A selection of the most important sources for the cultural and political context of the early Roman Empire and the New T
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English Pages 271 Year 2013
In this new edition of Greek and Roman Technology, the authors translate and annotate key passages from ancient texts to
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The "domus" (household) was the basic unit of Roman society. This sourcebook illustrates the activities associ
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A sourcebook on the Roman lifestyle and Roman history, from the kingdoms to the Empire.
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Bringing together over sixty pre-modern Chinese primary sources on same-sex desire in English translation, " Homoer
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Translated from the Italian ("L’arte romana nelle monete dell’età imperiale") by Peter Green. Introduction by
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By their social and material context as markers of graves, dedications and public signs of honour, inscriptions offer a
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This book makes available to students and other nonspecialists a varied collection of over three hundred translated text
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Table of contents :
Divine Sons and Their Gospels
2. Augustus 13
The Emperor: Source of Deified Virtues, Predestined Son of
4. Tiberius 51
5. Caligula 59
6. Claudius 67
7. Nero 75
8. Year of the Four Emperors 77
9. Vespasian 79
10. Titus 85
11. Domitian 89
12. Trajan 91
13. Hadrian 95
14. Conclusion 101
Identity in Community
16. Urbs 109
17. Collegium 143
The Eternal City and its Hold on the World
20. War 177
21. Commerce 187
22. Games 195
23. Emperors 209
24. Conclusion 241
Index of Subjects 243
Index of Names 249
Index of Ancient Sources 251
Imperial texts in papyrus and stone— In recent years the New Testament writings have increasingly been read in the cultural and political context of the early Roman Empire. In Roman Imperial Texts, students and scholars now have a ready handbook of the most important sources for this context. Here are public speeches, official inscriptions, annals, essays, poems—and documents of veiled protest from the Empire’s subject peoples—all freshly translated and introduced by Mark Reasoner.
Praise for Roman Imperial Texts
“There is currently a great deal of debate about the ways in which the New Testament writers responded to the Roman Empire. To understand and assess the debate it is vital for students (and scholars!) to encounter at first hand the texts and artefacts that inform us about that imperial context. With extensive quotation of primary sources and well-informed commentary and explanation, Mark Reasoner has provided an excellent sourcebook to enable us to do just that. This is a very welcome resource.” David G. Horrell University of Exeter “The book is an especially welcome enhancement of the Roman sources collected in more general New Testament ‘backgrounds’ anthologies and will be as useful in the classroom as in the study.” Alexandra Brown Washington and Lee University
Mark Reasoner is associate professor of theology at Marion University in Indianapolis. He is the author of Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation (2005) and The Strong and the Weak: Romans 14.1–15.13 in Context (2004) and, with Neil Elliott, Documents and Images for the Study of Paul (Fortress Press, 2010).
Religion / New Testament
Roman Imperial Texts
“From Matthew to Revelation, the New Testament presents good news that can be adequately interpreted only in view of its setting in the Roman Empire. Scholars, students, and all readers of the New Testament are therefore in Mark Reasoner’s debt for preparing this first-rate collection of relevant Roman imperial sources, presented fairly with minimal interpretation. I trust it will receive wide circulation and use.” Michael J. Gorman St. Mary’s Seminary & University
ROMAN IMPERIAL TEXTS
ROMAN IMPERIAL TEXTS A SOURCEBOOK
Fortress Press Minneapolis
ROMAN IMPERIAL TEXTS A Sourcebook Copyright © 2013 Fortress Press. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher. Visit http://www.augsburgfortress.org/copyrights/ or write to Permissions, Augsburg Fortress, Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440. Excerpts from Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook, by Richard S. Ascough, Philip A. Harland, and John S. Kloppenborg (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2012) are included with the permission of Baylor University Press. For rights inquiries, please contact Baylor University Press, One Bear Place #97363, Waco, Texas 76798. Cover image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Cover design: Alisha Lofgren Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Print ISBN: 978-0-8006-9911-6 eBook ISBN: 978-1-4514-3860-4 The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences — Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z329.48-1984. Manufactured in the U.S.A. This book was produced using PressBooks.com, and PDF rendering was done by PrinceXML.
Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction
vii ix 1
Part I. 1.
Introduction Divine Sons and Their Gospels
Augustus The Emperor: Source of Deified Virtues, Predestined Son of God Tiberius Caligula Claudius Nero Year of the Four Emperors Vespasian Titus Domitian Trajan Hadrian Conclusion
4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.
9 13 43 51 59 67 75 77 79 85 89 91 95 101
Part II. 15. Introduction Identity in Community
16. Urbs 17. Collegium 18. Domus
109 143 157
Part III. 19. Introduction The Eternal City and its Hold on the World
20. 21. 22. 23. 24.
177 187 195 209 241
War Commerce Games Emperors Conclusion
Index of Subjects Index of Names Index of Ancient Sources
243 249 251
Acknowledgements Neil Elliott suggested this volume, and showed real encouragement and patience with me during its gestation period. In addition, Neil’s editing of the work has made it a better product than it would be if I were working alone. I wish to register my sincere thanks to him. I wish to thank other staff of Fortress Press, Lisa Gruenisen, and copyeditor Jeff Reimer for their patience with me. I wish to thank Joe and Lori Anderson and Fortress Press for making it possible for me to use material from Baylor University Press’s Associations of the Greco-Roman World in this volume. Their generosity has enriched the content of this book. James Harrison gave helpful advice on the project. His counsel on the intersection of the Roman world and the New Testament has proven helpful to me in recent years, and I am very grateful to him. Seth Ehorn and Richard Pervo read the introduction to this volume at a formative stage. I thank them for their attentive reading and resourceful help. Steve Reece guided me to a helpful resource, for which I am grateful. No sourcebook, especially one that covers the Roman Principate, an age so abundantly attested in literary and material evidence, can include all the primary sources that scholars will consider useful. I accept responsibility for the omission of such sources and for any mistakes related to those that are in this volume. I would be very grateful if readers impressed with glaring omissions and those who discover mistakes in my treatment of sources included here would inform me of these infelicities.
Abbreviations Critical Editions, Translations, Book Series, and Journals AGRW Richard S. Ascough, Philip A. Harland, and John S. Kloppenborg. Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2012. ANRW Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt: Geschichte und Kultur Roms im Spiegel der neueren Forschung. Edited by H. Temporini and W. Haase. Berlin, 1972–. BCH Bulletin de correspondance hellénique BZNW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft CIJ J. B. Frey, ed. Corpus inscriptionum iudaicarum: Recueil des inscriptions juives qui vont du IIIe siècle avant J.-C. 2 vols. Rome: Pontifico istituto di archeologia Cristiana, 1936–1952. I. Europe (1936); II. Asia-Africa (1952). CIL Corpus inscriptionum latinarum. Consilio et Auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Regiae Borussicae editum. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1863–1974. EJ Victor Ehrenberg and A. H. M. Jones. Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976. fr. fragment HUT Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur Theologie IEph H. Engelmann, H. Wankel, and R. Merkelbach. Die Inschriften von Ephesos. Bonn: Rudolf Habelt, 1979–1984. IGBulg Georgi Mikhailov, ed. Inscriptiones graecae in Bulgaria repertae. 5 vols. Sofia: Academia litterarum Bulgarica, 1956–1997. IGRR R. L. Cagnat, J. F. Toutain, V. Henry, and G. L. Lafaye, eds. Inscriptiones graecae ad res romanas pertinentes. 4 vols. Paris: E. Leroux, 1911–1927. ILS Hermann Dessau. Inscriptiones latinae selectae. 3 vols. Berlin: Weidmann, 1892–1916. Repr., Dublin: Weidmann, 1974. Repr., Chicago: Ares, 1979. IP IPerg ergamonSupp amonSupp Helmut Müller, ed. Supplement zum Corpus der Inschriften von Pergamon. Deutsche archäologische Institut. http://www.dainst.org/de/node/ 23938?ft=all. JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
x | Roman Imperial Texts
LAE Adolf Deissmann. Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World. Translated by L. R. M. Strachan. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978. LCL Loeb Classical Library New Docs 1–5 G. H. R. Horsley, ed. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. North Ryde, Australia: The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1981–1989. New Docs 6–9 S. R. Llewelyn, ed. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. North Ryde, Australia: The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1992–2002. New Docs 10 S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, eds. New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. North Ryde, Australia: The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University/Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012. NovTSup Novum Testamentum Supplements OCT Oxford Classical Texts OGIS Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae.Wilhelm Dittenberger, ed. Orientis graeci inscriptiones selectae. Supplementum Sylloge inscriptionum graecarum. 2 vols. Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1903-1905. Repr., Hildesheim: G. Olms, 1970. OTP James H. Charlesworth, ed. Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. Vols. 1 and 2. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983–1985. PH Packard Humanities Institute numbers for Greek inscriptions http://epigraphy.packhum.org/inscriptions/ PMAAR Papers and Monographs of the American Academy in Rome POxy B. P. Grenfell, A. S. Hunt, eds. The Oxyrhynchus Papyri. London: Egypt Exploration Society with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, 1898-. PR PRyl yl J. de M. Johnson, V. Martin, A. S. Hunt. Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, Vol. 2: Documents of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1915. SE Studio Evangelica SEG Supplementum epigraphicum graecum. Leiden: Brill, 1923–. Smallwood E. Mary Smallwood, Documents Illustrating the Principates of Gaius, Claudius and Nero (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967). SNTSMS Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series SuppVC Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae WUNT Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament ZPE Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik
Abbreviations | xi
Ancient Authors Cicero Att. Epistulae ad Atticum Phil. Orationes philippicae Josephus Ant. Antiquities of the Jews Philo Leg Legat. at. Legatio ad Gaium (Embassy to Gaius) Pliny Ep. Epistulae Strabo Geogr. Geographica Suetonius Aug ug.. Divus Augustus Cal. Gaius Caligula Claud. Divus Claudius Dom. Domitianus Jul. Divus Julius Tib. Tiberius Titus Divus Titus Vesp. Vespasian Tacitus Agr. Agricola Ann. Annales
Introduction This is a sourcebook of Roman texts for readers of the New Testament. It is a supplement to one’s reading of the New Testament, a tool to prompt consideration of how its texts relate to the Roman Empire and how the Christianities that grew out of the communities behind those texts came to relate to the state. A look at the texts and images from the Roman Principate that are roughly contemporary with the New Testament allows one to understand with more precision how these texts present Jesus as God’s Son, who brought good news for humanity, what functions the early churches reflected in the New Testament fulfilled and what challenges they experienced, and how the early Christians, as seen in the book of Revelation, experienced the expanding and tightening hold of Rome on their lives. Part 1 of this book is primarily focused on the Gospels. Part 2 is primarily focused on the book of Acts and the letters of the New Testament—those written by Paul and those by others. Part 3 of the book is primarily focused on the book of Revelation. Readers seeking an efficient way to use this book might best begin with the section that covers the part of the New Testament on which they are focusing, though texts from throughout the New Testament are cited in each of the three parts below. New Testament texts appear in boldface in order for readers to find them easily, and this volume is indexed by ancient sources, names, and subjects, in order that readers might gain access as quickly as possible to material most useful for them. The texts and images in this sourcebook come from the reigns of the emperors from Augustus to Hadrian (27 bce–138 ce). All New Testament scholars, even those who date Luke and Acts in the second century, would agree that by the death of Hadrian, most of the New Testament had been written. Some might date the Pastoral Letters later, but most would consider them to have been composed by 138 ce. So the collection in this sourcebook makes an attempt to provide texts and images roughly contemporary with the New Testament texts, from the period that we call the early Principate, a time period we shall consider in more detail at the beginning of Part 1. Some interpretation is of course involved in the selection of texts and images in a sourcebook for New Testament readers. But I have made an effort not to articulate a specific relationship between a given New Testament text or author and the Roman texts or images found here. New Testament texts are
2 | Roman Imperial Texts
aligned with Roman texts and images, but no assumption is made regarding whether the New Testament text is subverting or endorsing specific ideas found in the Roman texts. In this regard, Geza Vermes’s caution regarding how much one’s reconstruction of a background can be formed to fit a preconceived reading or an imagined foreground for a text must be remembered in our reading of these Roman texts and images.1 These texts and images must be viewed as resources for a more complete context in our reading of the New Testament, not as focused evidence for a particular application of the canonical texts. The suggestion that New Testament readers look to the Roman Empire is not new. Adolf Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient East and his Bible Studies looked explicitly to Hellenistic and Roman parallels to understand the language of the New Testament, as well as the Septuagint.2 Today in New Testament scholarship, those who look to Roman parallels often do so as part of a political reading of the text. They assume that the New Testament texts are intentionally subverting the Roman Empire’s claims over the world.3 The look to the Roman Empire is not a strategy unanimously valued among New Testament scholars, and therefore this sourcebook may be considered tendentious by some. John Barclay’s essay “Why the Roman Empire Was Insignificant to Paul” makes the case that Paul did not oppose the Roman Empire as such.4 Barclay, who therefore sees no point in looking expressly for anti-imperial texts in Paul, argues that Paul’s understanding of categories like 1. Geza Vermes, “Jewish Studies and New Testament Interpretation,” in Jesus and the World of Judaism, ed. Geza Vermes (London: SCM, 1983), 58–73. 2. G. Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans. L. R. M. Strachan (German edition of 1922; London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927); Deissmann, Bible Studies: Contributions Chiefly from Papyri and Inscriptions to the History of the Language, the Literature, and the Religion of Hellenistic Judaism and Primitive Christianity, trans. Alexander Grieve (German editions of 1895 [Bibelstudien] and 1897 [Neue Bibelstudien]; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901). 3. N. T. Wright, “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire,” in Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, imperium, interpretation, ed. Richard A. Horsley (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000), 160–83; John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, In Search of Paul: How Jesus’ Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004); Warren Carter, John and Empire: Initial Explorations (New York: T&T Clark, 2008); Carter, Matthew and Empire: Initial Explorations (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2001); Carter, The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide (Nashville: Abingdon, 2006); Stephen D. Moore, Empire and Apocalypse: Postcolonialism and the New Testament (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006). 4. John M. G. Barclay, “Why the Roman Empire Was Insignificant to Paul,” in Pauline Churches and Diaspora Judaism, ed. John M. G. Barclay, WUNT 1/275 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 363–87, especially 383–85.
Introduction | 3
the elemental powers of the world might include some aspects of the Roman Empire, but are much bigger than it was. He also understands Paul’s Letters as written explicitly to Christians, to be read in private assemblies; in contexts, that is, where Paul had no need to disguise his meaning through oblique references in order to keep himself or his congregations safe. Because they are private documents, Barclay finds no evidence in them of what James C. Scott has called “hidden transcripts.”5 Barclay therefore finds it noteworthy that Paul says so little about the Roman emperor or other explicitly Roman ideas. But this argument from silence needs to be considered in light of the phenomenon that Paul usually does not name or directly mention opponents or people who are otherwise causing him problems. For example, all agree that Paul has specific people in mind in 2 Cor. 2:5-8; 11:12-15, though he does not name them. In an analogous way, Paul may have Roman authorities in mind in 1 Thess. 5:3, since here he quotes a slogan of the Roman Principate. And as a letter writer, Paul does not always explicitly state the major ideas that seem to be motivating his discourse. The texts of Rom. 1:13; 9:1-3; and Philem. 21 leave unidentified the significant ideas of “fruit” among the Romans, the basis of Paul’s grief over his fellow Jews, and what more he wants Philemon to do. If Paul can be enigmatic when referring to people who bother him or when describing his plans or his own grief, the supposed silence regarding Rome may not prove its insignificance to Paul. Authors do not mention those from whom they are trying to differ, as Harold Bloom shows so well.6 Barclay admits that the diction of the New Testament includes terms that could be used in the propaganda of imperial Rome. But Barclay is reacting against the insistence by authors such as Richard A. Horsley and N. T. Wright that in certain New Testament texts, the human author is intentionally focusing the discourse specifically on the Roman Empire. In this context, Barclay’s caution remains a helpful reminder not to claim too much for any reconstruction of authorial intention. As for Barclay’s insistence that Paul’s Letters are private documents and thus would not carry hidden transcripts embedded within them, we might simply observe that Paul had very little control over who might read his letters after they were dispatched, especially if he knew at the time of composition that they would be read at different house churches (Rom. 16:3-5, 10-11) and if he or his associates encouraged the letters to be exchanged with other churches (Col. 4:16). Besides the question of 5. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990). 6. Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973).
4 | Roman Imperial Texts
Paul’s Letters, in a sourcebook like this we also seek a context for the narrative and apocalyptic material of the New Testament, whose original audiences seem even more difficult to delimit than the congregations that received Paul’s Letters. Barclay’s insistence that the “point of conflict” evident in Paul’s Letters is between Paul and the polytheistic fabric of the Mediterranean world, rather than specifically with the Roman Empire, is a much-needed emphasis.7 The elemental powers that oppress the world certainly include more than Rome (Gal. 4:9; Col. 2:15). The designated thesaurus for this sourcebook, the Roman Principate, must therefore not be mistaken to be the only political or religious context through which the New Testament should be read. The New Testament records the life of Jesus and the founding of the early church, events that occurred while the Roman Empire ruled the Mediterranean. Decades later, when the texts that now compose our New Testament were written, this empire was still in power. But the contexts of Jewish culture, the Jewish Scriptures, and locally specific cultures throughout the Mediterranean world are also significant for any reading of the New Testament. Still, the fact remains that the Roman Empire found something wrong with Paul, even if he did not oppose the Roman Empire as directly as N. T. Wright suggests. So if we follow Barclay in his claim that Paul is not intentionally subverting the Roman Empire in his letters, we are still left with a relationship of incompatibility between Paul the apostle to the nations and the Roman Empire. There is, therefore, some utility in a book that offers parallels between Roman texts and images from the Principate and New Testament texts. This sort of presentation at least allows one to read the New Testament in a new way, and it encourages one to think through how its texts are directly opposing (à la Deissmann or Wright) or ignoring (à la Barclay) the Roman Empire. This book does not proceed on the basis of any reconstruction of authorial intention in New Testament texts with regard to the Roman Empire. It will thus be useful for someone who is influenced by writers like Wright or Crossan and Reed, who view an author like Paul as directly making a frontal attack on the Roman Empire in his letters. It will be equally useful for someone who is influenced by a point of view like Barclay’s. For either of these positions, so different in regard to reconstructing Paul’s conscious relation to Rome and yet so similar in attempting to argue for authorial intention, this book provides texts and images that might have analogous resonance with ideas in the New Testament. The reader is thus offered resources and stimuli for thinking and 7. John M. G. Barclay, “Paul, Roman Religion and the Emperor: Mapping the Point of Conflict,” in Barclay, Pauline Churches and Diaspora Judaism, 359, 361.
Introduction | 5
articulating the ways in which the New Testament frame of reference includes or omits Rome, in order to understand the New Testament better. This book will also be useful for those who seek to understand the historical phenomenon of Christianity. It is no secret that by the fourth century of the Common Era, the universal vision of the Roman Republic and Empire had been co-opted by Christianity.8 The book therefore provides opportunities for reflection on how the New Testament, whether its authors bought into the Principate’s categories or not, provided a frame of reference that allowed that to happen within just four centuries. Primary texts allow us to escape the confining perspectives of our current moment. Yes, this sourcebook is responding to the current interest in the political dimensions of the New Testament. Yes, the selection of texts and images arises out of my idea that some of them are ideologically analogous to what we encounter in the New Testament. But no assumption is made that all of the parallels are analogous, and I leave it to each reader to decide if the parallels offered illuminate the New Testament texts in helpful ways. If some of the texts and images in the pages that follow are new to some readers, then these texts and images provide new windows onto the New Testament texts with the efficiency and freshness that only voices from outside our own world can provide. Readers will inevitably disagree regarding the relevance of one or more of these primary texts and images as supplements for New Testament readers. But even if selected primary texts or images do not prove a particular relationship between the New Testament and the worlds behind the text, such primary documents are useful for helping readers to discover a new world.9 It remains for us to take and read these primary texts and images, in order that we might become more comprehensive and thoughtful readers of the New Testament.
8. Henry Chadwick, “Christian and Roman Universalism in the Fourth Century,” in Christian Faith and Greek Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Essays in Tribute to George Christopher Stead, ed. Lionel R. Wickham and Caroline P. Bammel, SuppVC 19 (Leiden: Brill 1993), 26–42. 9. Arnoldo Momigliano, “What Josephus Did Not See,” in Pagans, Jews and Christians (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1987), 108–19.
Introduction Divine Sons and Their Gospels
The Gospels in our New Testament are famously difficult to categorize as literature. Different from most biographies, they concentrate on events leading to Jesus’ death. The canonical Gospels differ among themselves on the best way to present Jesus’ teachings, and still again they differ from some of the more sayings-oriented Gospels produced by other Christians, such as the Gospel of Thomas. But this unique status of the Gospels is our problem. In the first and second centuries of the Common Era, the word “gospel,” literally “good announcement” (the Greek word is euangelion, which was then fully accepted in Latin as the loan word euangelium), was used to describe what actions or events associated with various Roman emperors had occurred for the welfare of the world. Thus in the inscription from Priene, number 4 below, we read of the “gospels”—the announcements of good news—that the birth of the emperor Augustus brought to the world. The Principate is the time period in which the Roman state came to officially designate one man, popularly called a princeps or “first one,” to lead its empire. The Principate is sometimes delimited to the period from the reign of Augustus through that of Marcus Aurelius (27 bce–180 ce); sometimes it is extended to the beginning of the reign of Diocletian, before the latter appointed others to join him in leading the empire (27bce–284 ce ). During either of these periods, the princeps, a single “first one,” was practically speaking the “emperor” of the Roman world, whether he refused the latter title and sought to keep the forms of the Republic—as seen in Augustus’s reign—or openly flaunted the Senate and any vestige of Republican government—as evident in records of Domitian’s reign.
10 | Roman Imperial Texts
The title “son of god,” divi filius, was routinely assigned to these Roman emperors. Any resident of the Mediterranean who applied the phrase to someone else was speaking in a politically charged environment, and perhaps would be heard as critiquing the reigning emperor, or at least recognizing that there was another source of goodness that approached what the emperor could offer. The imperial office was known as a benevolent source of resources for those who could not support themselves and for cities or peoples who needed financial aid for their region or for an athletic contest. In this section, a variety of texts are offered that illuminate the New Testament’s Gospels. These Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were written, copied, and canonized by those who regarded Jesus of Nazareth as a divine son who announced the kingdom of God in a way that meant good news for the world. The Romans had executed this person as a criminal, and yet his followers went on to use language and imagery that Roman propaganda of the first century typically reserved for the Roman emperor. This section of the sourcebook therefore seeks to help readers consider what the Gospels must have sounded like to those who first heard them—remember that most early Christians could not read—when they encountered them in the first or second centuries ce. We will see in these excerpts that the Roman emperors are described as destined to rule, ushering in a golden age, and as the benefactors of the whole world. Some of them were deified (or proclaimed to be divine) when their life on earth ended. All of the emperors we will mention participated in the religion of divine virtues, that is, the worship of certain qualities, such as Peace, Victory, Concord, Hope, and Faith as divine entities that should be worshiped. The imperial lexicon provided a helpful trove of linguistic resources that the earliest Christians adapted to celebrate and worship Jesus. We cannot prove how conscious the evangelists (the authors of our canonical Gospels) were of the imperially loaded language they used to describe Jesus, and this sourcebook makes no claim to read the intentions of New Testament authors. It is obvious that the evangelists and other New Testament authors faced quite a challenge in proclaiming Jesus to be divine, and his birth and life as good news, in a world where, for the majority of people, the Roman emperor was clearly the son of god and ultimate benefactor; a world that (to judge from these sources) was enjoying the golden age brought by Rome’s widening rule. Reading the New Testament Gospels alongside the texts and images of imperial Rome might help us hear them in a new way. The Roman emperor is mentioned in a variety of places in the New Testament.1 Despite the personal excesses and human limitations of the Roman emperors, their influence cannot be ignored by anyone seeking to understand
Introduction | 11
the social environment in which the New Testament was composed. It is not difficult to see that the people living under Roman rule in the first and second centuries ce did not demarcate the ending of the Republic and the beginning of the empire as clearly as historians are wont to do today. Suetonius’s biographies, The Twelve Caesars, begin with “Divine Julius,” who is usually included in the final years of the Republic, before he presents “Divine Augustus,” usually credited today as being the first emperor. This section devotes more space to Augustus than to the other emperors, since his imprint on the form and vision for Roman rule was deepest and most enduring of any who led Rome. Octavian was born in 63 bce. After Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 bce, his will revealed that he had designated Octavian as his adopted son. Though this certainly involved the inheritance of a significant sum of money, it was worth much more in the legitimacy and supporting constituency it brought the nineteen-year-old who aspired to lead the Roman Republic. Octavian—later to be known as Augustus—assumed the title princeps, or “first one.” The ways in which he came to lead the Senate, transform the Republic to an empire, and remain in power until he died of old age have been variously debated. In the past, the imperial period of Rome’s existence may have been looked at as a natural, perhaps inevitable, development of the laws and reforms initiated by Julius Caesar.2 In the twentieth century, Sir Ronald Syme’s Roman Revolution presented Augustus’s accomplishments as a carefully orchestrated and elegantly executed revolution. Syme’s book was the breakout moment for the view of the Roman Empire as the result of the calculated steps of Octavian as a brilliant opportunist and revolutionary.3 People understand what happened from the reign of Julius Caesar through the Julio-Claudians, who succeeded him in different ways, along a continuum of continuity or rupture. All agree, however, that Augustus, who led Rome from 27 bce to 14 ce , was certainly the most influential among those we now call “emperors” of the early Roman Empire, or Principate. 1. Matt. 22:15-22 // Mark 12:13-17 // Luke 20:20-26; Luke 2:1; 3:1; John 19:12; Acts 25:8-12; 1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 2:13, 17; Rev. 17:9-14. 2. Though Theodor Mommsen’s work on the empire was slow to be published and not as extensive as his work on the Republic, this may best summarize the way he would characterize the transition from what we call the Republic to the empire. Theodor Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, 3 vols. (Leipzig: Reimer and Hirsel, 1854–1856); Mommsen, Römische Kaisergeschichte nach den Vorlesungs-Mitschriften von Sebastian und Paul Hensel 1882–86, ed. Barbara Demandt and Alexander Demandt (Munich: Beck, 1992). 3. Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon, 1939). For an evaluation of Syme’s model, see Kurt A. Raaflaub and Mark Toher, eds., Between Republic and Empire: Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).
