophilus" was to show how Paul (along with Peter, Philip and countless others, some named, many not) fulfilled Jesus' call to spread the word of God from Jerusalem, "to all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." He did not tell us if Paul was convicted or executed. The truth is we just don't know. We can only speculate...

 

What happened to Paul?