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Not all of the emperors were deified—proclaimed to be divine—upon their physical deaths, but Augustus’s deification was by all accounts a unanimous action by the Roman Senate and people. The golden age that his propagandists claimed he had brought to the world by means of Roman rule was sufficient testimony of his divine status and the gods’ predestination of his rule. But even before death and the apotheosis that marked the Senate’s approval of a deceased ruler, all emperors could be referred to as “son of god,” since each was considered the son of his predecessor, beginning with the divine Augustus, son of the divine Julius. It remains for us to explore how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John portray Jesus and his accomplishments as divine, in a world where there was always a more obvious rival. As you read the texts and view the images in this section, please stay alert to how the Roman emperors of the Principate were in some cases viewed as divinely predestined to rule, granted supernatural knowledge or powers, considered to be benefactors for the entire world, and declared to be divine after their physical deaths. An appreciation of the Roman emperor along these ideological lines might enhance how we hear the evangelists’ descriptions of one whom the Romans executed under the sign, “King of the Jews.”
Augustus Augustus (63–14 bce; emperor 27 bce–14 ce) 1. DEEDS ACCOMPLISHED BY THE DIVINE AUGUSTUS (RES GESTAE DIVI AUGUSTI 27 BCE-14 CE) 1 The Deeds Accomplished by the Divine Augustus, or Res Gestae Divi Augusti, is a statement of Augustus, the first emperor, in which he documents all that he did for the Roman people and the world. Scholars have thoroughly debated the precedents for Augustus’s statement. After considering funerary inscriptions, celebratory inscriptions for military triumphs, or even the possibility that Augustus wrote the Res Gestae as support for his eventual apotheosis, John Scheid offers Cornelius Nepos’s On Illustrious Men as a literary precedent for the Res Gestae, with the conclusion that the latter is a sort of “political autobiography.”2 By contrast, Alison Cooley identifies the closest precedents to be an inscription in which Pompey offered his battle spoils to a goddess and a poem on the gravestone of Cornelia, a daughter of Scribonia, the first wife of Augustus. Points of contact with other genres lead Cooley to identify the Res Gestae of Augustus as a one-of-a-kind document that allowed Augustus to specify his place in the political and social spheres of the Roman people.3 One aspect of Augustus’s genius is that he knew how to remind the Mediterranean world of all the good he brought to it, as can be seen clearly in this document. 1. Res Gestae Divi Augusti; editor’s translation of Latin text in Velleius Paterculus and Res Gestae Divi Augusti, ed. and trans. Frederick W. Shipley, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1924); critical editions of the Latin and Greek texts are available in John Scheid, Res Gestae Divi Avgvsti: Hauts Faits du Divin Auguste (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007); Allison E. Cooley, Res Gestae Divi Augusti: Text, Translation, and Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). 2. Scheid, Res Gestae Divi Avgvsti, XLIII–LIII. 3. Cooley, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 32–34. Pompey’s inscription is found in Diodorus Siculus 40.4; the funerary poem of Cornelia is found in Propertius 4.11.
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But often, as those in the lower levels of any society know, a favor from someone more powerful can also be a bid for control. This document would evoke different responses from those who heard it, depending on whether they had benefited or experienced loss by means of the Roman peace. The scope of “deeds accomplished” detailed in the document, however, helps us understand the long reach of this new political office that Augustus occupied as a princeps who was also a son of god.
§1. When only nineteen years old, I initiated and funded an army by which I won liberty for the Republic when it was bullied by a faction.4 Because of this, the Senate, with honor-bestowing resolutions, added me to its rolls, in the consulship of Gaius Pansa and Aulus Hirtius, granting both the right to vote as a consul and the office of propraetor over soldiers.5 Because I was a propraetor, the Republic charged me, along with the consuls, to make sure no harm came to the Republic.6 On top of this, when both consuls fell in war that same year, the people made me consul and a member of the ruling trio, because I consolidated the Republic.7 §2. I exiled those who killed my father, bringing their crime under proper judgment, and later when they warred against the Republic, I defeated them twice. 8 §3. I spearheaded civil and foreign wars throughout the whole earth, on land and sea, and after winning them I always let those citizens who asked for pardon live. I chose to save rather than kill foreign peoples who could safely be spared. Around 500,000 Roman 4. Mark Antony and his followers. 5. January 1, 43 bce; see Cicero, Phil. 5.28, 45–46. “Consul” denotes one of two head magistrates, who ruled the Roman Republic for terms of one year (a “consulship”). A “propraetor” denotes an office occupied by those who, after completing service as a “praetor” (an official who assists the consuls in ruling Rome), was assigned to govern a province. 6. Cicero, Phil. 5.34; Velleius Paterculus 2.61.3; Suetonius, Aug. 10.3; Appian, Roman History 3.51; Dio, Roman History 46.31. 7. Suetonius, Aug. 11.1; Tacitus, Ann. 1.9–10; Livy 120. The triumvirate consisted of Mark Antony, Lepidus, and Octavian (who later came to be known as Augustus). 8. “Father” here refers to Julius Caesar, the brilliant general and dictator who named Octavian his adopted son in his will. Octavian’s claim to being divine is that he is the son of the deified; see items 3 and 5 in this section of the sourcebook.
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citizens joined me in the sacred oath of military service. For this military service, I settled over 3,000,000 of these soldiers in colonies or back in their hometowns; to all, I either designated land or gave money. I took 600 ships, not to mention those I captured that were smaller than triremes. §4. I celebrated minor triumphs twice, curule triumphs three times, and I was saluted as imperator twenty-one times.9 The Senate even designated some more triumphs for me, but I am not counting them. Upon fulfilling my wartime vows, I placed on the capitol the laurel branches that had been on my fasces.10 The Senate proclaimed fifty-five times that thanksgiving be given to the immortal gods for military maneuvers on land and sea that I or my legates successfully led. There were 890 days that the Senate officially designated for these thanksgivings. Nine kings or regal children were led in front of my chariot during my triumphs. While I write this, I have been made consul thirteen times, and this is the thirty-seventh year in which I’ve held tribunician power.11 §5. I did not accept the title “Dictator” offered me by the people and Senate of Rome, once when I was absent and again when I was present, when Marcus Marcellus and Lucius Arruntius were consuls. I did not avoid responsibility for the supply of grain when grain was most scarce, which I administered so that in a few days I rescued the people with my own funds from the dread and danger they were experiencing. I did not accept the offer of being consul for a year or for life then made to me.
9. The curule triumph was the grander form of celebrating military victories in Rome. It involved a solemn procession—sometimes lasting longer than a whole day—by the victorious general and his army through the city and up to the capitol building. Imperator means “commander.” 10. The fasces were rods bundled around an ax that symbolized power to rule. The higher an office in Republican and Imperial Rome, the more fasces would be carried in procession in front of the official. 11. A tribune was a political office that could only be occupied by a member of the plebeian assembly, the nonaristocratic, lower-ranking body of free, landholding Roman citizens. The tribune had power to convene the plebeian assembly or the Senate, thus holding the ability to initiate laws, and the power to veto legal decisions by other officials. “Tribunician power” was given to leaders who were from the aristocratic, higher-ranking body of free, landholding citizens known as “patricians.” “Tribunician power” thus meant that a given aristocrat could also convene both the plebeian assembly and the Senate, and veto others’ political measures.
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§6. When Marcus Vincius and Quintus Lucretius were consuls, and later when Publius and Gnaeus Lentulus, and for a third time when Paulus Fabius Maximus and Quintus Tubero were consuls, when the Senate and Roman people together consented that I should be in charge of legislation and morality alone and with complete authority, I rejected any power that went against the customs of the fatherland. I fulfilled what the Senate wanted me to oversee using my tribunician authority. And even for this change, after asking I received a co-ruler five times from the Senate. §7. I was one of the ruling trio for ten consecutive years for the restoration of the assembly. As of this day on which I write, I have been princeps of the Senate for forty years. I was high priest, augur, member of the council of fifteen for sacred matters, one of the seven for religious feasts, a brother of the Arval council, a member of the society of Titius, and a fetial priest.12 §8. When in my fifth consulship, at the command of the people and Senate, I raised the number of patricians. On three occasions, I revised the list of senators. When consul for the sixth time with my colleague Marcus Agrippa, I took a census. I offered the lustrum after forty-one years.13 When this lustrum of the Roman citizens was made, 4,063,000 were counted. Again, when Gaius Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls, I singly offered the lustrum with consular imperium.14 At that lustrum, 4,233,000 Romans citizens were counted. With consular imperium and for the third time, with my son and colleague Tiberius Caesar, I offered the lustrum, when Sextus Pompeius and Sextus Apuleius were consuls. At this lustrum, 4,937,000 Roman citizens were counted. By passing new laws, I 12. Augur denotes a type of priest who interpreted the will of the gods by careful study of the flight of birds. “Arval brothers,” literally “brothers of the fields,” were priests who offered sacrifices each year to ensure a good harvest. A fetial priest was a priest of Jupiter who advised the Senate in regard to international relations and made official declarations of war and peace. All these priesthoods were prestigious positions in the public life of the Republic and Principate. 13. The lustrum was a sacrifice offered for purification of Rome that was made after conducting a census. In Republican Rome, a census was traditionally taken every five years, followed by this sacrifice. Augustus is saying that after forty-one years of neglect, he reinstated the traditional pattern of taking a census and then sacrificing properly for the purification of the city. 14. Imperium designates power to command, connoting absolute power to enforce Roman law, within a specified geographical area.
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brought back many ancestral customs that had gone out of vogue, and I myself set many precedents for later generations to follow. §9. The Senate ordered that sacred promises be made for my well-being every five years. As a result of these sacred promises, games have often been held in my life, at times sponsored by the highest four groups of priests, at other times sponsored by the consuls. All citizens by common consent, private and those who held municipal posts, consistently sought the gods for my welfare at all the sacred meals they held in the presence of the ancient Greek gods. §10. My name by senatorial order was added into the hymn of the Salii, and legislation passed that I should be regarded as inviolable forever, and to me the tribunician power was assigned for as long as I would live.15 I refused to be designated “pontifex maximus” in the place of my colleague who was still alive, at the time that people offered me the priesthood that my father held.16 After some years, when the man died who had occupied the office at a time of civil agitation, I accepted that priesthood, such a crowd flowing to Rome from everywhere in Italy for my installation as never before accounted, when Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Valgius were consuls. §11. The Senate dedicated the altar of Fortuna Redux in front of the temples of Honor and Virtue at Porta Capena at my return. And it decreed that on that day the priests and vestal virgins should offer an anniversary sacrifice for my return from Syria to the city, calling the day “Augustales,” based on my cognomen, when Quintus Lucretius and Marcus Vincius were consuls. §12.1. On the authority of the Senate, a group of praetors and tribunes of the plebs, with the consul Quintus Lucretius and leaders,
15. The Salii were “jumping” priests of Mars. They were famous for dancing and jumping around the city of Rome every March, while singing an ancient hymn. The recognition that Augustus and his religious program were in full continuity with traditional religion was made by the Senate’s decision to add Augustus’s name into the hymn of the Salii. 16. Pontifex maximus is the title of the highest priest in Republican Rome. Here in this sentence and in what follows, we can see how Augustus eventually reinforced the precedent set by his adoptive father, Julius Caesar, that the princeps would assume this title and thus be the most authoritative religious figure for the Roman people.
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was commissioned to Campania to meet me en route home, such honors being decreed for no one except me until this time. §12.2. When I returned to Rome from Spain and Gaul, having completed matters in those provinces so that they prospered, the Senate passed a resolution that an altar of the Augustan Peace should be dedicated by the field of Mars for my return, when Tiberius Nero and Publius Quintilius were consuls, ordering that magistrate, priests, and vestal virgins offer sacrifice on it for the anniversary. §13. While I was princeps, the Senate ordered that the door of Janus Quirinus, which our ancestors wanted to be shut when peace was attained by victories through the whole territory of the Roman people, on land and sea, be shut three times, though before I was born it was only recorded to have been shut twice during all the time since the foundation of the city. §14.1. My sons, whom Fortune would later take from me when they were young men, the Senate and Roman people designated consuls when each was fifteen years old, with the provision that they should enter into that office after five years; and from the very day on which they were led into the forum, the Senate decreed that they should participate in government debates, in my honor. §14.2. All the knights of Rome made a gift of silver shields and spears to each of them and named them imperial princes. §15.1. I gave to each man of the Roman plebs three hundred sesterces out of my father’s will, and on my own I gave them four hundred sesterces from the profits of war when consul for the fifth time. Again when consul for the tenth time, I counted out a four-hundred-sesterces donation from my inheritance for every man. When consul for the eleventh time, I bought twelve rations of grain when I paid for the grain dole from my personal resources. In the twelfth year that I held tribunician power, I gave four hundred sesterces to each man for the third time. Each of my donations went out to no fewer than 250,000 persons.
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§15.2. In the eighteenth year of tribunician power, when consul for the twelfth time, I gave 60,000 denarii to each of the 320,000 urban plebs.17 §15.3. Among the colonies of my soldiers, when I was consul for the fifth time, I gave one thousand sesterces to each man from the profits of war; roughly 120,000 men received this at the donations occurring at my triumph. §15.4. The thirteenth time I was consul, I gave sixty denarii to the plebs who were receiving the grain dole; they were a little more than 200,000. §16. In my fourth term as consul, I paid the cities for the land that I designated for soldiers, and later I did this again, when Marcus Crassus was consul and Gnaeus Lentulus was augur. The total amount I paid for real estate for this purpose was around 600 million sesterces in Italy and around 260 million sesterces in the provinces. Among those who founded colonies for retired soldiers in Italy or the provinces, I alone was the first ever to do this, according to the memory of those now alive. And later, when Tiberius Nero and Gnaeus Piso were consuls, similarly when Gaius Antistius and Decimus Laelius held the office, then Gaius Calvisius and Lucius Pasienus, then Lucius Lentulus and Marcus Messalla, then Lucius Caninius and Quintus Fabricius, I paid lump-sum benefits for the soldiers whom I settled back in their hometowns when they retired, amounting to around 400 million sesterces. §17. With my own money, I assisted the imperial treasury four times, thus offering to those in charge of the treasury 150 million sesterces. And while Marcus Lepidus and Lucius Arruntius were consuls, I offered 170 million sesterces from my inheritance to the military treasury, which was set up at my counsel to award soldiers who had earned their dues for twenty years of service or more. §18. From the year when Gnaeus and Publius Lentulus were consuls, when the tax income fell short, I gave grain and money from 17. Cooley, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 172, notes that the Greek monetary unit is used here to make it clear that this gift represents a year’s worth of grain.
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my grain store and inheritance to 100,000 people at times, and to even more people at other times. §19. I constructed the Senate house and the Chalcidicum next to it, and Apollo’s temple with its porches on the Palatine Hill, the temple of the deified Julius, the Lupercal, the porch located at the Flaminian Circus (which I allowed to be called “Octavius” after the name of the man who had built the porch on the same site before), a suite for government officials at the Circus Maximus, the temples of the Slaying Jupiter and the Thundering Jupiter on the Capitol Hill, the temple of Quirinius, the temples of Minerva and Queen Juno and Jupiter of Liberty on the Aventine Hill, the temple of the Lares on the high point of the sacred road, the temple of Penates gods in the Velia, the temple of Youthfulness and the temple of the Great Mother on the Palatine Hill.18 §20.1. I rebuilt the capitol building and Pompey’s theater at great cost for both, with no inscription of my name on either one. §20.2. I rebuilt the courses of the aqueducts at several points where they were falling apart due to age. I channeled water from a new water source into the aqueduct called Marcia, thus doubling the flow there. §20.3. I finished the Julian forum and the basilica that was between the temple of Castor and the temple of Saturn, projects started and nearly completed by my father. When that same basilica was decimated by fire, I enlarged its site and began to rebuild it in the names of my sons. I commanded that it be finished by my heirs if it is not finished while I live.
18. Augustus’s contributions to the respected religions of Rome are presented as conclusive evidence of his benefaction. See also lines 2 and 3 in the postscript of the Res Gestae. Most extant statues of Augustus portray him as a priest, with the toga pulled over his head, as priests in the Roman world routinely appeared when praying or sacrificing in the rites of the Roman state religion. See item 2 below. The “Great Mother” is a goddess worshiped in Galatia. Though not originally a Roman religion, it was officially accepted by Rome in 204 bce. As with some totalitarian states today, Rome required religions to receive official recognition by the Roman Senate before it would allow them into its city.
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§20.4. While consul for the sixth time, I rebuilt eighty-two temples of the gods in the city with the Senate’s authorization, passing over none that needed to be rebuilt then. §20.5. When consul for the seventh time, I rebuilt the Flaminian Road from the city to Ariminum,19 and all bridges but the Mulvian and Minucian ones. §21.1. I built the sanctuary of the Avenging Mars20 and the Augustan forum on private property from the spoils of war. The theater next to Apollo’s temple I built on property mostly purchased from private parties, to be named for my son-in-law, Marcus Marcellus. §21.2. I dedicated offerings from war spoils in the capitol, in the temple of the deified Julius, in Apollo’s temple, in the temple of Vesta, and in the sanctuary of the Avenging Mars, which amounted to about 100 million sesterces for me. §21.3. When consul for the fifth time, I sent back thirty-five thousand pounds of congratulatory gold designated by towns and colonies of Italy for my triumphs. From then on, whenever hailed as emperor, I did not accept the congratulatory gold designated for me by the towns and colonies who continued to designate it for me as spontaneously as they had before.21 §22.1. I sponsored gladiator tournaments three times in my name and five times in the name of my sons or grandsons. About ten thousand men fought in those games. I provided sports exhibitions, summoning participants from everywhere, twice in my name and three times in the name of my grandsons. 19. Now called Rimini. 20. See also §29 of the Res Gestae and cf. Paul on interpersonal and governmental vengeance in Rom. 12:19-20; 13:4. 21. Augustus presents his refusal as a generous gesture toward those offering the gold. Sometimes, however, rulers would not accept gifts in order to avoid the obligation of a favor—always more than the value of the client’s gift—that the ruler was expected to return to the client city making the gift. Such an expectation is the reason why Paul’s scripture quotation of Ps. 68:18 reads as it does in Eph. 4:8. In the Mediterranean world, when a ruler received or accepted a gift, it meant that the ruler would make a greater gift in return.
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§22.2. I sponsored entertaining shows four times in my name, and I sponsored such shows twenty-three times on behalf of other ruling officials. As president of the priesthood of fifteen, along with Marcus Agrippa my colleague, I sponsored the century games when Gaius Furnius and Gaius Silanus were consuls. I first sponsored the games of Mars22 when consul for the thirteenth time, and since then by order of the Senate and by law the consuls sponsor them annually. §22.3. I sponsored African wild animal hunts for the people twenty-six times in the circus, forum, or amphitheater, either in my name or in the names of my sons or grandsons. About 3,500 animals were killed in these hunts. §23. I gave the people a naval battle show across the Tiber in the area where the Caesars’ woodlands are now located, with the ground there dug out for a length of 1,800 feet and a width of 1,200 feet. Thirty curved-prow ships—either triremes or biremes—and many smaller boats engaged in battle among themselves in this show, the fleets being composed of about 3,000 men besides the rowers.23 §24. After the conquest, I returned the items to the temples of all the provinces of Asia, which the one against whom I had been warring had stolen from temples and privately held.24 They put up about eighty silver statues of me on foot, on horse, and in chariot in the city, which I myself removed. I set up golden gifts from the money that these statues brought, in Apollo’s temple, in my name and in the name of those who had honored me with those statues. 25 §25. I brought peace to the sea from pirates. I captured about thirty thousand slaves who had fled from their masters and taken up arms against the Republic, returning them to their masters for the necessary punishment. All Italy voluntarily swore allegiance to me 22. 2 bce. 23. Augustus assumes his readers realize he had to supply water via an aqueduct—the 33 kilometer Aqua Alsietina—built just to fill the “lake” he made for this naval battle show. 24. The lack of detail here shows that this victory remains Augustus’s most memorable—his victory over Mark Antony at Actium in 31 bce. See Dio 51.17 for description of Mark Antony’s temple spoils. All Mediterranean peoples considered it wrong to rob temples (see Rom. 2:22). 25. See Suetonius, Aug. 52; Dio 52.35.3–5; 53.22.3; 54.35.2.
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after the war I won at Actium, begging me to be their leader. The provinces of Gaul, of Spain, Africa, Sicily, and Sardinia swore the same. The number of senators who fought under my flags at that time is more than seven hundred, among whom, whether before or afterward to the day in which this is written, 83 were designated consuls and about 170 were designated priests. §26.1. I enlarged the boundaries of all the provinces of the Roman people who bordered peoples not obedient to our empire.26 §26.2. I pacified the Gallic and Spanish provinces; the same for Germany, including the maritime area from Cadiz to the River Elbe’s mouth.27 §26.3. I pacified the Alps from the region that is near to the Adriatic Sea to the Tuscan Sea, not waging an unjust war against any people. §26.4. My fleet sailed the sea from the Rhine’s mouth to the eastern lands, the region as far as the borders of the Cimbrians, which till then no Roman entered—either by land or sea. The Cimbrians and Charydians and Semnonians and other peoples of the Germans in the same area sought, via their representatives, a friendly relationship with me and the Roman people. §26.5. At my bidding and under my guidance, two armies were led almost simultaneously into Ethiopia, reaching as far as Nabata village, near Meroé, and an army advanced into the part of Arabia called “happy,” into the area of the Sabaeans, to Mariba village. Large groups of the enemy from both peoples were slain on the battlefield, and several towns were captured. §27.1. I added Egypt to the empire of the Roman people.28
26. Note Paul’s alternative quest to bring peoples under the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5; 15:18; 16:26). 27. Note the verb “pacified” here and in the next lines of §26, as well as “peace” in §§12.2, 13, and 25 of the Res Gestae, and see note on the phrase “to pacify” in the selection from Virgil’s Aeneid in item 3 below. “Pacify” as used in the Roman Empire is a verb signifying complete conquest; it does not connote peace through compromise, negotiation, or other nonviolent means.
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§27.2. I could have made greater Armenia a province, when its king Artaxes was slain, but I wished rather, in the example of our ancestors and by means of Tiberius Nero, who was my stepson then, to pass the kingdom on to Tigranes, son of King Artavasdes and grandson of King Tigranes. When the same people later broke away and rebelled, I subdued them by means of my son Gaius; I handed them over to be ruled by King Ariobarzanes, son of Artabazus king of the Medes, and after his death to his son Artavasdes. When he was slain, I sent Tigranes, who descended from the royal Armenian line, into that kingdom. 27.3. I recovered all the provinces, most of them then held by kings, that verge on the Adriatic Sea toward the east and Cyrene; before then, I recovered Sicily and Sardinia, which had been possessed in the slave war.29 §28. I planted colonies of soldiers in Africa, Sicily, Macedonia, both Spains, Achaea, Asia, Syria, Gaul in the area of Narbo, and Pisidia. And Italy has twenty-eight colonies that were founded by my initiative and have become crowded and very filled while I live. §29. After conquering enemies, I received from Spain, Gaul, and the Dalmatians several military standards lost by other leaders. I made the Parthians return to me the booty and standards of three Roman armies and to beg me, as refugees, for a friendly relationship with the Roman people. And these standards I placed in the innermost room of the sanctuary of Avenging Mars. §30.1. I subjected the peoples of the Pannonians—whom no army of the Roman people ever approached before I became princeps—to the empire of the Roman people, conquering them by
28. Egypt has long been considered a jewel of the Mediterranean world. To plunder its wealth or to conquer it was considered an accomplishment. See Gen. 12:16; Exod. 12:35-36; Ps. 68:32; Isa. 43:3; 45:14. In the Principate, Egypt was particularly significant as the major source of grain for Rome. 29. The civil war against Sextus Pompey is characterized here as a slave war. Sextus Pompey had been given the rule of Achaea, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily in 43 bce while the Senate approved the campaign against Antony. After Octavian was victorious over Cassius and Brutus in 42 bce, he turned his attention to gaining control of Sicily, where Sextus Pompey had established his own base in defiance of the Second Triumvirate (Cooley, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 213, 236).
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Tiberius Nero, my stepson and deputy; and I advanced the territory of Illyricum as far as the riverbank of the Danube.30 §30.2. When the army of the Dacians crossed on to our side, it was beaten and broken up by my guidance, and after my army was led across the Danube, it forced the peoples of the Dacians to endure the commands of the Roman people. §31.1. Envoys from the kings of India were often sent to me; at no time before this had they appeared beside a Roman leader.31 §31.2. The Bastarnians and Scythians, and the kings of the Sarmatians who are on near and far sides of the Don River, as well as the king of the Albanians and Iberians and Medes, requested through envoys a friendly relationship with us. §32. Kings claimed political asylum with me as suppliants: Tiridates and later Phrates, son of King Phrates from the Parthians, Artavasdes from the Medes, Artaxares from the Adiabenes, Dumnobellaunus and Tincommius from the Britons, Maelo from the Sugambrians, -rus from the Marcomanians and Suebines.32 Phrates, son of Orodes, king of the Parthians, sent all his sons and grandsons to Italy, not because he was conquered in war, but because he was seeking our friendship through the pledges of his own offspring. And while I was princeps, many other peoples experienced the good faith of the Roman people, who before had no exchange of ambassadors and friendship with the Roman people. §33. The nations of the Parthians and Medes received from me, through envoys, their requested nobles to be kings of their nations: the Parthians received Vonones, son of King Phrates, grandson of 30. Besides the references in Romans offered in §26 on the “obedience of faith,” see also Rom. 15:19, where Paul might be seen as attempting to trump Augustus here regarding the borders of the kingdom of the God of Israel. 31. With this reference to India, Augustus here seeks to portray himself as another Alexander the Great. 32. The name of the Marcomanian king is not fully legible on any of the copies of this text. The Greek version at Ancyra only has the final letters “ros.” The Marcomanni were a group of the Suebi, Germanic people who lived near the Elbe and Main Rivers before being forced to move to Bohemia by Roman forces under Drusus in 9 or 8 bce (Cooley, Res Gestae, 254).
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King Orodes; the Medes received Ariobarzanes, son of King Artavasdes, grandson of King Ariobarzanes.33 §34.1. When consul for the sixth and seventh times, after I put down the civil war and when all agreed that I was completely in control of all the affairs of state, I transferred the Republic out of my control and into the authority of the Senate and Roman people. §34.2. In return for my contribution, I was called “Augustus” by decree of the Senate, the doorposts of my home were covered with laurels, a city crown was placed over my door, and a golden shield was placed in the Curia Julia, on which the Senate and the Roman people gave an inscription for me, attesting that the reason for this very shield was my excellence, mercy, righteousness, and piety. §34.3. After that time, I advanced before all in reputation, though I had no more authority than the others who shared state offices with me.34 §35. When I was fulfilling my thirteenth consulship, the Senate, equestrian order, and whole Roman people named me “father of the fatherland” and resolved that this should be inscribed on the porch of my residence, in the Curia Julia, and in the Augustan forum, under the chariot that by decree of the Senate was placed there for me. I am in my seventy-sixth year while writing this.
33. Augustus is emphasizing his generosity and fair dealing. When Parthia and Medea experienced vacancies and requested that princes kept as noble hostages in Rome be sent home to become kings, Augustus granted their requests. Both vacancies were filled in 9 ce (see Suetonius, Aug. 21.3; Tacitus, Ann. 2.1–2; Josephus, Ant 18.46–48. Agrippa, before whom Paul appears in Acts 25:23—26:29, was held in Rome as a noble hostage while a teenager. 34. Here the balance that Augustus is seeking throughout the Res Gestae is evident: he wants to portray himself as the most powerful person in the world while at the same time maintaining that he never usurped power or stepped beyond what Roman law and precedents allowed. We will meet more remarkable modesty with Titus and Trajan, remarkable for its difference from the outward displays of authority more characteristic of rulers; cf. Matt. 20:25-27 // Mark 10:42-44 // Luke 22:24-27 // John 13:13-17.
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Postscript 1. All of the money that I gave, whether to the treasury or to the Roman populace or to the pension funds for soldiers, was 600 million denarii. 2. New constructions he completed: temples of Mars, of Thundering Jupiter, of Jupiter Feretrius, of Apollo, of Julius, of Quirinus, of Minerva, of Queen Juno, of Jupiter god of Liberty, of the Lares, of the gods of the Penates, of Iuvenes, of the Great Mother, the Lupercal; the government suite at the circus, the Senate chamber with the Chalcidicum, the Augustan forum, the Julian basilica, the theater of Marcellus, the Octavian porch, the Caesars’ woodlands across the Tiber. 3. He rebuilt the capitol and sacred temples to the total number of eighty-two, the theater of Pompey, aqueducts, the Flaminian Way. 4. His outlays for entertaining extravaganzas, gladiator shows, athletic games, animal hunts, naval battles, gifts of money to colonies, cities and towns destroyed by earthquake and fire, or to specific friends and senators whose required level of net worth he subsidized, is incalculable. 2. THE HOODED AUGUSTUS 35 This statue shows Augustus as a priest of the Roman state religion. Like most cultures in the Mediterranean world of the Hellenistic period, the Romans made no attempt during the Principate to separate religion from politics. Religion and politics significantly overlapped and were functionally inseparable, since both sets of institutions made claims on human life by appealing to humanity’s dependence on the transcendent.
35. Marble, first century ce; Palazzo Massimo, Rome. Photo: Neil Elliott.
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3. VIRGIL’S VISION OF AUGUSTUS AS DESTINED TO RULE 36 Virgil’s Aeneid was published soon after he died, against his wishes and written request. Though he did not think it literarily ready for publication, Augustus ordered that it be published, and it became an immediate and long-standing bestseller. Essentially, the Aeneid is the Roman attempt to supersede the Greeks’ master narrative of Western civilization with a Roman one. Homer provides the Greeks’ master narrative with his epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Greeks, especially crafty Odysseus, are the heroes who finally defeat and sack Troy and then return home with its spoils. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the heroes are the citizens of defeated Troy, the Trojans, especially devout Aeneas, who migrate from their fallen city and found the divinely ordained city of Rome. Although the book is set in the primeval age of the Mediterranean world, Virgil tells his epic story in ways that eulogize recent heroes of the Roman Republic and especially praise Augustus, reigning as emperor when he composed the 36. Virgil, Aeneid 6.788–807; my translation.
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book. The popularity of the book—it was even translated from Latin into Greek—certainly contributed to the vision of Rome and its divine emperors as bringing in a golden age. In this excerpt from the scene in book 6 in which Aeneas learns of the future heroes of Rome while visiting his father in the underworld, he hears his father tell him how great Augustus will be for Rome and the world. Note the way that Augustus, son of the divine Julius Caesar, brings in a golden age for the world, and then is favorably compared with Hercules. And also observe how Rome’s military rule over distant lands during Augustus’s rule is already predicted here as divinely ordained, in the revelation of Rome’s future that its founder, Aeneas, receives. . . . Behold this people, your Romans. Here is Caesar and all of Julius’s progeny, coming near the great dome of heaven. This man, this is he whom you have often heard promised, Augustus Caesar, born of the god, he will bring the golden age again to Latium, through the land reigned over by Saturn once upon a time, over the Garamants and Indians he will expand his rule; to the land beyond the stars, beyond the ways of the year-long orbit and sun, where sky-carrying Atlas turns on his shoulder the vault fixed with glowing stars. On this one’s approach the Caspian domain already shudders, divinely warned; the land of Maeotia and the seven mouths of the Nile become disturbed. Alcides truly did not cross so much of the earth, though he could shoot the bronze-hoofed deer, or Erymanthus’s woods make peaceful and with his bow make Lerna tremble; nor who as victor turns yoked oxen by vine-garland reins— Liber, leading tigers from the lofty summit of Nysa. And do we waver in pushing our bravery into deeds, or can fear keep us from occupying Ausonia? 4. THE PRIENE INSCRIPTION 37 This inscription from the year 9 bce shows the zeal with which a Roman proconsul and the people in the area of Priene have for restructuring their 37. My translation from number 98 in Documents Illustrating the Reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, ed. Victor Ehrenberg and A. H. M. Jones, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976), ll. 1–40, with comparison.
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calendar around the birthday of Augustus. This inscription represents the best known use of “gospel” in Greek (euangelia, here in the plural) before the composition of the New Testament. The canonical Gospels’ association of Jesus’ birth, life, and teachings with the term “good news” needs to be read alongside the use of this term in this inscription. The inscription contains a Roman proconsul’s letter and the response of the leaders of cities in the Roman province of Asia Minor decreeing that the birthday of Augustus be regarded as a holiday and celebrated when terms of service began in the cities of Asia Minor. It is dated to 9 bce and is known as “the Priene Inscription,” but copies of it have also been found in Apamea, Eumeneia, and Dorylaeum. According to this inscription, since the birth of Augustus represents the start of a new creation for the world, the calendar must be configured around this birth date. Without saying that the Gospel texts or the Letters of Paul were using imperial terms in exactly the same sense as they were used in Roman propaganda, James Harrison notes how the language of the Priene Inscription includes a number of terms that are used to express God’s overflowing grace in one of Paul’s Letters: “The terminology of the Priene inscription, which honours Augustus as a Saviour-Benefactor . . . , throws light on Paul’s portrait of the ‘reign of grace’ in Romans 5.12-21. Undoubtedly, the Adam-Christ typology of Rom. 5.12ff reflects traditional Jewish apocalyptic-eschatological motifs. But Paul’s language of grace (charis), excess (hyperballein, hyperbolē) and abundance (perisseuein)—and each word (or its cognate) is present in the Priene inscription—alludes to the fact that Christ’s grace surpassed the charites (graces) of the Caesars.”38 When Luke 1:46-55, 68-79; 2:1-14, or selections from letters like Rom. 5:12-21; 8:18-25 or 2 Cor. 5:14-21, are read alongside the Priene Inscription, the New Testament texts’ descriptions of the ways God will help Israel or their descriptions of God’s abundant grace in Christ that overcomes the world’s bondage and leads to a re-creation, could sound countercultural to some, while others may argue that some of these New Testament texts and the Priene Inscription are orbiting around similar ideas in the same symbolic universe. [Paulus Fabius Maximus, proconsul, sends greetings to the cities of Asia. It is difficult to say whether we should consider . . . of the kind and [merciful] gods . . . whether the birthday of the very divine Caesar is more of pleasure or more of service, which we may rightly 38. James R. Harrison, “Saviour of the People,” in New Docs 9, §2.
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take as equal to the foundation of everything, even in service, if not in nature, when indeed there was nothing that was not crumbling and changed into ruin, he restored to proper form, in another way he gave a facelift to all the world though it would have blithely accepted destruction if the general blessing of all, Caesar, had not been born. So one may rightly take this day as the time when the beginning of existence and of life has come to be, which is the limit and termination for regretting that one has been born. And because besides this day there is no other that is so beneficial in both public and private life—one may consider the more fortunate opportunities or the good fortune that has come for all—occurring nearly at the same time as when rulers take office in the cities of Asia, making clear that a pattern was formed beforehand according to some divine purpose in order that there may be an occasion of worship for Augustus, and since it is difficult to give thanks equal to such benefits as his, unless we were to consider some new way of repayment for each one, while people should delight in a birthday that is a shared day of enjoyment for all, if some pleasure might come to them and their people because it is inauguration day, it seems to me that the birthday of the most godlike Caesar should be held by all the citizens to be identical with the first of the new moons, on that day let all enter their magistracy, which is on the ninth day before the calends of October, so that when the specific ritual is adopted, there may be even greater worship from outside the province and it may become more well known to all, which I think will cause even greater advantage to emerge for our district. There needs to be a decree by the council of Asia to write out all his virtues, so that what we have conceived for the worship of Augustus may endure forever. I order that the decree be engraved on a stele to be erected in the temple, let the decree be displayed, written in both languages.] The next part of the inscription, the beginning of the decree that the cities of Asia make in response to the proconsul’s challenge, is famous because it seems to use the plural term “gospels” twice in regard to what Augustus has brought to the world. The “gospel” that Jesus announces in Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 11:5 or the gospel for which Jesus imagines sacrifice or loss in Mark 10:29-30 seems different from the way this inscription uses the word “gospels.”
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It seemed good to the Greek cities in Asia, on the recommendation of the high priest Apollonius, son of Menophilos from Arcadia, since providence in divinely ordering our existence has shown esteem and a lavish outlay has embellished the good—perfection—onto life by displaying Augustus, whom virtue has filled for the benefit of humankind, while graciously giving us and those after us a Savior who has ended war, setting things right in peace, and since Caesar when revealed surpassed the hopes of all who had anticipated the good news,39 not only going beyond the benefits of those who had preceded him, but rather leaving no hope of surpassing him for those who will come, because of him the birthday of God began good news for the world.40 5. SIGNS OF THE DIVINITY OF AUGUSTUS FROM THE BIOGRAPHY BY SUETONIUS 41 In the Hellenistic and Roman periods, it was considered a sign of divine origin if one’s birth was attended by unusual circumstances. Perhaps Matthew makes sure to tell us of what happened at Jesus’ birth—regarding the virgin birth, the danger of the child falling under the infanticide decreed by Herod, and the visit of the wise men who were following a star—because of the Roman world’s fascination with portents surrounding the events of divine men such as Augustus. Suetonius summarizes the divine nature of Augustus’ birth, life, and death in this excerpt from the end of his biography of “The Divine Augustus.” §94.1 And because we have arrived at this point, it is not inappropriate here to add what happened before he was born, and on his very birthday and later, which made it possible for the widely extending and eternal good luck associated with him to be hoped for in the future.
39. Ehrenberg and Jones reconstruct “gospels” in this line. There is a gap in the inscription at this point. 40. Ehrenberg and Jones have reconstructed the phrase “because of him the birthday of God began good news for the world” from the unpublished copy of this decree found in Apamea (Documents, 81–82). 41. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, “Divine Augustus” § 94.1–97.2; 99.1–101.4, my translation of Latin text in Suetonius, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1951). I am in debt to Donna W. Hurley, The Caesars (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011), for explanatory notes identifying people, places, and dates.
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§94.2 A long while ago, when part of Velitrae’s city wall was hit by lightning, it was interpreted to indicate that a citizen of the city would someday gain ultimate power. In certainty of this, Velitrae’s citizens began right away to fight with the people of Rome, fighting with them often afterwards, to the point that they themselves were almost destroyed. A long time later, what happened made it obvious that the sign had foretold the rule of Augustus.42 §94.3 On the authority of Julius Marathus, several months before Augustus’ birth, a wonder happened at Rome that showed that nature was to bring forth a ruler for the Roman people. The senate was fearful and passed legislation that no one born in that year should be raised to maturity. But those men with expectant wives then ensured that the senate’s decree was not placed in the treasury, because every one of them was hoping for greatness in his family. 43 §94.4 I read in the writings by Asclepias of Mendes called Theologumena that when Atia went to a holy ritual for Apollo that occurred in the dead of night and her palanquin was placed down within the temple, she fell asleep, along with the rest of the matrons there. With no indication, a snake wriggled up to her and soon afterwards wriggled off again. When she woke up, she purified herself as she would do after intercourse with her spouse. Right away a snake like mark became visible on her skin. She could not remove it and never attended the public baths again. Augustus was born within the tenth month afterwards and therefore was considered to be son of Apollo. Before the delivery, Atia dreamed that her bowels were brought up to the stars and extended over all the earth and sky. And the father Octavius dreamed of a bright sun rising up from the womb of Atia. §94.5 On the day in which he was born, when the Catilinian conspiracy was the debated topic in the senate, and Octavius came in late after his wife gave birth to the child, Publius Nigidius—a matter that is commonly known—learning why Octavius was tardy 42. Velitrae, twenty miles southeast of Rome, is the birthplace of Augustus. See Suetonius, “Divine Augustus,” 1. 43. The final ratification of laws involved their deposit in the treasury. Since this was avoided, the law was not enacted.
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and the time of the birth, announced that the world’s master had come to birth. Some time after, when Octavius was leading his troops through obscure areas of Thrace and checked with nonRoman rituals regarding his son’s future in a sacred forest of Father Liber, priests agreed with the previous prediction. After they poured unmixed wine over the altars, the flame that jumped up was so big that it went above the temple rooftop, extending to the sky. They affirmed that such a sign happened only one time before when someone offered sacrifice at those altars, and that person was Alexander the Great. §94.6 On the following night, Octavius in a dream saw his son, bigger than Jupiter Optimus Maximus, with a bright crown on and riding a chariot wreathed in laurel branches and pulled by twelve shining white horses. It stands written by Gaius Drusus that while Augustus was an infant, his nurse placed him in his cradle on the first floor; in the following morning he was not there and after an extended time of looking was at length found in the house’s highest floor, turned toward the rising sun. §94.7 When Augustus first started talking he silenced the frogs at his grandfather’s villa who were raucously competing with him. And they say that ever since, the frogs at that place are silent. While eating lunch in a sacred forest near the fourth milestone of the road toward Campania, an eagle quickly seized bread from his hand, and after flying high, it gently descended and gave it back as quickly as before. §94.8 Quintus Catulus, after dedicating the temple of Capitoline Jupiter, dreamed on two consecutive nights. First, Jupiter Optimus Maximus picked one boy from the throng of well born boys playing by his altar and placed into the fold of the boy’s toga a figure of the state that he held in hand. He dreamed the second night that the same boy was sitting on the lap of Jupiter on the Capitoline hill, and when he commanded that the boy be taken away, the deity made a sign to halt him. This was as though the boy was being raised to be guardian of the state. On the next day, Catulus encountered Augustus, whom he never previously had seen, and gazing at him in surprise said that he looked very similar to the boy of whom he had dreamed. Some
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people frame the first dream of Catalus in a different way. They tell that the group of youths asked Jupiter to grant them a guardian, and Jupiter identified one to whom they all were to look for every need. Then with his fingers he touched the boy’s lips, and brought them to his own mouth. §94.9 At the time Marcus Cicero accompanied Julius Caesar to the Capitoline hill, he chanced to tell his companions of a dream he had experienced the night before: a noble looking boy was brought down from the sky with a chain of gold and stood before the doors of the Capitoline temple, when Jupiter handed him a whip. At this moment Augustus showed up, though not expected—many people at this point did not know him, but his uncle Julius Caesar had invited him to the sacrificial rites—and Cicero announced that this was the one he had beheld in his dream.44 §94.10 At the time Augustus donned the toga of an adult, his broad-striped tunic disintegrated on both sides and fell to his feet. Some of those who interpreted this sign concluded it must mean that the order designated by the broad stripe would some day be subject to him. §94.11 When at Munda45 the divine Julius was chopping down a forest to be a campsite, he commanded that a palm tree he had discovered should be kept as an indication of future victory. A shoot emerged from it right away and grew so rapidly that in several days it not only matched the tree of origin in height but also blocked the view of it. It became filled with doves’ nests, even though that sort of bird stays away from rigid, prickly leaves. And people claim that this sign especially moved Caesar to desire only his sister’s grandson to succeed him. §94.12 While Augustus stayed at Apollonia, not then in public life, he went to the lodging of Theogenes the astrologer with Agrippa. Agrippa asked the wise man first, and after an incredibly great future life was predicted to him, Augustus resolutely remained 44. Cf. Matt 21:12-13/Mk 11:15-17/Lk 19:45-46 and especially John 2:14-16 (whip). 45. Munda is the name of the place where Julius Caesar won his last victory in the Spanish theater of the civil war, 45 bce.
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silent regarding when he was born and did not want to declare it. He feared he would be shamed by being shown to be beneath his friend. But after much beseeching and hesitating, when he did declare it, Theogenes jumped up and worshiped him. From then on, Augustus held such complete faith in his fate that he publicized his horoscope and minted a silver coin with the imprint of the Capricorn constellation, under which he was born. §95 After the death of Caesar, when returning from Apollonia and entering the city [of Rome], a rainbow-like circle appeared around the sun, and even though it was a clear day with no clouds, lightning promptly fell on the grave of Julia, Caesar’s daughter. Then, when he was discerning auspices during the time he first served as consul, twelve vultures appeared to him as they had appeared to Romulus. And when he offered sacrifices, all the sacrificial animals’ livers were seen to have the bottom area folded back on themselves, which all those skillful in exegeting these portents said were indicating happy and great things. §96.1 He [Augustus] knew ahead of time the way all his wars would conclude. When the troops of the triumvirs gathered at Bononia, an eagle descended on his tent and battled two crows troubling it, one on either side, and forced them to the earth. All the troops realized that disagreement would someday come up between the triumvirs, as it did, and foretold the result. When he was going to Philippi, he was informed of his imminent victory by someone from Thessaly, who was told it by the divine [Julius] Caesar, whose ghost had appeared to him on a lonely road. §96.2 When the sacrifices he was offering in the area of Perusia did not bring good signs and he commanded that more sacrificial animals be carried out, the enemy quickly came out and stole away all that was readied for the sacred rites. It was agreed among the officiating priests that the terrors and infelicitous events predicted at the sacrifice now would turn on those who held the sacrifices’ organs. And this is how it did happen. One day before he entered the battle with his ships off the coast of Sicily, a fish flew out of the sea and flopped at his feet as he walked along the shore.46 When entering the battle at Actium he encountered a donkey and driver. The man
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was called Eutychus and the beast, Nicon.47 Once Augustus won the battle, he erected a bronze statue of them both in the temple-like area he made of his campsite. §97.1 His passing away also, about which I next shall narrate, and his apotheosis after his death were predicted by very definite signs. When carrying out the rite for concluding the time of the census in the crowded Campus Martius, an eagle flew round him a few times, flew to the adjacent temple, and alighted on the first letter of the word Agrippa. Seeing this, he commanded Tiberius his son to say the prayers according to custom for the next half decade census period, though they were already put down and prepared for him, refusing to take on something he could not keep. §97.2 At that very time, lightning hit the first letter of his name and caused it to melt off his statue’s inscription. The interpretive response offered for this was that he would only live for one hundred more days, because of what the number C means, and that he would be apotheosized since “aesar,” the remnant of the title “Caesar” left on the statue, means “god” in Etruscan speech. §99.1 On his final day, he repeatedly asked whether there was a disturbance concerning him occurring outside. Then, having requested a mirror, he instructed that his hair be combed and his drooping jaw be brought into shape. He let some friends visit and asked if they considered him to have played the comedy of life well. He added the farewell couplet— Because our drama has played so very fine, give applause, And send us all away with joy. After dismissing all of them, while questioning some people who had just arrived from the city regarding Drusus’s daughter, who was ill, he kissed Livia and said, “Live remembering our marriage,
46. Cf. Matt 17:24-27. Warren Carter suggests this text is an anti-imperial anecdote, citing how fish are portrayed as subject to the emperor (Martial, Epigrams 4.30.4-5) or property of the emperor’s treasury (Juvenal, Satire 4.51-55; Matthew and Empire, 141–42). 47. Eutychus = good fortune; Nicon = winner.
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Livia and be well!” then promptly died.48 His lot was to have a smooth passing, one for which he had ever hoped. §99.2 For every time when he learned of a person who had died suddenly and with no pain, he offered a prayer for a matching “euthanasia”—this was actually the very word he uttered—for him and his family. There was only one indication that he was losing his mind before he expired; he suddenly seemed terrified and lamented that forty young men were bearing him away. And it was more of a presage of the future than a decline of his mind, since that was the count of praetorian pallbearers who took him to the official funeral. §100.1 Augustus expired in the very bedroom where his father Octavius died, when Sextus Pompeius and Appuleius were consul, nine days before the calends of September, in the day’s ninth hour, thirty five days before he would turn seventy-six years old. 49 §100.2 Highly regarded citizens of the cities and colonies bore his body from Nola to Bovillae at night because of the time of year; in the daytime it was placed in the basilica of the town it had reached or in the biggest temple available.50 At Bovillae, leaders of the equestrian order took it, bearing it into the city and placed it in the courtyard of his home. The senate so longed to orchestrate a grand funeral for him and bring honor to his memory that senators were engaged in a contest of many proposals: some thought the funeral parade should process through the triumphal arch by the statue of Victory that stands in the senate and that the children—both boys and girls—of highly regarded citizens should sing a funeral 48. The final words to Livia fit Augustus’ concerns to impose marital fidelity in his household and among his subjects. See item 71 in section 2 of the book. 49. Hurley identifies the day as August 19, 14 CE. The ninth hour of the day is the time at which the synoptic gospels tell us Jesus died (Matt 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44-46). It is difficult to know whether this is simply an historical detail they wish to record, whether they view it as an auspicious time of day to day, or whether they or one of their sources knew that this was the time when Augustus, another son of God died. Note that shortly after Jesus dies at the ninth hour, it is a Roman centurion who effectively announces his divine status (Matt 27:54; Mark 15:39; cf. Luke 23:47). 50. Perhaps because of the heat, the body was carried at night. Hurley informs us that Bovillae is a town on the Via Appia very close to Rome. In the Mediterranean world, honorable people with status take upon themselves the honor of carrying the body of a respected person who dies; see Matt 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42 and the end of §100.3 below.
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hymn. Other senators proposed that on the day of the funeral they remove their gold rings and replace them with rings of iron. Others proposed that the priests of the highest priesthoods should gather his bones. §100.3 One senator actually suggested that the noun “August” be switched from the month of August to September, since the latter was when Augustus had been born and the former was when he had died, and someone else proposed that the whole period from the day of his birth to the day of his death be designated the Era of Augustus and written as such into calendars. An end was put on the accolades, though his eulogy was delivered at two places. Tiberius gave it in front of the temple of the divine Julius, and Tiberius’s son Drusus, from the old platform. Senators bore his body on their shoulders into the Campus Martius; there it was cremated. §100.4 And someone, formerly a praetor, swore he saw the image of Augustus moving heavenward after the cremation. The leading equestrians gathered what remained of him and with tunics loosened and bare feet, placed them in the mausoleum, the building that Augustus had constructed between the Via Flaminia and the Tiber during his sixth term as consul, when he granted public access to the woods and walking path around it. §101.1 Augustus dictated his will three days before the nones of April when Lucius Plancus and Gaius Silius were consuls, one year and four months preceding his death.51 It came in two tables, one in his own hand, the other written by the hands of his freedmen Polybius and Hilarion. The tables were placed with the Vestal Virgins, who produced them along with three scrolls sealed identically. All these documents were opened and read out loud in the senate.52 §101.2 Augustus identified first ranking heirs Tiberius—to be given two thirds of his holdings, and Livia—to be given one third, and he directed them to retain his name. Second ranking heirs were Tiberius’ son Drusus—to be given one third, and for the rest, 51. Hurley provides April 3, 13 CE as the date of the will. 52. Wills and other state documents, usually securely sealed, could only be opened by someone worthy to do so (Rev 5:1-5).
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Germanicus and his three sons.53 As third ranking heirs there were a number of relatives and friends. For the Roman people he bequeathed 40,000,000 sesterces; for the tribes, 3,500,000; for the praetorian guards, 1,000 each; for the city watchmen, 500; and to soldiers in the legions, 300.54 These outlays he directed to be paid immediately upon his death, for he had always kept the money designated and deposited for this. §101.3 He made other outlays to a variety of persons, some as big as 20,000 sesterces, and these were set up to be granted in one year. He offered the pretext that his own holdings were limited and stated that no more than 150 million would go to his heirs, though he had gained 1,400 million from his friends’ wills in the previous two decades. Almost all this he spent for the state, as well as the inheritances received from both his fathers and other bequests.55 He directed that his daughter Julia and his granddaughter Julia must not be buried in his mausoleum, if they should die.56 §101.4 In one of his three scrolls, he had directions regarding his funeral; in another a compendium of his accomplishments that he wanted engraved in bronze and set up outside the mausoleum;57 and in the third scroll, a record of the entire empire, the number of soldiers under the standards throughout it, the amount of money in 53. Hurley explains that second and third ranking heirs were named in case the first ranking heirs could not inherit the estate; we might call them contingent beneficiaries. In the case of Augustus’ will, this amounted to an honorary designation. 54. During the Principate, the praetorians, as the bodyguard of the emperor, were paid at a rate of 1.5 times what legionary soldiers were paid, and were favored with a shorter term of service—sixteen years—before they could retire, as opposed to the twenty years for legionary soldiers. Since the praetorian guard was responsible for Claudius’ accession and maintenance of his position of emperor, the connections that Paul had with the praetorian guard, if Phil 1:13 indicates such connections, means that the imprisoned Paul was known by some within one of the most powerful sectors of the imperial government. 55. The idea that he spent almost all of what he received on the state is a much repeated topic of the emperor’s generosity. In Titus 3:4, the phrase “when the kindness and generosity (philanthrōpia) of God our savior appeared” would outside of Christian contexts be understood to indicate the beginning of an emperor’s reign. The two fathers are Octavius his biological father and Julius Caesar, who named him as son in his will, revealed after his assassination in 44 bce. 56. Augustus was extremely distraught at the marital infidelity of his daughter and granddaughter, and had exiled them despite the people’s wishes that they be shown mercy. 57. This is the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, or Deeds Accomplished by the Divine Augustus. See item 1 above.
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the imperial treasury and under his personal authority and in taxes owed. At the end he added names of freedmen and slaves from whom one could demand information.58
58. The slaves and freedmen of the emperor made up the powerful imperial household. See Phil 4:22; which might indicate that Paul had some friends and perhaps converts among them.
The Emperor: Source of Deified Virtues, Predestined Son of God The Deified Virtues The worlds in which the Gospels were composed and circulated were filled with messages of the good that the Roman emperor was bringing to all known peoples. There would be no way for the Gospel writers and their audiences to avoid these messages. It is useful to consider how the gospel regarding Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God that he announced compares with the Roman gospel of the Caesar who actualized a number of virtues for the benefit of the world. Though what we now call the Roman Empire was relatively young when the Gospels were written, the idea that the Roman Caesar was the source or agent of divine virtues had roots in Greek political thought and in the Roman Republic. The emperor was the most central focal point of the religious consciousness of the Roman people and lands touched by the Romans for the period in which Paul lived and wrote. The emperor was viewed as a divine guarantor of good things to the world. All humanity, not just the Roman citizenry, was viewed as the beneficiary of the emperor’s generosity and help. The victories that the emperor provided in conquering barbarians and protecting Rome’s borders were viewed as the basis for all the other good aspects of his rule. The specific aspects of the emperor’s power and the benefits of his rule were promoted in first-century propaganda and even worshiped in what is now known as “the cult of virtues.” Victoria, the emperor’s power to conquer barbarians and rule strongly over enemies that threatened the stability of the Mediterranean world, was the foundational virtue. Next in the consciousness and closely associated with the virtue of victory was Pax, or peace.1 Sometimes 1. J. Rufus Fears, “The Theology of Victory at Rome: Approaches and Problems,” ANRW 2.17.2, 804–7, 813; and Fears, “The Cult of Virtues and Roman Imperial Ideology,” ANRW 2.17.2, 884–85.
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Securitas was also associated with Pax. Just as police forces today sometimes use the motto “Safety and Security,” so the early Roman empire sometimes used the motto of Pax et Securitas—“peace and security.” Other deified virtues that figured on the imperial propaganda were Concordia (“social harmony”), Felicitas (“happiness”), Clementia (“mercy”), Fides (“faith”), Salus (“health”), and Spes (“hope”). These deified virtues appeared in different places in Paul’s worlds, in literature, on coins, in sculptures, and in official inscriptions. In this section, we will see single examples of how the virtues of Concordia and Clementia were celebrated. 6. CONCORDIA2 Ovid, a Roman poet who lived from 43 bce to about 17 ce, wrote a long poem on the Roman calendar known as the Fasti. Here is what he wrote for January 16, the day that the deified virtue of Concordia was celebrated for the social harmony that the emperor Augustus had brought to the Roman people. Concordia, now you take good care of the Latin crowd, now the dedicated hand has established you. Furius—conqueror of the Etruscan people— the old temple had vowed, and he kept faith on that vow. The story is that the commoners took up weapons to secede from the nobility, and Rome was then in fear of her own power. The recent story is better yet—Germany let down her unkempt hair at your bidding, honored prince. Then you sacrificed the booty of the conquered people and built the temple for the goddess whom you yourself honor. Your mother established her by both her business affairs and the altar, she alone who was discovered worthy of great Jupiter’s bed.3
2. Ovid, Fasti 1.639–50; my translation. 3. “Your mother” refers to Livia, the wife of the emperor Augustus,who according to 6.637–38 of Ovid’s Fasti, dedicated a temple to the goddess Concordia. This deified virtue was considered the consort of Jupiter. The temple was built on the site of a lavish building that had been given to the emperor Augustus. According to Ovid, Augustus destroyed the building because he considered it an excessive display of wealth (Fasti 6.640–48). His wife Livia officially dedicated the temple then built on that site to Concordia.
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7. THE DEIFIED VIRTUE OF MERCY: (Clementia) on a Coin of the Divine Hadrian4 Here is a coin that celebrates the deified virtue of Clementia as manifest in Hadrian, emperor from 117 to 138 CE. What is especially poignant about this coin is that while it identifies Hadrian with the virtue of mercy or “clementia,” it was issued at about the very time that Hadrian was brutally crushing Jerusalem, humiliating and killing its inhabitants, and desecrating the temple site. On the obverse of the coin you can see the words HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS, or “Hadrian Augustus.” On the reverse of the coin you can see CLEMENTIA AVG[VSTI], or “The Mercy of Augustus” around a woman who is the goddess of mercy, Clementia. She is holding a long scepter in one hand and a saucerlike bowl for sacrificing known as a “patera” in the other.
Hadrian’s issue of this coin simply continues a precedent begun by Augustus, the first emperor. Though rumored to have been very cruel in dealing with those on the side of Julius Caesar’s assassins,5 Augustus wished to be known for his clementia, as you can see in paragraphs 3, 15, and 16 of the Res Gestae, in item
4. Permission to use this photograph from FORVM Ancient Coins (http://www.forumancientcoins.com/-) is gratefully acknowledged. 5. Suetonius, Aug. 13, 15.
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#1 above, where we see how the first emperor presented himself as the world’s benefactor. 8. HORACE ON ROMAN PEACE 6 Under the emperor Augustus, Horace can write of an impregnable peace. The closing of the door of Quirinus’ sanctuary in this poem echoes §13 of the Res Gestae (selection 1) above. The temple of the god Janus Quirinus in Rome had doors that were kept open whenever the Roman Republic or Empire was at war. When there were no wars being waged, these doors were shut, a religious action with positive political significance. Phoebus Apollo stopped me, though I wanted to tell of battles and cities. He strummed his harp, so as not to allow me to raise my little sails on the Tyrrhenian sea.7 Your era, O Caesar, has brought crops back to our fields and returned to our Jupiter the standards seized by haughty Parthians. And because of the lack of war, it has shut Quirinus’ door and pulled the loosened reins of license toward justice, removed guilt, and restored the old talents by which the Latin reputation and strength of Italy grew, while the report and glory of our rule extended to the sun’s rising from its western couch. With Caesar as guardian of the world, there will be no wrath in government, no terror that drives out calm, no wrath that makes weapons and misery that threatens cities. Those who drink from the deep Danube shall not break the decrees of Julius, nor the Getae, nor the Seres, nor the disloyal Persians, nor those born near the river Tanais.8 And we, on ordinary and holy days among the gifts of jolly Liber, alongside our offspring and wives, we will first petition the gods as prescribed, and according to the custom of our princely fathers and rehearsing their virtues, in a melody for Lydian flutes, we will praise Troy and Anchises and the dear offspring of Venus.9 6. Horace, Odes 4.15; my translation of Latin text found in Horace: The Odes and Epodes, ed. and trans. C. E. Bennett, LCL (London: Heinemann, 1927). 7. The sea around Etruria, an ancient kingdom in Italy. 8. All the foreign peoples at or beyond Rome’s borders, including the tribal peoples along the Danube river and the river Tanais (now known as the Don) will be subject to Roman law. 9. Liber was an indigenous god of Italy who later became equated with Bacchus. Young men donned the togas of adults on Liber’s festival day, March 17. Anchises is the father of Aeneas, whom he fathered
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9. OVID ON THE ROMAN PEACE 10 Ovid is famous for his Fasti, the calendrical poem for the first six months of the Roman year. Here are Ovid’s lines regarding the day when deified Pax—peace—was celebrated and worshiped. The song now has brought us to the very altar of Peace. Its day will be the penultimate day of the month. Your ribboned hair crowned with laurels from Actium, O Peace, be near and stay gentle in the whole world. So now may there be no enemies and no occasion for victory parade; may you be for our princes a higher prize than war. Let the soldier only arm himself to restrain armed threats and let the war bugle be blown only in parade. Let those nearby and far away in the world dread Aeneas’s scions and if some land fears Rome too little, let it love Rome instead. O priests, join incense to the peace-flames, and may a white sacrifice fall, pierced in the head, that this country, which guarantees peace, may endure in peace, ask the favorable gods with devout prayers. Because Paul’s gospel sought to shift people’s allegiance from the Roman emperor to Christ, it was inevitable that Paul would have to deal with the Roman idea of the predestination of the emperor. As early as Cicero’s justification for Pompey’s rule, the Romans had made use of the Hellenistic idea that the gods had predestined their rulers to be born and rule over them. This idea of the predestination of the ruler became specifically focused on the person of the emperor in the early empire. 10. VITRUVIUS, PREFACE TO ON ARCHITECTURE 11 In addition to being the focal point for the religious worship of deified virtues, the emperor was also viewed as the one whom the gods had predestined to rule by Venus. The offspring of Venus includes Aeneas and the emperor Augustus, since the arrangement of statues in the forum and the Aeneid portray Augustus as a descendant of Aeneas, whose mother was Venus. 10. Ovid, Fasti 1.709–22. My translation of Latin text in Ovid’s Fasti, ed. and trans. James George Frazer, LCL (London: Heinemann, 1931). 11. Vitruvius: De Architectura 1.1-2; my translation of Latin text found in Vitruvius: On Architecture, vol. 1, ed. and trans. Frank Granger, LCL (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931).
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the world. The following selection comes from around the year 22 bce, in the first part of the reign of Augustus.12 Notice who is responsible for Augustus’ accession to power, according to the last sentence of the selection below. When your divine intelligence and spirit, emperor Caesar, came to rule the circle of the earth and by your unconquerable strength all enemies were bound, your people exulted in your triumph and victory while all the nations were subject to you, and the Roman people and senate carefully followed your will, being freed from fear and now governed by your lavish thoughts and counsels, I did not dare, with all this going on, to bring forth texts on architecture and explanations of grand designs, fearing that by interposing at this inopportune time, I might be considered an annoyance to your will. Yet when I observed that you indeed have concern not only for the life of all the general public and the constitution of the state, but also for the favor of public structures, so that the government was not only extended by you by adding provinces, but also through the greatness of the public structures, I decided not to miss the chance of offering you first and at this time ideas about these things, even more since I was known to your father, devoted as I was to his virtues. When the council of heaven reserved him a place among the immortal places and transferred to your rule the kingdom of your father, that very devotion of mine that continues toward his memory now brings favor from you. 11. CAESAR SECOND IN COMMAND UNDER JUPITER 13 In Horace’s Odes, we see this religious devotion to Caesar as well. After mentioning Bacchus and Phoebus Apollo as gods beneath the rule of Jupiter, Horace sings to Jupiter as follows: O father and defender of the human race, born of Saturn, to you by fate has been given the responsibility of mighty Caesar; may you reign, with Caesar second! Whether he carry off in triumph the justly 12. The relevance of this text and its dating follows J. Rufus Fears, Princeps a Diis Electus: The Divine Election of the Emperor As a Political Concept at Rome, PMAAR 27 (Rome: American Academy in Rome, 1977), 122 n. 1. 13. Horace, Odes 1.12.49-60. My translation of Latin text in Horace: The Odes and Epodes, ed. and trans. C. E. Bennett. Fears dates this ode to 25–23 bce (Divine Election of the Emperor, 126 n11).
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conquered Parthians, who are threatening Latium, or the Seres and Indians adjacent to the borders of the East, second to you shall he with equity rule the broad globe; you who shake Olympus with your heavy-armed chariot, you who send hostile lightning bolts on those not sufficiently holy! 12. HORACE PRAISES THE “GOD OF TRIUMPH” 14 In the following excerpt from a later ode by Horace, we see that the emperor Augustus is hailed as brought by the fates and gods to the world, ruler who will never be matched in time to come. You will sing with a greater poet of Caesar, when adorned with the wreath he deserved will lead the wild Sygambri along the holy path, one on whom nothing greater, nothing better, have the fates and good gods given on earth, nor shall give, even while the centuries return to the ancient age of gold. You will sing together of festal days, of the city’s public games for the return of brave Augustus as asked, and of the forum empty of strife. As for me, if I should say anything that needs to be heard, the best tone of my voice shall rise, and “O glorious day, o day for praising!” I will sing, happy at Caesar’s return. Then as you take the lead, “O triumph!” we will shout and not just once, “O triumph!” and as a whole city we will offer incense to the kind gods.
14. Horace Ode 4.2.33-52; my translation from the Latin text in Horace: The Odes and Epodes, ed. and trans. C. E. Bennett. Fears dates this ode to 16 bce (Divine Election of the Emperor, 126 n. 10).
Tiberius Tiberius (42 bce–37 ce; emperor 14-37 ce) The emperor in the first century was known as the Divi Filius—God’s Son. Julius Caesar accepted many divine honors in Rome while alive, a tactical mistake that his adopted son, the first emperor, Augustus made sure not to repeat.1 Augustus was officially declared to have become a god—the process is known as apotheosis—when he died. The senate was simply repeating what it had done when Augustus’ uncle, Julius Caesar was assassinated. He also was declared to have become divine. Not all the emperors in the Principate were so fortunate; only Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, and Nerva were deified in the first century. 13. A COIN OF TIBERIUS 2 Besides being called “god’s son,” an emperor such as Tiberius was also called “son of the divine Augustus,” since this was another way that Augustus was known after being proclaimed divine. Here we see a coin of Tiberius, perhaps similar to the coin Jesus examines in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 22:15-22 // Mark 12:13-17 // Luke 20:20-26). In that scene, when he is asked whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus asks to see a coin. The emperor whose image and inscription he considers was probably Tiberius. The inscription on the coin below is perhaps similar to the one on the coin Jesus views. Since all of the Gospels’ accounts of this incident mention the inscription, it is useful to look at a standard inscription on a coin issued by this emperor. The obverse reads: TI[BERIVS] CAESAR DIVI AVG[VSTI] F[ILIVS] AVGVSTVS, or “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus,” and the laureate head and ribbons symbolize his right to rule. On the obverse, PONTIF[EX] 1. Suetonius, Jul. 76; Res Gestae 6. 2. Permission to reproduce the images of this coin from H. D. Rauch Auktionshaus (www.hdrauch.com) is gratefully acknowledged.
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MAXIM[VS] stands for “high priest,” another title that most emperors in the Principate assumed for themselves. Livia, widow of Augustus and biological mother of Tiberius, is portrayed here as Pax, or the Roman peace goddess. Her authority and power are shown by the way her feet rest on a footstool while she holds a scepter in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. Livia was not regarded as divine when this coin was issued, even if it were minted by Tiberius after 29 ce, when she died. Conflict with her son Tiberius resulted in the delay of her apotheosis, which was finally enacted by the emperor Claudius. Some hearers of any of the Synoptic Gospels’ account of Jesus asking about the image and inscription of the emperor on the coin would perhaps have found significance in the way that the following context includes Jesus’ counterquestion to his audience regarding David’s son, regarded in some of the psalms as divine (Matt. 22:41-46 // Mark 12:35-37a // Luke 20:41-44).
Tiberius, generally regarded as the second emperor in the Principate, was the adopted son of Augustus, the biological son of Augustus’s wife Livia, whom she had borne to Tiberius Claudius Nero. Though Tiberius was not deified at his death as Augustus was, Suetonius records the supernatural evidence of his destined rule and his generosity, which all expected of emperors.
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14. TIBERIUS’S BIRTH, GENEROSITY, AND SKILL ACCORDING TO SUETONIUS 3 After describing a difficult eight years of what amounted to an exile for Tiberius on Rhodes, Suetonius describes his return to Rome and the ascent to power to which he had been destined. §14.1 He returned in the eighth year after going into isolation, with great and unshakeable hope for things ahead, which he had received from the beginning of his life by signs and predictions. §14.2 When Livia was expecting him and receptive to all variety of signs that she would bear a son, she picked an egg from under the hen roosting on it, then kept it warm by hand—she and her ladies in waiting, until a chick with a noticeable crest came out. From Tiberius’ infancy, Scribonius the astrologer made grave predictions of great things to come, and said that some day he would rule without the sign of a king; the office of the Caesars was obviously still undefined then. §14.3 When leading his troops through Macedonia to Syria in his first mission, it came to pass that the altars in Philippi that had been dedicated before by victorious legions suddenly and spontaneously caught flame; and afterward, on his journey to Illyricum, seeking the oracle of Geryon by Patavium4 and having received a lot that recommended he throw golden dice into Aponus’s spring to gain answers to his questions, the highest numbered ones turned up when thrown by him; and today under the water those dice may still be seen. §14.4 Just before he was called back, an eagle never seen before in Rhodes alighted on the roof joist of his house; and a day before he heard he would return, his tunic gave the appearance that it was on fire when he was changing clothes. Then it was that he gained final proof that Thrasyllus, the astrologer he had brought into his associates as philosophy instructor, was truly worth the 3. Suetonius, Tib. 14.1–16.2; 20–21.4, 21.7; my translation of Latin text found in Suetonius, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: Heinemann, 1951). 4. Hurley locates this in Cisalpine Gaul, the contemporary city of Padua.
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confidence placed in him: Thrasyllus pronounced solemnly that the ship he viewed approaching was carrying good news, right when they were walking together, and Tiberius had decided beforehand to push Thrasyllus headfirst into the ocean—circumstances having gone badly and not as Thrasyllus forecast—so Tiberius was thinking him to be false and dared disclose to him his hidden plans. §15.1 After Tiberius came back to Rome and his son Drusus had been escorted into the forum, he moved out of the Carinae and Pompey’s house to Maecenas’ gardens on the Esquiline hill, devoting himself fully to a retired life; he only kept private duties and did not participate in public obligations. §15.2 In three years, Gaius and Lucius died, and Augustus adopted Tiberius and their brother Marcus Agrippa, and Tiberius was immediately required to adopt Germanicus, his brother’s son. From that point on, Tiberius did not operate as the head of a household and he retained no privilege that he lost when adopted. He did not give gifts or free slaves; he even did not accept inheritances or bequests besides those that were specified for his personal account.5 After that, no chance was missed to extend his significance, especially after Agrippa was disenfranchised and removed, and it became obvious that the hope of succession rested on only one person. §16.1 Tiberius was granted the office of tribune for the second time, extending for five years; he was given the mission of pacifying Germany, and when the Parthian delegation made their demands to Augustus in Rome, they were informed that they should present them to him also, out in the province. But when the report of the rebellion in Illyricum came, he assumed command in the new engagement and for three years battled in the gravest of all external wars since the Punic Wars; he led fifteen legions and fifteen auxiliary groups, waging war in every sort of extreme condition with severe shortages of supplies.
5. Since Tiberius was officially now Augustus’ son, Augustus owned all that he had, though Tiberius had an account or allowance for his own use (Hurley, Caesars, 125 n. 48).
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§16.2 Though often directed to move back, he continued battling, since he was afraid that such a strong adversary at such close range would move offensively on troops that moved back on their own initiative. His determination brought significant consequences, for Illyricum, which is between Italy and the kingdoms of Noricum and Thrace, and Macedonia, which is between the Danube and the Adriatic Sea, he brought under dominance and made submissive. §20 From Germany he came back to the city [of Rome] when two years had passed, and held the triumph previously postponed, with his deputy commanders whose triumphal garb he had procured. Before turning to go up the Capitoline Hill, he got down from the chariot and kneeled before the knees of his father [Augustus], seated as presider. He dispatched Bato, ruler of Pannonia, to Ravenna and paid him handsomely for letting him escape when he and his troops were surrounded in a treacherous place.6 Then he lavished on the people a feast with one thousand tables and gave every man a 300 sesterces payment. He consecrated a temple for Concord, and a temple of Pollux and Castor in his own and his brother’s name, from the booty.7 §21.1 The consuls soon passed a law that charged him to share authority over the provinces with Augustus and responsibility to hold a census; when the purification rite ending the census was over, he left for Illyricum. Soon he was recalled, and after reaching Augustus, who was weak but still breathing, he spent a whole day privately with him. §21.2 I admit that most people believe that after Tiberius left their meeting, the cry of Augustus was heard by his personal slaves, “O poor Roman people! You’ll be pressed by some slow jaws!” I recognize as well that other people have stated that Augustus so disliked Tiberius’s imposing presence that he would clearly, without 6. Rolfe notes that the usual practice was to strangle the enemies’ leader in the prison located at the base of the Capitoline Hill (Lives 322 n. b). Suetonius is thus emphasizing Tiberius’ generosity. 7. Concord was a deified virtue, worshipped along with peace, victory, justice, and hope. Castor and Pollux, also known in the Greek pantheon as the Dioscuri, were twin gods known for aiding horsemen. The Romans revered them for help on the battlefield. The temple to these gods in the Roman forum was built to fulfill a vow by Aulus Postumius Albus, after his victory in 495 bce at Lake Regillus. Tiberius thus repeated a precedent set by a Roman war hero in the early Republic.
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masking, terminate free and easy conversations when Tiberius came, but that he was conquered by his wife’s petitions for her son that he not disown him, while others say that perhaps he was moved to consider his own advantage, since with someone like Tiberius succeeding him, people would one day miss him all the more. §21.3 Nevertheless, I cannot be persuaded that so attentive and prudent a princeps would act without good reason, especially at such a crucial point; but that he put the liabilities and assets of Tiberius in a scale and found that the assets weighed more, especially because he vowed to the republic that he would adopt Tiberius for the good of the nation, and he characterizes him in many letters as most gifted in battle and the singular guardian of the republic. I append here a few selections in illustration. §21.4 “Goodbye, dearest Tiberius, and good fortune be yours as you fulfill the calling of general for me and the Muses. Most dear and—o my soul—most brave and most faithful of generals, goodbye.”8 . . . §21.7 “When I get news that you are utterly tired from the intense workload that never slows, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my body shakes along with you. I ask you to take care so that a report that you are sick does not bring your mother and me to our graves and so that the whole empire that is the Roman people’s will not come into danger.” “It is no concern if I am healthy or not, if you are not.” “I ask the gods to grant you safety for us and to give you health, today and forever—if they do not utterly disown the Roman people.”
8. The phrase “general for me and the Muses” and the word “most faithful” are in Greek, displaying Augustus’ or Tiberius’ literary tastes. Rolfe cites Horace, Odes 3.4.37; Ep, 1.3 (Lives 324 n. a).
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15. TIBERIUS THE BENEFACTOR OF THE WORLD 9 Here is an inscription that has been found at the base of what was a stature in the bath and gymnasium constructed in Sardis. Just as a benefactor of a university might grace its campus with a gymnasium or recreation center, here it appears that the emperor had released imperial funds for this structure to be rebuilt, after the city sustained considerable damage in an earthquake of 17 ce. The statue is dated to sometime within the reign of Claudius, since the one who erected the statue, Apollophanes, is known to have received Roman citizenship from Claudius. He is therefore honoring Tiberius, who was never deified, as the world’s benefactor who helped to rebuild his city. The term for benefactor in this inscription is the term used in Luke 22:25. There it is used in reference to the world’s rulers, thus including an emperor like Tiberius. For Tiberius Caesar God Augustus, the emperor, uncle of Tiberius Claudius Germanicus Caesar Augustus, the emperor, and creator of the city and benefactor of the world, in devotion and thanksgiving the people consecrate, the superintendent of works Tiberius Claudius, son of Demetrius; Apollophanes the Quirine.
9. C. Foss in F. K. Yegül, The Bath-Gymnasium Complex at Sardis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986); SEG 36 (1986): 1092. My translation of the Greek text provided by E. A. Judge in New Docs 9, §10.
Caligula Caligula (12–41 ce; emperor 37–41 ce) Gaius Caligula was picked to rule because of the noble family from which he came. He is famous for insisting on his divine status while still ruling. 16. GAIUS CALIGULA’S CLAIM TO BE GOD 1 In the following selection from Suetonius, we read of Caligula’s public works and his pretenses to be divine. §21 The public structures left incomplete by Tiberius, Augustus’ temple and Pompey’s theater, he completed. He also started construction on an aqueduct that began in the area of the Tibur and an amphitheater near the voting enclosure; Claudius his successor finished the first but dropped the other. He [Gaius] restored the city wall of Syracuse that had fallen down because of its age and he rebuilt the gods’ temples. He had plans to rebuild the palace of King Polycrates on Samos, complete Apollo’s shrine in Didyma next to Miletus, establish a city on an ridge in the alps, but beyond all to channel through the Achaean isthmus, and he had already a chief engineer for the task of surveying. §22.1 Thus far for a princeps, as it were; what remains to be narrated concerns a beast. Gaius got quite a few nicknames—he was termed “pious,” “child of the war camp,” “father of the troops,” and “best and grandest Caesar”—once when he happened to hear kings who were in Rome on official visits arguing over their royal pedigrees while at dinner, he exclaimed, “There should be one lord,
1. Suetonius, Cal. 21–22.4; my translation of Latin text found in Suetonius, ed. and trans. Rolfe.
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one king!”2 Right then he almost put on a kingly crown and changed the semblance of a principate into the structure of a sovereignty. §22.2 But after being told that his greatness was beyond kings and emperors, he started from that point on to insist on his divine status: plans were drawn up to bring the gods’ statues from Greece, those most well known for the worship they prompted or for their skillful sculpting, including Jupiter in Olympia; whose heads he planned to displace with his own; he built out part of his palace building on the Palatine Hill so that it went into the forum, and then reworked the temple of Castor and Pollux to be its vestibule, frequently standing in the center, in between the statues of the divine twin brothers, presenting himself as someone to be worshiped by those who entered, and some acclaimed him “Jupiter Latiaris.”3 §22.3 Gaius established a temple to the worship of his genius; he instituted priests and the most unheard of sacrifices. In the temple stood his statue in gold, dressed each day in the clothes just like what he wore. Those men with the most money contested for the privilege of serving as priests by gathering support and offering more money. Animals sacrificed were flamingos, peacocks, black grouse, guinea birds of two sorts, and pheasants—a different type of animal was sacrificed day by day. §22.4 During the night, he would repeatedly proposition the full and bright moon into his bosom and bed; in daytime he would speak one on one with Capitoline Jupiter, at times whispering and then listening to him reply, while other times he spoke loudly and angrily. For his warning voice was heard, “You either lift me, or else I shall lift you!”4 At last, as he said, won by requests that he live with him [the god], he linked the Palatine and Capitoline Hills with a bridge that went over the temple of the Divine Augustus. In order to be even nearer [to the god], he set the footings for a new home right in front of the temple for Capitoline Jupiter. 2. In Suetonius’ text this line is in Greek, a quotation from Homer, Iliad 2.204. Caligula’s quotation of this in regard to himself shows his own quest for greatness. 3. The temple of Jupiter Latiaris was on Mt. Alba just outside Rome. Celebrations of minor military victories occurred there (Hurley, Caesars 171 n. 52). 4. A Greek quotation in Suetonius’ text from Homer, Iliad 23.724, from a wrestling scene.
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17. CALIGULA ORDERS HIS STATUE ERECTED IN THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE 5 The following excerpt from Philo of Alexandria’s Embassy to Gaius illustrates how the Jews had to work to retain their status as legitimate citizens while remaining faithful Jews under the emperor Gaius Caligula. After recounting how Caligula’s plan to erect his statue inside the Jerusalem temple was temporarily sidetracked (Philo, Embassy 276–337), Philo recounts how the Jews of Alexandria still appeared before this emperor to beg for release from his plans to take over their synagogues. Our knowledge of this plan of Gaius Caligula helps us understand part of the resonance that the term “abomination” or “desolating abomination” carried for the first hearers of the Gospels. 346 So great therefore was his inconsistency in disposition toward every one, and most especially toward the nation of the Jews—to whom he was most bitterly hostile—that beginning in Alexandria he took from them all their synagogues there, and in the other cities, and filled them all with images and statues of his own form, for allowing others to install statues is virtually doing so himself. And the great temple in the holy city, which was left untouched to the last since it was thought worthy of all possible respect and preservation, he altered and transformed into his own temple, that he might call it by “Gaius, the new Zeus manifest.” 347 What is this that you say?6 Do you, who are a man, seek to take to yourself the air and the heaven, not being content with the vast number of continents, islands, nations, and countries over which you enjoy sovereignty? And do you consider God worthy of nothing down here, even among us, of no land and of no city, but you think to remove even the small enclosure sanctified for him and made holy by oracles and divine pronouncements, that in all the vast circumference of the world there may be no visible trace or memorial to be found of any honor or pious worship paid to 5. Philo, Legat. 346-373. This is a corrected and stylistically updated version of the translation by C. D. Yonge, The Works of Philo Judaeus (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), paras. 346–73. For “desolating abomination,” see Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; 1 Macc. 1:46, 54; 2 Macc. 6:2; Matt. 24:15-18; Mark 13:14-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-4. 6. Here begins a diatribe-like address to the emperor.
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the really existing, true God? 348 You are suggesting fine hopes to the race of humankind; are you ignorant that you are opening the fountains of evils of every kind, making innovations, and committing magnificent deeds that are neither the custom to perform or to imagine? 349 It is worthwhile to make mention of what we both saw and heard, when we were sent for to fight the fight for citizenship. For the moment that we entered into the presence of the emperor we perceived from his gaze and from his movement that we had come not before a judge but before an accuser, or rather the enemy of those set against him. 350 For it would have been the part of a judge to sit with counselors selected because of their virtue and learning when a question of the greatest importance was being investigated that had not been discussed for four hundred years, and that now was raised for the first time against many thousands of Alexandrian Jews; and it would have been proper for the contending parties with their advocates to stand on each side of him, and for him to listen to them both in turn; first to the accusation and then in turn to the defense, according to a period measured by water clock, and then retiring, the judge should deliberate with his counselors as to what he ought publicly to deliver as his sentence on the justice of the case; but what was actually done resembled rather the conduct of an implacable tyrant, exhibiting uncontrolled authority and displeasure and pride. 351 For besides that he in no particular behaved in the manner I have just been describing as proper, having sent for the managers of two gardens, the Maecenatian and the Lamian garden—they are near one another and close to the city—in which he had spent three or four days, for that was the place in which this theatrical spectacle, aimed at the happiness of a whole nation, was intended to be enacted in our presence, he commanded all the outer buildings to be opened for him, 352 since he wished to examine each one in detail; but we, as soon as we were introduced into his presence, the moment we saw him, bent to the ground with all imaginable respect and adoration, and greeted him, calling him the emperor Augustus; and he replied to us in such a gentle and courteous and humane manner that we not only despaired of attaining our object, but even of preserving our lives; 353 for, said he, “You are haters of God, inasmuch as you do not think that I am a god, I who am already confessed to be a god
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by every other nation, but who am refused that appellation by you.” And then, stretching up his hands to heaven, he uttered an outburst that was neither righteous to hear nor to translate literally. 354 And immediately the ambassadors of the opposite portion were filled with all imaginable joy, thinking that their embassy was already successful, on account of the first words uttered by Gaius, and so they clapped their hands and danced for joy, and called him by every title which is applicable to any one of the gods. 355 And while he was triumphing in these superhuman designations, the mean flatterer Isidorus said, “O master, even more will you hate these men whom you see before you and their fellow countrymen, if you are made acquainted with their disaffection and disloyalty toward yourself; for when all other men were offering up sacrifices of thanksgiving for your safety, these men alone refused to offer any sacrifice at all; and when I say, ‘these,’ I include all the rest of the Jews.” 356 And when we all cried out with one accord, “O Lord Gaius, we are falsely accused; for we did sacrifice, and we offered up entire hecatombs, the blood of which we poured in a libation upon the altar, and the flesh we did not carry to our homes to make a feast and banquet upon it, as is the custom of some people to do, but we committed the victims entire to the sacred flame as a burnt offering: and we have done this three times already, and not once only; on the first occasion when you succeeded to the empire, and the second time when you recovered from that terrible disease with which all the habitable world was afflicted at the same time, and the third time we sacrificed in hope of your victory over the Germans.” 357 “Let these things be true,” said he, “You have sacrificed; but you sacrificed to another god, and not for my sake; and then what good did you do me? For you have not sacrificed to me.” Immediately a profound shuddering came upon us the first moment that we heard this expression, which spread even to our outer appearance. 358 And while he was saying these things, he entered into the outer buildings, examining the chambers of the men and the chambers of the women, and the rooms on the ground floor, and all the apartments in the upper story, and blaming some points of their preparation as defective, and planning alterations and suggesting designs, and giving orders himself to make them more costly. 359 Then we who were driven about in this way followed him up and down through the whole place, being mocked and ridiculed by our
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adversaries like people at a play in the theater; for indeed the whole matter was a kind of farce: the judge assumed the part of an accuser, and the accusers the part of an unjust judge, gazing with personal hostility, not according to the nature of truth. 360 But when a judge invested with such mighty power begins to accuse a defendant, it is necessary to be silent; for it is possible even to defend oneself in silence, and especially for people who are able to make no reply on any of the subjects that he was now investigating and desiring to understand, since our laws and our customs restrained our tongues, and shut and sewed up our mouths. 361 But when he had given some of his orders about the buildings, he then asked a very important and solemn question: “Why is it that you abstain from eating pork?” And then again at this question such a violent laughter was raised by our adversaries, partly because they were really delighted, and partly as they wished to court the emperor out of flattery, and therefore wished to make it appear that this question was dictated by wit and uttered with grace, that some of the servants who were following him were indignant at their appearing to treat the emperor with so little respect, since it was not safe for his most intimate friends to do so much as smile at his words. 362 And when we made answer that “different nations have different laws, and there are some things whose use is forbidden both to us and to our adversaries”; and when some one said, “There are also many people who do not eat lamb’s flesh, which is the most tender of all meat,” he laughed and said, “They are quite right, for it is not nice.” 363 Being joked with and trifled with and ridiculed in this manner, we were in great perplexity; and at last in a rapid and peremptory manner, “We wish to be informed,” he said, “by what just principles you deserve citizenship.” 364. And when we began to reply to him and to explain it, he, as soon as he had a taste of our pleading on the principles of justice, and as soon as he perceived that our arguments were not contemptible, before we could bring forward the more significant matters that we had to say, cut us short and ran forward and burst into the large building, and as soon as he had entered, he commanded the windows that were around it to be filled up with the transparent pebbles very much resembling white crystal, which do not hinder the light but which keep out the wind and the heat of the sun. 365. Then proceeding on deliberately he asked in a more moderate tone,
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“What are you saying?” And when we began to connect our reply with what we had said before, he again ran on and went into another house, in which he had commanded some ancient and admirable pictures to be placed. 366. But when our pleadings on behalf of justice were thus broken up, and cut short, and interrupted, and crushed as one may almost say, we, being wearied and exhausted, and having no strength left in us, but being in continual expectation of nothing else than death, could no longer keep our hearts as they had been, but in our agony we proceeded to beg the one true God, praying him to check the wrath of this falsely called god. 367. And he took compassion on us, and turned his mind to mercy. And he becoming pacified merely said, “These men do not appear to me to be wicked so much as unfortunate and foolish, in not believing that I have been endowed with the nature of God”; and so he dismissed us, and commanded us to depart. 368. Escaping then from what was rather a theater and a prison than a court of justice (for as in a theater, there was a great noise of people hissing, and groaning, and ridiculing us in an extravagant manner, and as in a prison, there were many blows inflicted on our bodies, and tortures, and things to agitate our whole souls by the blasphemies that those around us uttered toward God, and the threats they breathed forth against ourselves, and that the emperor himself poured forth with such vehemence, being indignant with us not on behalf of any one else, for in that case he would soon have been appeased, but because of himself and his great desire to be declared a god, to which he considered the Jews to be the only people who did not agree, who were unable to subscribe to it), we at last recovered our breath, 369. not because we loved living and cowered before death, since we would have cheerfully embraced death as immortality if our laws and customs could have been established by such means, but because we knew that we should be destroyed with great ignominy, without any desirable goal being attained by such means, for whatever insults ambassadors are subjected to are always applied to those who sent them. 370. It was owing to these considerations that we were able to hold up our heads for a while, but there were other circumstances that terrified us, and kept us in great perplexity and distress to hear what the emperor would decide, and what he would pronounce, and
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what kind of sentence he would ultimately deliver; for he heard the general tenor of our arguments, though he disdained to attend to some of our facts. Wasn’t it a terrible thing for the interests of all the Jews throughout the whole world to be thrown into confusion by the treatment to which we, its five ambassadors, were exposed? 371. For if he were to give us up to our enemies, what other city could enjoy tranquility? What city would there be in which the citizens would not attack the Jews living in it? What synagogue would be left uninjured? What state would not overturn every principle of justice in respect of those of their countrymen who arrayed themselves in opposition to the national laws and customs of the Jews? They will be overthrown, they will be shipwrecked, they will be sent to the bottom, with all the particular laws of the nation, and those too that are common to all and in accordance with the principles of justice recognized in every city. 372. We, then, being overwhelmed with affliction, troubled ourselves in our misery with such thoughts as these; for even those who up to this time had seemed to cooperate with us were now tired of taking our part. At least, then, when they were called on, they did not stay inside, but came out fearfully, knowing well the desire that the emperor had to be looked upon as God. 373. We have now related in a concise and summary manner the cause of the hatred of Gaius to the whole nation of the Jews.
Claudius Claudius (10–54 ce; emperor 41–54 ce) Gaius Caligula was killed by his own praetorian guard in 41. Men from the praetorian guard also took the initiative to find and acclaim Claudius, the uncle of Caligula, as the next emperor, though he promised and paid them 150 gold pieces each during this passage of power. From this transition onward, the support of the praetorians would be essential for aspiring emperors. While the pretext of hereditary succession by a biological or adopted son would remain, support from the praetorians and from a critical mass of the legions became essential. Claudius was a scholarly, reserved figure, not the military veteran Augustus and Tiberius had been. It is thought that he had cerebral palsy. Some sort of physical deficiency, combined with his lack of public experience when he became emperor at age fifty, seems to have allowed Suetonius to describe him as a buffoon. Still, considerations of the gods’ favor, as well as Claudius’s cruelty and diligence as a ruler, allow him a distinct legacy. Claudius’s comprehensive knowledge of Roman history allowed him to use images in ways that secured his influence and power. 18. CLAUDIUS’S COIN TO THE PEACE OF AUGUSTUS 1 The following coin image of the Pax Augusta illustrates Claudius’s moderately successful attempt at imitating Augustus’s powerful use of images to express continuity with the Roman Republic and awe for the developments of the Principate. Classicist J. Rufus Fears writes of Claudius’s effectiveness in setting forth a reassuring agenda by means of emphasizing the nourishing and protecting virtues that were worshiped in the Principate:
1. Permission to use the photos of this coin from Auktionshaus H. D. Rauch (www.hdrauch.com) is gratefully acknowledged.
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With Claudius, for the first time, the Virtues appear on accessionyear issues, concisely proclaiming the program and promise of the new regime: Libertas Augusta, Spes Augusta [“Augustan Hope”], Victoria, Pax Augusta, Constantia Augusti [“Steadfastness of Augustus”], and Ceres Augusta [Augustan grain goddess]. Libertas commemorated the overthrow of the tyrant and the restoration of constitutional government. Spes invoked the hope of mankind, newly awakened and focused upon the imperial saviour. Pax and Victoria were essential elements in the Augustan heritage, but by varying their types Claudius created a personal statement of the role of these Virtues in his own principate. Particularly suggestive is his type dedicated to Paci Augustae [“to the Peace of Augustus”] and portraying the personification of Pax with the wings of Victory. Holding the caduceus of Concordia and Felicitas [“Concord” and “Happiness”], Pax raises her skirt in the gesture of Pudicitia [“Chastity”]; she is accompanied by a snake, the symbol of Salus [“Health”]. . . . The concept of Pax Augustua thus embodied in itself all those Virtues which secured the well-being and felicity of the human order: Concordia, Felicitas, Victoria, Salus, and that Pudicitia, so lacking in Gaius and so essential to maintaining the pax deorum [“peace among/with the gods”].2
This particular coin is thought to have been struck in circa 49–50 CE, though Claudius minted coins “to the peace of Augustus” from the very first year of his reign. The inscription on the obverse of this coin, around the head of Claudius reads: TI[BERIVS] CLVD[IVS] CAESAR AVG[VSTVS] P[ONTIFEX] M[AXIMVS] TR[IBUNICIAE P[OTESTAS] VIIII IMP XVI, or “Tiberius Claudius, Caesar Augustus, Highest Priest, holding tribunician power for the ninth time, acclaimed as imperator for the 16th time.” On the reverse, around the image of the peace goddess who is holding a staff toward a snake that symbolizes health, we find the words PACI AVGUSTAE, or “to the Augustan peace.” Since the positive symbol of the snake symbolizes salus, or health, it is possible that imagery such as seen on this coin partially prompted Paul to write in Romans 16:20, “May the God of peace soon crush Satan under your feet” in response to Roman imperial propaganda that the emperor’s peace 2. J. Rufus Fears, “The Cult of Virtues and Roman Imperial Ideology,” ANRW 2.17.2, 893–94. Bracketed words added to quotation.
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promotes salus. Paul thus brings a different connotation to the symbol of a snake, informed by his scriptures (Gen 3:13-15; Ps 91:13; see also Rev 20:2).
19. SIGNS OF THE DIVINE IN CLAUDIUS 3 The stories preserved by Suetonius illustrate very well the counterpoint of human and divine that played out in the Romans’ regard for their emperors. Claudius was declared divine by the Senate at this death. §7 Under Gaius, his nephew, who at the beginning of his reign was trying to become popular however he could, Claudius started his civic career as fellow-consul for a two-month period: when he came into the forum for the first time with the consuls’ rods, an eagle flew down and landed on his shoulder. The lot fell to him for another term as consul, four years from his first; thus, not infrequently, he officially presided at the games in place of Gaius; it was there that the crowd saluted him with “Long life to the emperor’s uncle!” or “Long life to the brother of Germanicus!” §8 Still, such acclaim did not shield him from abuse he often experienced; whenever he arrived to the dining area late, he had to walk around looking to find an open spot for himself; and when he fell asleep after eating, people would throw their olive stones and date pits at him, or sometimes he was woken by buffoons with whip or 3. Suetonius, Claud. 7–10; 18–19; 34, 43, 45–46; my translation of Latin text found in Suetonius, ed. and trans. Rolfe.
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cane for a joke. Some placed his hands inside slippers while he was sleeping, so that when quickly waking he would rub his face with them. §9 But sometimes he was in serious trouble. First, in his own term as consul after delaying to set up the statues of Gaius’ brothers, Nero and Drusus, he nearly lost his position; later, there were a number of troublesome complaints lodged against him, not just by outsiders, but also by his own servants. Then when the plot led by Lepidus and Gaetulicus had been discovered, and he was sent, with other delegates, to convey good wishes to Gaius in Germany, he came into real danger of losing his life, since the emperor Gaius was so angry that his uncle had to be given this job—as if he were a child needing help from a tutor—that as one story says, Claudius got thrown into the river, in the clothes he was wearing when he arrived there . . . §10 After being treated like this for most of his life, it was by an unusual accident that Claudius at fifty years of age became emperor. When Gaius’ assassins denied everyone access, saying that he wanted to be left by himself, Claudius left with everyone else and entered a room called the Hermaeum; but soon he heard about the assassination and crept away to a balcony, where he was hiding in fear behind curtains. A common soldier, haphazardly wandering through the palace, saw two feet below the curtain, and in his desire to see who it was, recognized him and drew him out; whereupon Claudius falling down in terror grabbed the knees of the soldier who then hailed him as emperor. The soldier brought him to his fellow-guards; they were angry, disoriented and uncertain of how to proceed. But they put him on a litter and since his own servants had fled, carried him in turns to the praetorian barracks. Claudius was overcome with fear and grief; while being carried away people pitied him, thinking he was an innocent man being taken away for execution. After he was inside the camp’s border, he passed the night with the men on watch, sure by then that he would not be immediately executed, but hopeless about the future, since the consuls—empowered by the senate and the city police—had cordoned off the forum and capitol, set on keeping public liberty; and when the people’s tribunes sent for him to come to visit the
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senate house and give his perspective on matters, Claudius sent back word that he was physically restrained from coming. The senate meanwhile was slow in activating its design, since its divided members kept insulting each other. All the while crowds of people gathered around the praetorian camp and asked for a king, specifically naming Claudius, so he gave permission to the guards to hail him as emperor and swear their loyalty to him. He also gave his word that every one of the guards would receive 150 gold pieces, thus becoming the first Caesar to buy his soldiers’ loyalty. §18.1 Claudius ever occupied himself in maintaining the city properly and ensuring that the grain arrived regularly. While an intense fire decimated the Aemilian area, he stayed in the election cabin on the Campus Martius for two consecutive nights, and because the available guards and imperial servants could not manage the blaze, he asked officials to summon commoners from throughout the city and then with bags of coins placed before him, he enlisted firemen whom he promptly paid whatever seemed appropriate for their work. §18.2 One time, when a succession of famines had caused a grain shortage, an angry crowd blocked Claudius in the forum, throwing curses and old bread pieces at him so that he had trouble in escaping into his palace through a side door; because of this, he did everything possible to bring in grain, even in winter. He promised the merchants he would cover shipwrecks in bad weather, thus guaranteeing them a handsome return on their efforts, and promising a big reward for every new grain ship built, in proportion to what it could hold. §19 The owner of the ship, if a Roman citizen, was granted exemption from the Papian-Poppaean law. If the owner only had Roman privileges as a resident alien, he was to be granted full citizenship. If the owner were a woman, she was to be accorded the privileges legislated for mothers of four. These laws have not since been changed. . . .4 4. As one ruling for the gods, good Roman emperors tried to encourage their people—especially in the senatorial and equestrian ranks—to marry and have children. The law from which new owners of grain ships were exempted if they were already citizens was a law that penalized those who did not marry.
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§34 Claudius’ cruel and bloodthirsty nature was apparent in big as in small affairs. For example, if there needed to be torture to obtain evidence or to punish someone who had killed a family member, he expedited the matter while present. One time, when a traditionalstyle execution had been decreed to take place outside at Tibur, and the victims secured to poles, no henchman was on site to finish the execution. Claudius sent to Rome for one and, determined to watch the process, he waited until twilight for the man to arrive. When attending gladiator events, whether or not he arranged them, he decreed that all fighters who fell down by accident should have throats slit—especially the net-fighters, so that he could watch their expressions while expiring. . . . §43 Near his life’s end, Claudius made it clear he was sorry for marrying Agrippina and adopting Nero. Once when his freedmen complimented him on having found a woman guilty for adultery, he replied that it was his destiny to marry women unchaste yet not unchastened . . . 5 §45 The death of Claudius was not made public until everything had been lined up to ensure Nero’s succession. People thus continued to say prayers and make vows for his welfare as if he were still alive, and a theater company was called on the pretext that Claudius had asked for some entertainment. On October 13, he died, when Asinius Narcellus and Acilius Aviola were consuls, when he was in the sixty-fourth year of life and in the fourteenth year of his reign; was buried in solemn pomp fitting a princeps, enrolled among the gods, which honor Nero ignored and then reversed, but that Vespasian afterwards reconfirmed. §46 Major signs of Claudius’ death were the rise of a star with hair trailing it, called a comet, lightning striking his father’s grave, and a spike in the number of deaths of leaders at every level. Profit also seems that he was not ignorant of the end of his lifetime and didn’t try countering it. When selecting consuls he made no 5. Roman law contained provisions for adulterous women to be punished, but not men. Cf. John 8:1-11. Claudius is saying that his wives were unfaithful, but he found a way to punish them for their infidelity.
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arrangements for the time beyond the month of his death; on his last appearance in the senate chamber he made a serious request for his children to get along, asking the senate to watch over them both in their young years, and at a final showing on the bench of the court he repeatedly declared that he had come to his life’s close, but this seemed an abomination to those who heard, and they together cried out against it.
Nero Nero (37–68 ce; emperor 54–68 ce) Nero was the adopted son of Claudius. We shall have occasion to read about his persecution of Christians in the third section of this sourcebook, but here we observe how in an inscription on a stele and on the imagery of a coin he could be represented as generous, gracious, and divine. 20. BOUSEIRIS PRAISES THE GOD NERO AND HIS PREFECT 1 In most parts of the Mediterranean, Rome and her divine sons were known by the representatives sent to govern the provinces. In this inscription from a stele near the pyramids of Egypt, villagers laud Nero and his popular prefect Balbillus, who had visited their area. Note how both the emperor and his prefect are accorded divine status. For good fortune! Since Emperor [Nero] Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the good spirit of the civilized world, along with all benefactions to Egypt, in his brilliant providence sent us prefect Tiberius Claudius Balbillus, Egypt is overflowing with all good things on account of his graces and benefactions, while watching the gifts of the Nile increasing year by year, and now what is more, having enjoyed the righteous visit of god, it seemed fitting to those from the village of Bouseiris of Letopolis, those dwelling near the pyramids and those in it, those occupied as regional secretaries and village secretaries, to determine and set up a stone stele beside the highest god, Sun Harmachis, since they enjoyed his beneficence [they inscribed] his good deed at it, from his noble dealings that he has brought to the whole of Egypt. For it seemed [right], that his god-like graces recorded in the holy writings be forever 1. OGIS 666; my translation.
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remembered. For when visiting us at our nome and worshipping the Sun Harmachis, overseer and savior, enjoying the greatness and splendor of the pyramids, beholding the magnitude of sand after the length of time . . . written first . . . [Nero] Claudius Caesar Augustus ... 21. A COIN SHOWS NERO UPHOLDING THE ROMAN PEACE 2 The Romans’ political presence in the Mediterranean had the world in view, as has already been seen in Augustus’ Res Gestae and will be seen in some of the Roman pax language in the next subsection. This coin, possibly minted in Nero’s reign shortly after the persecution of 64 ce, celebrates how Nero has “gained peace on land and sea.” On the obverse side of the coin, we see the emperor Nero with the curly hair for which he was known. Around his portrait, starting at about the 6:00 position and moving clockwise, we can read: NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS or “Nero Caesar Augustus.” On the reverse side of the coin, the inscription moves around a picture of the temple of Janus Quirinus with a shut door. As we have seen in Res Gestae 13, the Romans closed the door of this temple only when Rome was not fighting anyone on land or sea. We can read the reverse side of this coin, beginning at about 11:00 and moving clockwise: PACE P[OPULO] R[OMANO] TERRA MARIQ[VE] PARTA IANVM CLVSIT, or “Peace on land and sea having been brought forth for the Roman people, he shut the door.” The closed door in the center of this side of the coin is signaling a grand accomplishment—bringing the Roman Empire to a time when it is not at war.
2. Permission to use images of this coin is gratefully acknowledged from Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, Auction 67, Lot 125.
Year of the Four Emperors Year of the Four Emperors 68–69 ce Nero took his own life, at age thirty-one, in 68 ce. There followed a year of civil war, when four different men vied in turn for the position of emperor: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. 22. OTHO BRINGS SECURITY TO ROMAN PEOPLE 1 The gospels (messages of good news) that the Roman government spread often included the ideas that peace and security had been achieved. We have already begun to consider the Roman peace in this chapter. But here we may pause to view a coin issued shortly after Paul’s death, during the three months in which Otho was emperor. The obverse reads IMP[ERATOR] M[ARCVS] OTHO CAESAR AVG[VSTVS] TR[IBVNICIA] P[OTESTAS], or “Emperor Marcus Otho, Caesar Augustus, [holds] tribunician power.” The curls in Otho’s hair are to remind people of Nero’s hairstyle. On the reverse side, around the deified virtue Security, who is holding a wreath and a scepter to show her absolute rule, we can read SECVRI-TAS P[OPULI] R[OMANI], or “the security of the Roman people.” Otho’s imperial rule is thus equated with the Roman people’s security.
1. Permission to use photographs of this coin from Pecunem (https://www.pecunem.com/) is gratefully acknowledged.
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If in your economic and civic worlds you were reminded of how the imperial government provides “security” to you, how would Paul’s caution in 1 Thess. 5:1-8 sound? Into what contexts does Paul place the Roman government’s assurances of peace and security?
Vespasian Vespasian (9–79 ce; emperor 69–79 ce) Vespasian came to power after the last of those vying for power, Vitellius, had been assassinated. For readers of the New Testament, it is significant that Vespasian was in Judea, working to bring the Roman peace upon the First Jewish Revolt, when he was publicly acclaimed as emperor. 23. THE DIVINE VESPASIAN BRINGS PEACE TO JUDEA AND WORKS MIRACLES 1 This excerpt from Suetonius’ biography illustrates different conceptions of the expectation that a ruler would arise from Judea, the context of the First Jewish War in which Vespasian played so influential a rule, and once again the evidence that he was divinely chosen to rule. As is usual in Suetonius’ biographies, “he” refers to the particular emperor being described, in this case—Vespasian. §4.1 . . . While on the trip to Achaea among Nero’s associates, he gave very serious offense, whether by exiting the theater when Nero was singing, or remaining and sleeping through Nero’s performances, resulting in not only losing the emperor’s favor, but also being expelled from the imperial court, escaping to a small, rural town, where he remained in hiding, afraid for his life, until finally he was given command of a province, with an army under him as well. §4.2 An old and persistent opinion was alive in the whole east, that world rulers were to come from Judea. This forecast, as the result afterward showed, signified a Roman emperor, but rebellious Jews, who interpreted it to refer to their own people, assassinated their 1. Suetonius, Vesp. 4-9; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius, ed. and trans. Rolfe.
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procurator, defeated the procurator of Syria when he moved to bring order back, and captured an eagle.2 To quell this revolt, the Romans needed a powerful army led by a hardworking commander, who would not go beyond his substantial powers; he got the nod, having already proven his energy, and it seemed that someone from such a humble beginning and name need not be feared. Two legions, along with eight cavalry units and ten cohorts of auxiliaries, were thus sent to join the troops already in Judea, and he brought along his older son as a staff member. As soon as they arrived in Judea, he made a strong impression on the provinces by immediately shoring up the discipline and by outstanding bravery in repeated battles. In just one attack on an enemy fort, his knee was wounded by a stone and he stopped several arrows with his shield. §5.1 After Nero and Galba were dead and Vitellius was feuding over the Principate with Otho, Vespasian recalled his goals to be emperor, which had first arisen by these signs. §5.2 A very old oak, dedicated to Mars, growing on the Flavian family’s property near Rome, brought forth a shoot on every one of the three times that his mother conceived; and these definitely indicated each child’s future. A first delicate shoot withered up right away, and the oldest child, a girl, died in her first year. The second shoot grew long and looked healthy—indicating good fortune, and the third appeared to be more tree than shoot. They say that the father, Sabinus, was deeply moved when he inspected a sacrificial animal’s organs and then congratulated his own mother on having a grandson who would be a future emperor; whereupon she laughed in amazement that she should be of robust mind while her own son was going mad. §5.3 Afterward, when Vespasian was aedile,3 emperor Gaius, angry because Vespasian had not cleaned the streets as he was charged to do, commanded soldiers to pile mud on him. They complied by piling into the fold of his senator’s toga all the mud it 2. The beginning of the First Jewish War, which as a whole war is dated 66–70 ce. “Eagle” refers to the standard of a legion. 3. “Aedile” designates a Roman official responsible for the infrastructure of the city, as well as its grain supply and the public games.
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could hold—a sign that was interpreted to mean that one day Italian soil would be laid waste by civil war, and that Vespasian would take it into his protection as if in an embrace. §5.4 While eating breakfast once, a stray canine carried a human hand away from an intersection of roads, which it dropped beneath his table. Another time, an ox shook off the yoke that affixed it to a plow, thundered into the room where Vespasian dined, dispersing his servants, and collapsed at his feet with bent neck, as if very tired. A cypress was taken up by the roots and thrown to earth on the farm of his grandfather, even though there was no wind strong enough for such an accident. Then on the next day it had put down roots once more and seemed more green and strong than before. §5.5 While in Achaea, Vespasian dreamt that after a time when Nero lost a tooth, his and his own family’s fortune would begin to improve, and on the next day, when at the emperor’s lodgings, a dentist entered the room and showed him a tooth of Nero that he had just pulled. §5.6 While in Judea, Vespasian asked a question of the God of Carmel’s oracle. He received the promise that he would not be put to shame in what he arranged or wished, no matter how high his goals. And a Jewish prisoner from the nobility that Vespasian took, named Josephus, claimed that he would be freed by the person who had just now chained him, and that this man would afterward become emperor. Stories of other signs were relayed from Rome. Apparently Nero had been charged in a dream just before he died to bring the consecrated chariot of Jupiter Maximus from its sacred garage into the circus, stopping at Vespasian’s house along the way. Not long after this, when Galba was en route to the election that delivered a second term of consul to him, a bust of Julius Caesar turned eastward on its own, and at Betriacum, just before a battle started, two eagles attacked each other in view of all the soldiers, but then a third eagle came into view, flying from the sunrise and driving off the winner. §6.1 He still did not stir, though his supporters were ready and chomping at the bit to insist on his right to rule the empire, till the moment when he was quickly ignited to move by the helpful support of soldiers far away whom he did not know.
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Two thousand solders from the three legions in Moesia that were supporting Otho, even though the report of Otho’s loss and suicide came to them along the way, advanced to Aquileia, as though they didn’t believe the rumor. There they took the opportunity of the chaotic situation to plunder the countryside for fun. Afterward, afraid that they would be punished when they returned, they thought they might select and install their own choice for emperor, convinced that they were no weaker than the soldiers in Spain who had acclaimed Galba, the praetorian guards who had acclaimed Otho, and the soldiers in Germany who had designated Vitellius. Thus it happened that they talked through the list of the leaders of Roman provinces who had achieved the consular level in their careers, rejecting every name for one reason or another, until finally they all picked Vespasian—with the hearty support of some Third Legionaries dispatched from Syria to Moesia right before Nero died—who had marked Vespasian’s name on their standards. Despite being called to their past allegiance and their plan being blocked, the report of what they wanted to do spread. Tiberius Alexander, serving as Roman prefect in Egypt, then became the first who compelled his legions to make the loyalty oath to Vespasian; this happened on July 1, which was observed later as his day of accession, and on July 11 the legions in Judea made the oath of loyalty to Vespasian in his presence. . . . §7.1 Thus he initiated civil war; dispatching generals and legions in advance to Italy, he went over to Alexandria in order to control Egypt.4 Arriving there, he sent away his companions and went by himself into the temple of Serapis to take auspices of the future and understand how long he would reign; after completing a number of sacrifices he was about to depart when he received a vision of Basilides, his freedman, giving him the standard set of holy branches, wreaths, and bread—whom no one in his entourage had received, since [Basilides] had been practically paralyzed for quite a while by his rheumatism and was living far from there. But very soon afterwards, the news delivery from Italy brought reports of how 4. Egypt, crown jewel of the Roman Principate for its grain production, was an imperial province at this time, not administered by a proconsul from the senate, but rather by an equestrian directly accountable to the emperor, a prefect, such as Tiberius Alexander who is mentioned in §6 of this section on Vespasian.
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Vitellius had been defeated at Cremona and then struck down in Rome. §7.2 He fell short in authority and gravitas, as it were, since he was evidently not expected and still new as princeps; but he gained these. Once when sitting on the bench in the high court, a commoner who was blind, and another who was lame, came forward, asking to be healed, since Serapis had made it very clear by a dream that when [Vespasian] agreed to spit into the eyes of the blind man and touch the lame man’s legs with his heel, then both would be healed. §7.3 He did not believe in his healing abilities and was very reluctant to perform what was requested, but his associates talked him into trying, even in front of quite a crowd, and the result was successful. Around that time, after some fortune tellers received a message that they should dig up a holy site in Arcadian Tegea, they discovered a cache of extremely old vases that were all painted with a remarkable similarity to Vespasian’s image. §8.1 With those sorts of signs and with fame he returned to the city, winning a triumph for what he did with the Jews, he served as consul for eight more terms in addition to the one he had already won; he also took for himself the position of censor, and while ruling he made it of first priority to confirm and restore the state, which was almost on the verge of humiliation and disintegration, and then to adorn it. . . . §9.1 He also began construction on some new edifices: a temple of peace near the forum, a temple to the divine Claudius on the Caelian hill, started by Agrippina but practically demolished by Nero, and the colosseum, also known as the Flavian amphitheater, in the middle of the city, after realizing that this had been a project of special interest in Augustus’ plans. §9.2 He cleaned out the highest [senatorial and equestrian] orders, which had been depleted by a number of murders and longtime disregard, installing the best prospects from Italy and the provinces in place of unwanted candidates. In order to make clear the difference between the orders, not so much in terms of privilege,
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but rather in terms of dignity, he articulated the following policy in the context of a lawsuit between a senator and an equestrian: “It is not fitting that insults be directed toward senators, but it is within the law and appropriate that insults be paid back.”
Titus Titus (41–81 ce; emperor 79–81 ce) After Vespasian’s death, his older son Titus succeeded to rule the Roman Empire. Titus is infamous among the Jews for being directly involved in the burning and destruction of the Jerusalem temple. In the biography of Suetonius, we learn of his compassionate and respectful attitudes toward the Roman people and his generosity. Titus is perhaps one of the best candidates in the first century of the Principate for being a popular, generous emperor. Here is a section that shows his determination to give to the people, and his response to disasters that struck the empire. 24. TITUS, BENEFACTOR OF THE ROMANS AND THE WORLD 1
§8.1 He was by temperament very easy going: while all Caesars following Tiberius invoked his example in not recognizing the rights or entitlements given by previous emperors until they personally reinstated the benefits to those who had received them earlier, [Titus] started the pattern of confirming all previous imperial grants in a single decree, nor did he allow [these benefits] to be petitioned. With regard to other requests brought to him, it was his intention not to dismiss any postulant without giving cause for hope; one time when mentors in the imperial household admonished that he was promising above what he could give, he replied that it was not appropriate for anyone to leave unhappy after having talked with the princeps. And one time when he realized during a supper meal that he had not done anything to help anyone the whole day, he uttered the saying that has been understandably remembered and praised: “Friends, I have lost a day.”2 1. Suetonius, Titus 8.1 – 11.1; my translation from Latin text in Suetonius, ed. and trans. Rolfe.
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§8.2 Particularly toward the entire people, on all occasions, he was very gracious, so that when the announcement for a gladiator show was made, he announced that he would orchestrate the show not as he desired, but as the fans desired, and that was exactly how he did it. He acquiesced in all they requested, and insisted that they ask for what they desired. He made it obvious that he liked the Thracian gladiators and acted like a common spectator, joking with the common people in words and motions, while still keeping the dignity appropriate for his office and not lacking fairness. In order not to lose any chance to reveal himself as the people’s ruler, sometimes he bathed with the commoners granted admittance into the baths he had built. §8.3 Several awful disasters occurred during his time: the fiery eruption in Campania of Mount Vesuvius, for example; a fire in Rome burning for three days and nights; and a plague more horrible than almost any previous plagues. In these catastrophes, he showed not just a care appropriate for an emperor, but indeed the distinct sympathy a father would have, sometimes providing help by decree, sometimes bringing aid as far as his resources allowed. §8.4 Managers for the rebuilding in Campania he selected by lot from any previous consul still available; he designated the holdings of those who perished with no heirs in the Vesuvian catastrophe to be used in reconstruction in the affected towns. During the fire in the city [of Rome] the only official pronouncement he made was “I am destroyed”;3 he indicated that all the artwork in his rural properties should be used for the people’s buildings and temples, placing a number of equestrians in management positions in order to expedite matters. He left no resource—from the gods or from men—unchecked in his attempts to heal illness and ameliorate the plague, investigating every sort of sacrifice to the gods and every medical remedy.
2. The kindness and generosity described here are positive examples of why such characteristics were articulated when people praised emperors during the Principate, often with terms like those used of God in the beginning of the baptismal creed found in Titus 3:4 in the New Testament. 3. Cf. Titus’ response to a tragic fire in Rome with that reported of Nero (Tacitus, Ann. 15.39). See the excerpt from Nero’s biography in Section Three of this volume.
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§9.1 He announced that he would receive the title of pontifex maximus so that his hands would stay pure; he kept the promise and from then on neither demanded anyone’s death nor served as an accomplice in any execution.4 At the time when two men of noble family were implicated for seeking the power of the emperor, he only warned them to stop, saying that the office of princeps was a gift from fate, but then that if they wanted any other thing, he would grant it to them. §9.2 Thereupon he immediately dispatched messengers to one of their mothers, who lived quite far away, to inform the anxious woman of the safety of her son; then summoned the men to dine with him personally, and on the next day, after purposefully having them seated beside him at a gladiator event, he handed over the fighters’ weapons brought to him so they could inspect them.5 And later when he learned their horoscopes, they say that he remarked, “Both are in mortal danger, but it will be later and from elsewhere,” which proved correct. §9.3 His brother constantly plotted against him,6 nearly persuading the troops to rebel, planning to run with them, but [Titus] wouldn’t stand to killing, getting rid of him, or dishonoring him. He continued saying, as he had done since assuming the imperial office, that Domitian was his fellow ruler who would succeed him, though at times he privately asked him, beseeching him with tears, to make the good feelings he showed mutual. §10.1 Then death came, with a loss more to humanity as a whole than for him. When the games [in celebration of the newly completed colosseum] concluded, he wept profusely in public, then 4. Leaders of the highest level in the Roman Republic and Empire took on the religious title and role of pontifex maximus, high priest. By definition, priests were not to be involved in bloodshed, something that most emperors, including Constantine and other Christian emperors later, considered necessary to maintain power. The bloodshed usually involved in maintaining power was a key reason why Constantine and other Christian emperors received their baptisms only when on their deathbeds. 5. At the beginning of gladiator events, the weapons were brought to the presiding official for him to check to see that they were sufficiently sharpened. This anecdote illustrates the generous trust that Titus showed toward the men who had planned to assassinate him. 6. Domitian, Titus’s younger brother and third of the Flavian emperors. Domitian is known for his ego and cruelty.
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set out for his Sabine property. He sensed something amiss when an animal he was preparing to sacrifice ran away and also when he heard thunder come out of a cloudless sky. At the first wayside rest, he was noticeably feverish, and being carried from there by a palanquin, it is said that he drew back its curtains, gazed heavenward and bitterly lamented that he didn’t deserve to have his life stolen away, since there was nothing he regretted, except for one thing.” §10.2 He did not clarify then what it was he regretted, nor could others figure it out.7 Some suggested an adulterous affair with his brother’s wife Domitia, but she made oaths by everything holy that such an affair never occurred, and she would not have made such a denial if there were an ounce of truth in the rumor, since she would rather have boasted about it, as she freely did with all her affairs. §11 Titus passed away in the same grand house as his father did on September 13, two years, two months, and twenty days after taking his place, when forty-two years old. When his passing was announced publicly, everyone openly mourned as though a family member had died, and the senators rushed to the senate house before being officially convened; in private session and later in a public one, they brought such thanksgiving and praise to him when he was dead as they previously had never offered him when he lived among them.
7. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a rabbinic suggestion regarding Titus’ sin. According to Gittin 56B, Titus committed sacrilege in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple, then wrapped the holy vessels of the temple in its curtain and took them to Rome, where he celebrated a triumph for conquering Jerusalem and destroying its temple.
Domitian Domitian (51–96 ce; emperor 81–96 ce) Almost twelve years younger than his brother Titus, Domitian continued the careful oversight of infrastructure for the empire and provinces for which his father and brother were known. He is notorious for his autocratic and selfserving tenure in office, and is the only emperor in the Principate whose memory was officially damned by the Senate, a ruling that meant his name was to be chiseled off all monuments and buildings. 25. DOMITIAN HONORED FOR FUNDING A ROAD1 Here is an inscription from 92 or 93 ce, marking a road that he built between Smyrna and Ilica, in Asia Minor. Note the titles accorded to Domitian. The title “perpetual censor” reflects the power that Domitian took for himself. “Censor,” the person responsible for keeping only desirable senators on the active roll of senators, was a position from the Republic that Augustus and Claudius had taken on for limited terms. Domitian is the first emperor to demand that he be “perpetual censor,” censor for as long as he lived.
Emperor Caesar, god Vespasian’s son, [Domitian], Lord, master of Germany, highest priest, in the [12th] year of tribunician authority, [acclaimed] emperor 22 times, [honored 16 times] as consul, perennial[censor], Father of his Country, constructed the roads. In the [proconsulate] of Iunius Caesennius 1. This inscription was made in Latin and in Greek. D. H. French, Roman Milestones of Asia Minor, BAR International Series 392.i-ii (Oxford: BAR, 1988), 166 no. 465; my translation of the Greek section of text provided by R. A. Kearsley in New Docs 9, §11.
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26. DOMITIAN—“OUR LORD AND OUR GOD” 2 The following two paragraphs from Suetonius describe Domitian as the polar opposite of the outwardly modest emperors Augustus or Titus. §13.1 When he became princeps, he did not shrink from boasting to the senate that the power he had bestowed on his father and brother they had given back, nor to say when he recalled his wife after their divorce that he had brought her back to his divine bed. He loved to hear the cries that went up at the meal he spread in the amphitheater, “Good fortune to our lord and our mistress!” But at the talent show held on the Capitoline Hill, when the whole crowd begged in one voice for him to restore the standing of Palfurius Sura, who some time before was removed from the senate and had just won first prize in the speech competition, he did not respect their petition by responding, but simply told the herald to quiet the crowd. §13.2 With the same pride, when composing a letter of state to be signed by procurators he had placed in office, he opened the letter with “Our lord and our god commands that the following be done.” Thus he set the precedent that from then on, no one was to address him, in written correspondence or in conversation, in any other way than with those titles. He didn’t permit statues to be erected for him on the Capitoline Hill unless they were gold or silver, totaling a weight he determined. He constructed so many large corridors and arches embellished with chariots drawn by four horses and symbols of his triumphal parades throughout every part of the city that somebody wrote on one of them in Greek, “Enough.” 3
2. Suetonius, Dom. 13.1 – 13.2; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius, ed. and trans. Rolfe. 3. A pun: the Greek word used, arkei, that means “enough” is a homonym of the Latin word arci, “arches.”
Trajan Trajan (53–117 ce; emperor 98–117 ce) After the assassination of Domitian in 96, an older statesman named Nerva was brought to the Principate. He proved to be incompetent and was assassinated in 98. Trajan assumed power in 98 and earned the praise of the historian Tacitus, as well as the senator Pliny, an excerpt of whose speech in Trajan’s honor is offered here. 27. PLINY PRAISES TRAJAN FOR HIS MODESTY AND STRONG RULE OVER THE BARBARIANS 1 In this speech from the year 100 ce, Pliny, who has just been appointed consul by Trajan, gushes with praise over the modest way that Trajan assumed the office of emperor and the strong hand he shows at the empire’s borders. The revolt of the praetorians mentioned in this part of the speech concerns the insistence of the praetorians that the assassins of Domitian be executed. The interim emperor Nerva gave in to their request for this execution and also adopted as his son—thereby appointing the next emperor—Trajan, whom the army liked. I must comply with the will of the senate, which has decreed for the public advantage that the consul, by way of an address of thanks, shall remind good princes of what they have done, and bad princes of what they ought to do. This is all the more necessary now because our prince suppresses all private expressions of gratitude, and would prevent also public ones if he were permitted to forbid what the senate has decreed. In both cases, Caesar Augustus, you show 1. Pliny, “Panegyric in Praise of Trajan,” trans. F. P. Garland, in Masterpieces of Eloquence, ed. M. W. Hazeltine et al. (New York: Collier, 1905). Modesty in an emperor was remarkable; see Matt. 20:25-27 // Mark 10:42-44 // Luke 22:24-27 // John 13:13-17.
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moderation; for, in permitting here the expression of gratitude that you forbid in private, you honor not yourself, but us. Since, then, you have yielded to our wishes, the important thing is not for us to proclaim your merits, but for you to hear them. I have often reflected how good and great the man should be whose beck and nod control the earth and sea, peace and war. But I should never, even if I had power equal to that of the gods, have conceived of a prince like ours. One man becomes great in war, but sinks into obscurity in peace. Another gains distinction in the arts of peace, but not in the profession of arms. One is feared because he is cruel; another loved because he is humble. One loses in public life the renown he gained in private; another loses in private life his public reputation. In short, there has been no prince in the past whose virtues have not been tarnished by vices. But our prince has obtained unprecedented praise and glory. His seriousness is not lessened by his cheerfulness, his gravity by his simplicity, or his dignity by his humanity. He is steady, tall, and stately in mien and bearing; and though he is in the prime of life his hair is becoming gray—a sign of approaching age. These are the marks that proclaim the prince. . . . But though you possessed the proper qualifications, Caesar, you were unwilling to become emperor. You had therefore to be forced. Yet you could not have been forced but for the danger that threatened our country; you would not have assumed the imperial power were it not to save the empire. And I feel sure that the praetorians revolted because great force and danger were necessary to overcome your modesty. Just as the sea is calmer, and the sky clearer, after a storm, so the peace and security we now enjoy under your rule is greater after that uprising. So through all the vicissitudes of life adversity follows prosperity, prosperity adversity. The source of both lies hidden. Indeed the causes of good and evil in general deceive us by false appearances. The revolt of the praetorians was a great disgrace to our age, a grave injury to the commonwealth. The emperor and father of the human race was besieged, taken, and shut up; the power of saving men was taken from the mildest of old men; our prince was deprived of his most salutary power—freedom of action. If only such calamity could induce you to assume the reins of government I should say that it was worth the price. The discipline of the camp was corrupted, that you might correct it; a bad example was set, that you might act
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a good one; finally a prince was forced to put men to death against his will, that he might give the world a prince who could not be forced. You were destined to be adopted at some time or other; but we should never have known how much the empire owed you, had you been adopted sooner. Adopted by the emperor and called upon by your countrymen, you responded as did the great generals of old when summoned from abroad to defend their country. Thus father and son made an exchange at one and the same time: he gave you the empire; you restored it to him. Nay you even put the giver under obligation; for in sharing the imperial power with him you assumed the burden of care, while he enjoyed greater security. . . . During the preceding reigns the barbarians had become insolent, and no longer struggled to gain their liberty, but fought to enslave us. But on your accession they were again inspired with fear and a willingness to obey your commands. For they saw that you were a general of the old stamp—one of those who had earned their title on fields heaped high with slaughter, or on seas resounding with the shouts of victory. The result is that we now accept hostages; we do not buy them. Nor do we now make peace on disadvantageous terms in order to keep up the appearance of success. Our enemies seek and implore peace; we grant or deny it according as the dignity of the empire requires. Those who obtain their request thank us; those to whom it is denied dare not complain, for they know that you have attacked the fiercest nations at that very time of the year which has hitherto been deemed most favorable for them and most unfavorable for us. I mean the season when the Danube is spanned with ice and supports on its hardened back the ponderous engines of war—the season when the savage tribes of the north are armed, not only with weapons, but with the fury of the elements. But the elements have no terrors for you, and on your approach the enemy shut themselves up in their hiding-places while our troops cross the river triumphantly and hurl against the barbarians the fury of their own winter. Such is the awe with which you have inspired the barbarians.
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28. TRAJAN AND ROMAN PEOPLE ON A COIN2 This denarius was issued in Rome circa 103–111 ce. On the obverse we see the head of Trajan, wreathed to show his authority, with the inscription IMP[ERATOR] CAES[AR] NERVA TRAIAN AVG[VSTVS] GER[MANICVS], or: “Emperor Caesar Nerva Trajan Augustus Germanicus.” The title “Germanicus” celebrate his victory over the Germans. On the reverse side is the goddess Roma, goddess of the Roman people. Her left hand is holding a cornucopia, her right hand is on a sword. There is a plow at her feet. The agricultural images evoke the golden age that the Principate purportedly restored; the sword suggests Rome’s strength in her world. Its inscription is: PONT[IFEX] MAX[IMVS] TR[IBVNICIA] POT[ESTATAS] CO[N]SVL II, or “Highest priest, holding tribunician power, consul for the second time.” The figure representing the people is holding a cornucopia as a sign of the abundance they are enjoying and a patera, or shallow dish used to make libations to the gods, signifying their thankfulness.
2. Photographs courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.ha.com.
Conclusion The main idea in this section, “Identity in Community,” has been that participation in the communities of urbs, collegium, and domus provided the New Testament’s authors and first readers with their respective identities. These identities were constructed not simply by the correlative relationship of being similar to everyone else in each community, but also in an individual’s performance of distinctive, member-specific functions in the communities. Paul’s respectful description of different parts of the body in 1 Cor. 12:14-26 captures well the way in which a community, in this case the collegium that we know as the church, provide a context for each member’s identity to be distinguished from others in the same community. The communities of urbs, collegium, and domus also provided followers of Jesus with communal lenses through which to view themselves. We have seen above, in the discussion of the urbs as a refuge, how the city is invested with theological significance in the book of Hebrews. In the next section, we shall see how the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21–22 is presented in counterpoint to Rome. The Roman collegium, as well as Greek associations and Jewish synagogues, provided models that Christians adapted in order to form their local churches. And the domus also gave filial, fraternal, and servile images for Christians to use in their expressions of relationships with each other and with the God they worshiped.
Hadrian Hadrian (76–138 ce; emperor 117–138 ce) Emperors were not the only persons acclaimed as divine during the Principate. We have already noted in passing above that Livia, wife of Augustus and mother of Tiberius, was voted to be divine by the senate at the prompting of the emperor Claudius. Livia had already been given special honors by Augustus while he was alive; it was a way of glorifying his own person. Emperors’ wives and lovers thus were the objects of much attention and honor. One of the most famous of an emperor’s lovers is Antinous, the teenage man who served the emperor Hadrian. Their relationship dates from about the years 128 to 131 ce. In the year 128, Hadrian, with his wife Sabina and his teenage partner Antinous, began a tour of the empire. After visiting Athens, being initiated into Greek mysteries, then travelling to Judea where he founded a Roman colony in Jerusalem called Aelia Capitolina, he and his entourage arrived in Egypt, where they spent a year. There had been some attention to Hadrian’s partner already, but Antinous’s untimely death by drowning in the Nile led to even more attention and the young man’s deification. It has been suggested that Antinous’s fame even affected the wording of a New Testament text. New Testament readers can readily see that 2 Peter 2 and the letter of Jude share many of the same ideas; it is clear that one is literarily dependent on the other. It has been suggested that 2 Peter 2:7 was written during or after Hadrian’s empire-wide tour with his lover Antinous, since it omits the “strange flesh” phrase of Jude 7 to shift the focus from human lust for angels described in Genesis 19:4-9 to an expression that would in the author’s semantic field include homosexual behavior.1 The evidence offered below from a history and inscriptions shows how the whole empire, from Egypt to Greece, was ready to honor and acclaim the emperor’s teenage lover as divine.
1. A suggestion by David Wilmot, Intermediate Koinē Greek Class, University of Chicago, Fall 1985.
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29. AURELIUS VICTOR EXPLAINS HADRIAN’S DEVOTION TO ANTINOUS 2 The historiain Aurelius Victor, writing after 360 ce in a work that is based on his reading of Suetonius, explains why Hadrian was so devoted to Antinous. Hadrian, in the custom of those blessed with opulence, erected very large homes, attended to lavish meals, sculptures, and paintings, and, in the end, gave forethought very diligently to all that contributed to an indulgent and frolicking lifestyle. Then came the pernicious rumors that he was acting out sexual aberrations on adults, burning in passion for Antinous, a well known servant of his; these rumors came about since a city had been established with Antinous’ name and sculptures were created of this youth. Some consider these honors to be deserved piety and religious veneration: the cause is that when Hadrian wished to extend his own life, the magicians asked that someone volunteer to give his life in Hadrian’s place, and when all hesitated, Antinous offered his life, thus accounting for the emperor’s debt to him, mentioned above. We are not committed in the question, but we suspect a fallen nature when there is a relationship that lasts so long between unequals. 30. INSCRIPTION IN EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHICS FOR ANTINOUS 3 Here is an inscription on an obelisk in Rome, written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The inscription is regarded as ambiguous in regard to the precise location of Antinous’ burial site; he is conjectured to have been buried either in the Egyptian city named after him, Antinopolis, or else in Rome. The deceased Antinous, who is reposed here in this grave in the villa of the Emperor of Rome. 31. AN ALTAR DEDICATION TO ANTINOUS 4
2. Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus 14.6-9; my translation of Latin text at http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/victor.caes.html#14. 3. Derchain, Le Monde grec: Hommages à Claire Préaux, 813; translated adapted from Sherk, Augustus to Hadrian, 149.
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This altar inscription is held at the museum in Cairo, though found at Antinopolis, the city founded in honor of Antinous. Today this city is known as Sheikh ‘Ibada. A Roman official paid for and dedicated this altar to Antinous. To the manifest Antinous, Fidus Aquila, prefect of the Thebaid 32. HADRIAN’S APPEARANCE IN EGYPT CELEBRATED 5 Here is a coin that was issued in Rome, around 134–138 ce. The inscription on the obverse reads HADRIANVS AVG[VSTVS] CO[N]S[VL] III P[ATER] P[ATRIAE], or “Hadrian Augustus, Consul for the third time, father of the fatherland.” On the reverse side, he is shown reclining, with an Egyptian tambourine called a sistrum and resting an elbow on a basket. There is an ibis at the foot of personified Egypt. With a little imagination, you might find a cobra near the basket, or on Lady Egypt’s dress. The faded inscription on this side reads AEGYPTOS, or “Egypt.” As we already saw in Res Gestae §27.1 (see item 1 above), the Roman possession of Egypt was a high priority in the Principate. Hadrian’s visit to Egypt and safe return to Rome no doubt assured Roman citizens that Egypt, with its fruitful farm lands, securely belonged to Rome.
33. HADRIAN, SOURCE OF HAPPINESS 6 Augustus used the divine virtues with good effect to strengthen his rule. This coin celebrates Hadrian as the source of Felicitas, or the deified virtue of happiness. It is a sestertius issued in Rome, perhaps around 132–135 ce, when 4. Editor’s translation of OGIS 700. Dittenberger suggests that the full name of the patron builder of this altar is Julius Fidus Aquila; see CIL 8.15872. 5. Permission to use these photographs from Gorny & Mosch (www.gmcoinart.de) is gratefully acknowledged. 6. Permission to use the photographs of this coin from Pecunem (www.pecunem.com) is gratefully acknowledged.
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Rome was occupied with the Second Jewish Revolt in Judea. The obverse of the coin reads HADRIANVS AVG[VSTVS] CO[N]S[VL] III P[ATER] P[ATRIAE], or “Hadrian Augustus, consul for the third time, father of the fatherland.” The reverse of the coin reads FELICITATI AVGVSTI, or “to the Augustan Happiness.” A galley ship with four oarsmen celebrates Hadrian’s trip to Egypt and safe return. Tragically ignoring the atrocities the Romans were committing at this time in Judea, the coin seeks to celebrate the blessed happiness provided by the emperor. Felicity, or happiness, might be an idea to keep in mind when reading Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:1-19. It begins with a reference to Caesar Augustus, but takes pains to show the happiness resulting from a peasant’s birth in Judea.
Conclusion The emperors of the Principate experienced different levels of popularity. Titus and the brother who followed him, whose name was damned by the Senate after his death, seem to be on opposite poles of the popularity continuum for Roman emperors. Beyond recognizing differences in popular reception of individual emperors, however, it is impossible for us to recover what people in Rome and those in the provinces really thought about each of their emperors. But we can be alert to the language and imagery that was used to describe them. The evidence shows that the person most commonly depicted as “son of God” in the first century ce was the Roman emperor. The emperor was viewed not simply as the highest military or legal authority, but also as the most generous source of aid for any province or city in the western world. As
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a source of help for the real needs of societies, the emperors generated a gospel, or good news, that their subjects welcomed. Those who regarded the emperor as divine were not monotheists. They viewed the emperor as predestined by other gods to rule, and ruling along with gods and goddesses such as the Roman peace, faith, hope and felicity, all deified virtues within the well-populated Roman pantheon. The emperors did provide good news when they rebuilt cities, funded athletic contests, and supplied food. Many who accepted their benefaction and celebrated their good news worshipped other gods as well, while regarding the Roman princeps, at least those deified at death, as divine. Monarchs for centuries preceding the rise of the Roman Republic had also been regarded as divine benefactors. One might argue that there was no new development in political and religious consciousness with the rise of the Roman princeps. But by their cultural and geographical extent of rule, these emperors proved to be a relatively long-standing line of figures that held a variety of peoples’ political and religious attention. Not all their subjects’ attention amounted to worship, though at times this worship could be demanded and its neglect punished. This office, the office of emperor, generated a vocabulary for conceiving of and describing divine rule, not simply of an individual citystate but of the whole world. Yes, Sargon, Sennacherib, Cyrus or Alexander also provided precedents for such widely extended rule that attracted political and religious attention. But their reigns were relatively short-lived in comparison to the line of Roman rulers who would claim to be sons of God. The Roman princeps, therefore, provided an earthly point of comparison for the son of God that Christians worshipped. And whether these Christians were conscious of it or not, the gospel that they announced in regard to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was spoken and heard in a world where a more visible rival, the Roman princeps, generated an alternate gospel. Since we recognize people and understand ideas primarily in comparison to other people and ideas, it is useful for us when reading the New Testament to compare the sons of God and gospels that shaped the world of its authors and first readers.
Introduction Identity in Community
Identity consisted in community for the Romans, as well as for the Semitic and Greek cultures of the Mediterranean world in the time of the Principate. All these cultures viewed a person’s identity as composed primarily of the groups to which they belonged. Identity in community is shown in various genres of literature and cultural artifacts. We will move in this introductory discussion from a brief consideration of a scene in Homer’s Odyssey to a foundational text in Greek philosophy to illustrate the formative idea that a person’s identity is primarily constituted in terms of the community in which he or she lives. Homer’s portrait of Polyphemus the Cyclops is strange and threatening not simply to Odysseus in the world of the Odyssey but also to most of its Mediterranean readers. This is not in the first place because he only has one eye and eats humans, but because he lives alone. Homer portrays him as more than a “loose cannon”; though he is a giant, he is also evidently not human because he doesn’t live in community. The other Cyclops creatures in the area appear to be living independently of one another, and this is strange for both the Greeks who encounter the strange species in Homer’s Odyssey and the Romans who encounter them in Virgil’s Aeneid. The Romans accepted the Greek idea that to be human is to live in community. Aristotle’s ideas on the inevitability, utility, and value of human communities, including cities, are ideas that Romans fully accepted.
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34. ARISTOTLE ON THE COMMUNAL FORMS OF HUMAN LIFE 1
All forms of community are political, for people walk along together for some mutual benefit, and they seek to provide something for life. And it seems that it was for the purpose of mutual benefit that the political community came together at the beginning and now endures, for this is what lawmakers seek, and they call “just” what is for general benefit. The various communities seek benefit in partial ways: thus sailors sail to make money or something like this, soldiers engage in warfare, whether for money or victory or the taking of a city, similarly tribal groups or assemblies—some communities seem to be formed on account of pleasure, or religious groups and dining associations are formed on account of sacrifices and social interaction. Still, all these seem to be subordinate to the political community, for the political community seeks not a short-term benefit but one that addresses a whole life. People offer sacrifices and arrange for social gatherings when doing so, pay honors to the gods, and set up times of rest with pleasure for themselves. For the sacrifices of olden times and festivals appear to be set in place after the harvest, as a sort of firstfruits, because this was especially the time when there was time for these things. All these communities, therefore, seem to be segments of the political one, and it follows that various sorts of friendships generate correspondingly various communities. The Romans followed the idea, found in Aristotle and current in other branches of Greek philosophy as well, that regards every person as essentially defined by relationships, and under obligation in each of the relationships constituting one’s existence.2 The broadest level of community we shall consider here is that of the urbs, the Roman city. As we begin to think about the city in the Mediterranean world, it is worth noting that Aristotle’s word “political” is cognate with the Greek word for city—polis. For the Greeks, and for the Romans who accepted and valued Greek cities as legitimate places for cultural growth and human community, the city is the place where the primary or highest community of humanity is actualized.
1. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1160a9–30; author’s translation of Greek text in Aristotelis Ethica Nicomachea, ed. L. Bywater, OCT (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1894), 168–69. 2. Cicero, De Officiis 1.16.1–1.18.59.
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Contemporary readers might expect citizenship in the early empire to be the first-level Roman community that defined Mediterranean peoples under the Principate. But it is rather difficult to get a handle on what Roman citizenship meant in the first century, and New Testament students remain divided on whether the three references to Paul’s Roman citizenship in Acts derive from historical records available to its author or from its author’s need to present Paul and the gospel as somehow compatible with Rome.3 It seems safer, therefore, to begin with the urbs as the highest level of social identity in the Roman world. In general, Romans in the Principate viewed the urbs, whether Rome, Pompeii, Corinth, Alexandria, or Jerusalem, as a safe, ordered community of culture, learning, and virtue. Certainly they were indebted to the Greeks’ development of the polis throughout the Mediterranean world. The Romans prided themselves on running cities efficiently, and maintaining the safety of the city against outside threats, while upholding order within the city both in terms of how humans related to one another and how they related to the divine world.
3. Acts 16:37-38; 22:25-29; 23:27. Peter Lampe offers a detailed discussion of Roman citizenship, but we note that it occurs in a section called “Social Stratification from the Time of Commodus,” that is, beginning well past the time when the New Testament documents were composed (From Paul to Valentinus: Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries, trans. Michael Steinhauser [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003], 119–22).
Urbs “I am a Jewish man, from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of no little city,” Paul says to the Roman officer in the scene the book of Acts paints for his arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21:39). The identifiers are what we would expect. Any inhabitant of the Mediterranean world would consider citizenship in a good city equivalent to having virtue. The following saying from the Roman Stoic Musonius Rufus, teaching in Rome intermittently between the mid-50s until some time after 71 ce, illustrates this well. Note how the young man in this selection is introduced to the public as a citizen or “one worthy of the assembly” after his character has been molded toward goodness. The heading of the saying indicates that it is a quotation of Musonius Rufus, as transcribed by his student Epictetus. 35. A ROMAN TEACHER DESCRIBES VIRTUE INSTILLED IN CITY LIFE (mid-50s ce)1
By Rufus, from Epictetus: Concerning Friendship Who of us is not amazed at the case of Lycurgus the Spartan? For after being blinded in one eye by a fellow citizen, and after accepting the young fellow from the assembly to repay however he wished, he did not do so, but after training and forming him into a good person, he brought him to the theater. And when the Spartans were astounded, he responded, “I accepted this one—proud and violent—from you; I return him to you a fair-minded one, worthy of the assembly.”
1. My translation of the Greek text of Musonius, fr. 39 as found in C. MVSONII RVFI RELIQVIAE, ed. Otto Hense (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1905), §39 (pp. 125–26).
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36. THE BODY ANALOGY USED FOR CIVIL CONCORD IN REPUBLICAN ROME (494 bce)2 Not only did the Roman urbs confer an identity of co-relation on its members by providing a shared society, but it also provided a context or template for differentiating people from one another, thus establishing an identity of distinction. As one type of Hellenistic city in the Mediterranean world, Republican Rome was divided into two governmentally defined social orders, the patricians and the plebeians. Patricians represented the nobility, that is, persons who could prove that they were descended from certain families that were considered nobler than others. “Plebeians” represented the order of free citizens. Patrician and plebeian were declared to be officially equal in 287 bce. We get a sense of tensions between the orders, however, from the following narrative describing events about two centuries earlier. The “dictator” in the following selection, Marcus Valerius, was appointed dictator in 494 bce partly because the lower-ranking plebs who formed the majority of the armed forces for the Roman Republic were not being paid adequately, and the Senate was indifferent to their plight. The Valerian family is famous through early Roman history for being sympathetic to plebeian concerns. The story that the Roman historian Livy tells here of Menenius Agrippa’s address to the plebeians—given with the full approval of Marcus Valerius—is a narrative of how one official from the higher rank of the Roman Republic persuaded those from the lower rank to return to their duties for the city by means of the analogy of the members of a body. Paul later appealed to the same metaphor when he asked church members to respect one another’s gifts for service within the church (Rom. 12:3-8). As we pick up the story, the Roman army, under Marcus Valerius’s command, has returned to Rome after winning three battles against neighbor indigenous peoples.3 After his triumphal parade, however, the Senate refused to honor the dictator’s request that his troops be paid, at which point Valerius resigned. The Senate then ordered the soldiers out of Rome, lest they stir up riots or attacks within the city, and the soldiers made camp outside of the city in 2. J. D. G. Dunn, Romans 9–16, WBC 38B (Dallas: Word, 1988), 722, makes the connection to the section from Livy offered here next. The translation here is my adaptation from Titius Livius, The History of Rome, vol. 1, trans. William Masfen Roberts (London: J. M. Dent/New York: E. P. Dutton, 1912), 2.31–33. Livy completed his history of Rome in the early first century ce. The story of the human body’s revolt against the belly may also be found in Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.3.18 and in Cicero, De Officiis 3.5.22. 3. This paragraph is the editor’s summary of Livy, History of Rome 2.31 and beginning of 2.32.
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what became a sort of self-initiated boycott. We find the city of Rome stymied by this standoff between the two orders of its people and defenseless against possible attack. §2.32. A great panic seized the city; mutual distrust led to a state of universal suspense. Those plebeians who had been left by their comrades in the city feared violence from the patricians; the patricians feared the plebeians who still remained in the city, and could not make up their minds whether they would rather have them go or stay. “How long,” it was asked, “would the multitude who had seceded remain quiet? What would happen if a foreign war broke out in the meantime?” They felt that all their hopes rested on concord among the citizens, and that this must be restored at any cost. The senate decided, therefore, to send as their spokesman Menenius Agrippa, an eloquent man, and acceptable to the plebs as being himself of plebeian origin. He was admitted into the camp, and it is reported that he simply told them the following fable in a primitive and earthy style. “In the days when all the parts of the human body did not agree together as they do now, but each member took its own course and spoke its own speech, the other members, indignant at seeing that everything acquired by their care and labor and service went to the belly, while it, undisturbed in the middle of them all, did nothing but enjoy the pleasures provided for it, entered into a conspiracy; the hands were not to bring food to the mouth, the mouth was not to accept it when offered, the teeth were not to chew it. But while in their resentment they were anxious to coerce the belly by starving it, the members themselves wasted away, and the whole body was reduced to the last stage of exhaustion. Then it became evident that the belly rendered no idle service, and the nourishment it received was no greater than that which it bestowed by returning to all parts of the body this blood by which we live and are strong, equally distributed into the veins, after being matured by the digestion of the food.” By using this comparison, and showing how the internal disaffection among the parts of the body resembled the animosity of the plebeians against the patricians, he succeeded in winning over his audience. Livy goes on to describe that the story told by Menenius Agrippa made a convincing impression, and talks began between the plebeians and the
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patricians.4 A settlement was reached, establishing that the plebeian order would have two officials, called “tribunes,” who would be able to veto the legislation of the consuls, who up to this time were only of the patrician order. The narrative ends with Livy’s description of the death of Menenius Agrippa, whose funeral expenses were paid by the plebeians, the very order he had persuaded to return to Rome and to a functional relationship with the dominant order of the city, the patricians. The social functionality and unity of the city is thus underscored in this story, which first develops the metaphor to which Paul would later appeal. By using the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ, Paul argues that seemingly unwanted members of the body are still quite necessary (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:12-30). The metaphor is adapted in Eph. 5:23 and Col. 1:18 to emphasize Christ as the head of the body. Other texts related to Paul use this metaphor to link a believer’s suffering with the suffering of Christ (Acts 9:4-5, 16; Col. 1:24). Hebrews seems to adapt the metaphor regarding suffering with Christ in his body to suffering as fellow sons of God with Christ (Heb. 12:3-11). The cities in which Paul planted churches had expectations for how communities should be ordered or regulated. These expectations came on a variety of levels. First, there was an expectation on the part of Roman authorities that all religions should preserve the status quo of society and not lead to any unrest. Because of the Roman government’s concern that religion should not change the ways in which society was stratified and the orderly life of society, it sought to authorize and regulate any new religion coming into Rome. The anxiety that Rome held toward foreign religions was based on its fear that such religions would lead to political and social unrest, a disturbance of the Roman peace. The consul Postumius Albinus’s warning, included in the historian Livy’s narrative of the Bacchic threat to the order of Rome in 186 bce, might represent exactly what other Romans would have felt about the coming of the Christian gospel to a Roman colony or to Rome itself: “Nothing is more deceitful than a perverse religion.”5 Livy the historian seems to side with the consul’s warning, for he narrates the story of the followers of Dionysus entering Rome with the same suspicions as those in the quotation just quoted from the consul in the story. When Christianity entered Rome, it was surely an unregistered, unapproved religion. Although Rome had no laws saying, “You cannot be 4. My summary of Livy, History of Rome 2.33. 5. Livy, History of Rome 39.16.6.
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a Christian,” Rome could determine the political and social stability of this and any other foreign religion by asking its followers to offer sacrifices to the emperor’s spirit (“genius”). If a religion’s followers refused to offer such sacrifices, Rome’s suspicions would be confirmed that this was a politically and socially disruptive religion. In the excerpts from Livy’s account that follow, we see Roman expectations for social order and suspicions regarding private assemblies of people involved in unauthorized religions. The standard prescriptions offered later, in New Testament writings, regarding what Christians should do when meeting together (see Acts 4:23-31; 1 Cor. 5:3-5; 14:26-33; Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:19-20; Heb. 10:23-25; 13:10) may strike us as rather innocuous, but the following excerpts from Livy indicate clearly that certain behaviors could have been taken by later Roman authorities as evidence of the subversive nature of Christ-followers. 37. MADAM HISPALA SAVES ROME FROM THE EVILS OF A NEW RELIGION (186 bce)6
§§39.8.3–39.11.3. An unknown Greek—with none of the skills which that most learned people brought to us for the development of mind and body—came first into Etruria, offering sacrifices and telling fortunes; not one who practiced a religion of full disclosure, . . . but a high priest of secret, nocturnal rites. There were rites of initiation that were first passed on to a few people, then these began to be divulged among men and women. The pleasures of wine and banquets were added to those of religion, so that many were drawn in. When souls were lit up with wine and nighttime, and the gathering of women and men, young and old, had extinguished every distinction of modesty, all sorts of perversion began to be practiced, since each person had readily available the particular delight to which he or she was more inclined. Nor was there just one kind of crime—freeborn men and women were openly connecting, there were false witnesses, there were false identity markers, wills, and depositions all coming out of the same laboratory. From the same place came deaths by poison and slaughter, though sometimes there were no bodies produced for burial. Much was daringly perpetrated by guile, more by violence. The violence was hidden, for 6. My translation of selections from the Latin text supplied by Evan T. Sage in his Livy, vol. 11, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936).
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in the face of the din of drumbeats and cymbal clangings, no voice of protest among the orgies and murders could be heard. This blemish of evil penetrated from Etruria into Rome like a disease-carrying infection. . . . Publius Aebutius, whose father had served as a knight with a commission from the government, was orphaned. When his legal guardians died, he was led under the guardianship of his mother, Duronia, and stepfather, Titus Sempronius Rutilus. The mother was dedicated to her husband, and the stepfather, because he had managed the guardianship in such a way that he couldn’t account for what legally belonged to the stepson, was wishing that his ward be destroyed or become a legal dependent on them. One way of ruining him was the Bacchic rites. The mother spoke to the youth: she had made a vow to help him recover from an illness, she said, so that upon his recovery, she would have him initiated in the Bacchic rites. Now that she had obtained her vowed wish by the kindness of the gods, she was bound and desirous to complete it. His part was to be chaste for ten days. Then on the tenth day, she said, I will bring you to the banquet room, then after bathing in the cleansing area, to the inner sanctuary. Now there was a renowned prostitute, the freedwoman Hispala Faecenia, who though not deserving the profession in which she had specialized as a slave girl, still used to conduct herself in the same way even after she had managed her manumission. She was very intimate with Aebutius, since they lived near one another in the same neighborhood, and this had little to no effect on his inheritance or reputation, for he was freely loved and desired by her and, since he was supported so meagerly by his kin, he was being sustained by the bounty of the little harlot. . . . With these pledges of love in place and neither holding any secret from the other, the youth laughingly forbade her from being shocked if he slept alone the next few nights. Out of religious considerations, to be released from a vow made for his health, he wanted to be initiated into the Bacchic rites. When the woman heard this, she became alarmed and cried, “The gods know better!” She said it would be better for her and for him to die than for him to do this. She began to pray down threats and dangers on those who had advised him so. Surprised at her words and such agitation, the young man asked her to refrain from cursing; it was his own mother with the stepfather’s consent who had commanded
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it, he said. “So it is your stepfather,” she said, “since maybe it’s inappropriate to charge your mother, who is hurrying to commit your modesty, reputation, hope, and life to destruction in this way!” He was really surprised and asked what was going on, all the while praying to gods and goddesses for peace and pardon, in case she had spoken—prompted by her love—what was supposed to be kept silent. While a slave girl, she said, she had entered—accompanying her mistress—into those sacred rites, but as a freedwoman she had never approached the place. She knew it to be a laboratory for all sorts of perversions, and it was common knowledge that for the last two years, no one over age twenty had been initiated. When anyone was put forward for initiation, he or she was handed over as a victim for the priests. They would lead each victim to a place resounding with howling, singing of music, cymbal clanging, and drumbeats, so that the voice of protest could not be heard while the victim was being forcibly violated. She then pleaded and made him promise that he would break off this plan however he could, not to jump into a place where all sorts of abominations would have to be experienced and then actually practiced. She did not allow him to leave until the youth promised that he would keep himself away from those sacred rites. After he went home and his mother began to make explanation of the things pertaining to the initiation rites—what must be done that day, then on the other days—he contradicted these things, saying he was in no mind to be initiated. The stepfather was also present during this exchange. The woman retorted immediately that he couldn’t keep from laying Hispala for ten nights, and that he was filled with the charms and potions of that viper, without scruple for parents, stepfather, or the gods. With his mother and then his stepfather scolding him in this way, four slaves then forced him out of the house. The youth then got himself to his aunt Aebutia. After telling her the story behind why he was expelled from his mother’s house, with her sponsorship he reported the matter in private to the consul Postumius on the following day. The consul then took measures to corroborate the young man’s story. He asked his own mother-in-law, named Sulpicia, to help him interview Publius Aebutius’s aunt Aebutia. He also asked his mother-in-law to help him summon and interview the prostitute, Hispala Faecenia.7 In the following, note both
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how difficult it is for the consul Postumius to get the whole story regarding the Bacchic rites from Hispala and how significant her testimony eventually becomes for the Roman authorities. §39.12–13. Hispala Faecenia was brought into an inner section of the house, his mother-in-law also invited to be present, and the consul said that if she could make up her mind to speak the truth she would have no need to be disturbed, if she could accept a guarantee from Sulpicia, such a distinguished woman, or from himself. She was to disclose to them what was usually performed in the nighttime ceremonies of the Bacchanalia in the forest of Stimula. When she heard this, such shaking and trembling seized all the limbs of the woman that she could not speak for quite a while. After finally pulling herself together, she said that while a slave girl she was initiated along with her mistress, but for quite a few years since her manumission, she knew nothing of what was done there. At that point the consul praised her statement, because she had not denied that she was initiated, but that she should disclose the rest under the same guarantee. After she denied that she knew anything else, he said that she would not be under immunity or mercy if she were implicated by someone else’s testimony rather than disclosing it herself. The one who had heard from her had exposed all to him, he said. The woman, now knowing beyond doubt—as was the case—that Aebutius had exposed the mystery, fell at Sulpicia’s feet and began to beg her not to move toward making the talk of a freedwoman with her lover into not just a serious matter, but a capital offense. She spoke out of the motive of terrifying him, not because she knew anything. Then Postumius, infuriated, said that at that moment she still believed she was playing with Aebutius, not in the home of a very important woman and speaking with a consul. And Sulpicia helped the frightened woman up, all the while encouraging her and easing her son-in-law’s fury. Finally pulling herself together, with much blaming of the faithlessness of Aebutius, who had returned this sort of thanks to one who deserved the best from him, she said she was in great fear of the gods, whose secrets she was about to articulate, and much more afraid of the men who, if identified, would physically tear her apart. And along this line she 7. My summary of the end of Livy, History of Rome 39.11.
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pleaded with Sulpicia and the consul that they would remove her beyond Italy, where she could safely spend what remained of her life. The consul told her to set her mind at ease, saying that it was his personal concern to make sure she could live safely in Rome. Then Hispala disclosed the origin of the sacred rites. In the beginning, they were the sacred rites of women; it was the policy that not a single man be admitted. Three days were set per year as the time in which they were initiated—during the daytime—into the Bacchic rites. The priestesses were customarily chosen from the matrons who took turns in the position. When Paculla Annia from Campania was priestess, she changed everything at the prompting of the gods. She for the first time initiated men, her sons Minius and Herennius Cerrinius, moved the sacred rites from daytime to nighttime, and from three days per year to five days per month for initiations. From then on, when the sacred rites were held indiscriminately—even men mingling with women—and the license provided by nighttime adopted as well, no evil deed, no shameful crime was neglected there. The violations of men among themselves were more common than those among women. If any could not endure to be shamed or were hesitant toward the villainies, they were offered as sacrifices. To hold nothing off-limits was the highest religious virtue among them. Men would prophesy as though deranged, with wild thrusts of the body. Women dressed as Bacchae, with hair askew and carrying burning torches, used to run to the Tiber, dunk their torches in the water, and because they were composed of active sulphur and calcium, raise them, flaming brightly. Men, who were bound to contraptions for torture and carried out of view to concealed caves, were said to have been seized by the gods. These were ones who had refused to take the oath, join in the evil deeds, or experience rape. The number of the Bacchic followers was quite high, almost now a second nation, including some nobles, both men and women. For the last two years, a guideline had been in place that no one over twenty years old should be initiated; those of that age were targeted as well suited for corruptions and defilements. Hispala Faecenia was moved to a secure apartment, and her lover Aebutius was given lodging with a client of the consul, who could provide protection.
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Postumius then took the matter before the Senate, who were alarmed and fearful when they learned what inroads the Bacchanalia had made in Rome. They instructed the consuls to ensure that neither Aebutius nor Hispala Faecenia should experience any harm for the testimony they had offered. They sent deputies to flush out more informers and arrest clergy of this religion, and placed guards at key places in order to shut down its orgies. Once these steps were taken, they called a public assembly to address the Romans about this threat to their national security.8 §39.15. After the officials had been sent to their assignments, the consuls climbed onto the speakers’ platform and announced a public assembly. When the consul completed the solemn chant of prayer that officials were accustomed to use in invocation before addressing the nation, he began as follows: “Never for any gathering, citizens, has this solemn invocation of the gods been not only fitting but also necessary, which reminds you that these are the gods that your ancestors designated for worship, veneration, and prayer, not those who would incite our allured minds with evil, foreign religions, as by the whips of the Furies, to every impiety and lust. . . . I’m sure you have grasped that the Bacchanalia have for quite a while been in all Italy and now are even in many places within Rome; this is not only a rumor, but you know it also from the nocturnal rustling and howls that sound through the whole city. But I’m also sure that you are ignorant of other aspects of what the matter is. . . . So first, a great number are women; they have been the source of this evil. Then there are males who are similar to women, ravished and ravishing others, crazy, rendered senseless by sleep-deprivation and wine, crashing and howling in the night. The secret society does not have much strength at this point, but on the other hand it has the makings of great strength, for daily its numbers are growing. Your ancestors did not want you to gather without cause, unless the flag was set out on the prison and the army led out for an election, or the tribunes had called for a gathering of the commoners, or some official had called for an assembly. And wherever there was a mass of people, there they judged there should be a legally approved leader of the crowd. What sort of meeting do you honestly believe this to be? Keep in mind first that it meets at night, then that it is 8. Livy, History of Rome 39.14.
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one in which women and men are indiscriminately involved. If you realized at what ages the males are initiated, you would not only feel compassion for them, but you would also feel ashamed. O citizens, in your judgment, should young men initiated into this sacred mystery be made soldiers? Should weapons be committed to those led out of this obscene rite? Will these who have been ruined by rape, both their own and that of others, decide with the sword for the purity of your wives and children?” The description of Rome’s crackdown on the Dionysiac or Bacchic religion needs to be seen in the context of Roman concern over foreign religions that would upset the Roman peace. The following table shows how Rome consistently took measures against foreign religions. The Roman insistence on order within the urbs needs to be kept in mind when we read accounts in the New Testament of Jesus’ trial, or of Paul’s troubles with the law in the book of Acts, or Paul’s description of people’s responsibility to governing authorities. 9 38. ROMAN MEASURES AGAINST “FOREIGN” RELIGIONS 10 Year Religion Measure 429 different prohibition of open practice bce sacrificial rites 241 Fortuna prohibition of consultation of bce from oracle Praeneste 213 different prohibition of open practice; bce sacrificial confiscation of scriptures rites 186 Bacchanalia comprehensive prohibition; bce series of prosecutions 139 astrology; bce Judaism
expulsion, removal of altars from open spaces
Source Livy, History of Rome 4.30.7–11 Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 1.3.2 Livy, History of Rome 25.1.6–12 CIL 1:581; Livy, History of Rome 39.8–19; Cicero, On Laws 2.15.37 Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 1.3.3
9. Matt. 27:11-26; Mark 15:2-15; Luke 23:1-25; John 18:28—19:16; Acts 16:19-24; 19:23-40; 21:27-36; Rom. 13:1-7. 10. Adapted from Stefan Krauter, Bürgerrecht und Kultteilnahme: Politische und kultische Rechte und Pflichten in griechischen Poleis, Rom und antikem Judentum, BZNW 127 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004), 291. I have added the persecution in 64 ce.
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Varro, Ant. fr. 46ab;11 Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Virgil 8.698; Cicero, Att. 2.17.2 Isis and destruction of sanctuary Cassius Dio, Roman History Serapis 40.47.3–4 Isis and vandalism of sanctuary Valerius Maximus, Memorable Serapis Deeds and Sayings 1.3.4 Isis and destruction of wall around Cassius Dio, Roman History; Serapis sacred area 42.26.2 Egyptian prohibition of passage through Cassius Dio, Roman History; religions pomerium (sacred city 53.2.4 boundary) Egyptian prohibition of passage into Cassius Dio, Roman History; religions city 54.6.6 Egyptian destruction of religious Tacitus, Ann. 2.85.4; religions, utensils, execution of priests, Suetonius, Tib. 36; Josephus, Judaism arrests, and banishment Ant. 18.65–84; Philo, Legat. among military 160–61 Judaism comprehensive prohibition Cassius Dio, Roman History 60.6.6 Judaism expulsion Acts 18:2; Suetonius, Claud. 25.4; Orosius, History against the Pagans; 7.6.15 Christianity executions Tacitus, Ann. 15.44
58 Isis and bce Serapis
53 bce 50 bce 48 bce 28 bce 21 bce 19 ce
41 ce 49 ce 64 ce
removal of altars from open spaces
All Hellenistic cities in the Mediterranean world of Paul’s day, whether Greek cities in Attica such as Corinth, Asian cities in Asia Minor such as Ephesus, or Italian cities such as Rome, were in essence defined as much by religion as by politics. All cities had their patron deities, and to be fully recognized as a true participant in the city life, one would have to show respect to the city’s deities. Stefan Krauter notes how clearly this religious dimension is illustrated in the closing scene of Achilles Tatius’s second-century novel Leucippe and Clitophon. He states that the hero’s return to a temple in his home city to thank the deity for deliverance is not merely the return of a citizen to his home city but 11. These fragments are numbered according to Cardauns’s edition; they are found in Tertullian, To the Nations 1.10.17–18, and his Apology for Christians 6.8.
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also represents an innate sense of existential deliverance. Religion in the first century was too deeply bound up with various aspects of people’s lives in the Mediterranean world to be reduced simply to a political or social function.12 The Hellenistic city was a distinctly religious refuge for its inhabitants. Under the Principate, Roman cities were also viewed as a refuge. The myth of Aeneas’s founding of Latium, so powerfully spread by Virgil’s Aeneid, is a significant contextual background for the portraits in Hebrews of a city of God that is prepared for those of faith, a city that will endure in contrast to the transitory cities on earth.13 Cities thus provided security, order, and refuge. The imposition of Roman law in the provinces meant that Rome gained great natural resources. Egypt was a province under the emperor’s direct rule, and it provided much-needed income for the imperial family and grain for both the Italian peninsula and the Greek provinces under Rome’s rule. The following letters are from Egyptians who worked on imperial estates in Egypt, not in what would be traditionally recognized as cities. But notice how the city of Rome’s influence is felt even in these rural areas, and how the security provided by various officials of Egyptian towns—on the analogy of a well-functioning city—is desirable even in the agrarian settings of rural Egypt. 39. COMPLAINT OF DAMAGE ON AN IMPERIAL FARM (28–29 ce)14
To . . . strategus of Arsinoe, from Onnophris . . . of the ones of Euhemeria in the Themistes area, a farmer on the property of Julia Augusta, what formerly was established by Gaius Julius Alexander. This month . . . in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Dēmas, Psaesis’s son, dwelling near the village of Dromeus, as a settler, as it were, let his own sheep and cattle into what I farm of my mother’s [property]. They grazed 334 square feet of sown wheat and 84 square feet of barley, incurring not a little damage for me. The one identified is pasturing with Harpaesis, son of Hēras. Therefore, I ask that the one identified be brought into your presence for the retribution to come. Good-bye. 12. Krauter, Bürgerrecht und Kultteilnahme, 426. 13. Heb. 11:10, 13-16; 12:22; 13:14. See the section “The Founding Son,” pp. 165–72 in Mark Reasoner, “Divine Sons: Aeneas and Jesus in Hebrews,” in Reading Religions in the Ancient World: Essays Presented to Robert McQueen Grant on His 90th Birthday, NovTSup 125 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 149–75. 14. My translation of PRyl 126 (p. 122).
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Onnophris, fifty years, who has a scar on the small finger of left hand. 40. REQUEST TO POLICE CHIEF ABOUT A STOLEN SOW (34 ce)15 To: Gaius Arrius Priscus, chief of constables From: Anchorimphis, Anchorimphis’s son, dwelling in Euhemeria in Themistes division, farmer of Tiberius Caesar Augustus’s estate called Germanicia. In the current month Pharmouthi, day six, in year twenty of the reign of Tiberius Caesar Augustus, a breeding sow, pregnant, redcolored, valued at twelve drachmas, was robbed from me in town by some thieves. So I ask that you write to investigate regarding the affair. Good-bye.
41. LETTER TO ROMAN CENTURION ABOUT ASSAULT AND THEFT (37 ce)16 To the centurion Gaius Trebius Justus. From Petermouthis, son of Hēraclēus, of those from Euhēmeria, farmer of the district and district collector, also farming [the land] of Drusus’s wife, Antonia. On the second [day] of Pachōn, the current month, in the first [year] of Gaius Caesar Emperor, while conversing with shepherds Papontos, Orsenouophis’s son and Apion, called Capareis, regarding grazing damages due me on account of their sheep, they gave me many blows, shamelessly [saying] they would not repay; and I lost what I had from selling opium, forty silver [drachmas], and my belt. So I ask for help to come, in order that the district may not fall apart. Good-bye. The last letter in this series concerns the loss of anise, a Mediterranean plant from the parsley family, whose seeds were used for medicine and in cooking. 42. REQUEST TO THE POLICE CHIEF ABOUT THE THEFT OF ANISE (40 ce)17 15. My translation of PRyl 134 (p. 131). 16. My translation of PRyl 141 (p. 138). 17. My translation of PRyl 148 (p. 145).
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To: Gaius Julius Pholus, chief of constables. From: Chaerēmon, Akusilaus’s son, manager of the property of Gaius Caesar Emperor Augustus and of the property of Tiberius Claudius Germanicus, which is around Euhēmeria, in the Themistes district. On the eve of Pachōn 18 in the current month, in the fourth [year] of Gaius Caesar Emperor Augustus, some people, in the manner thieves do, fell upon the cache of anise that I keep on the property. They beat [and] threshed twenty loads, which [came] to a figure of three hundred liters of anise, so that not a few losses resulted for me. So I ask that you write to the police chief of the village, so that investigation regarding these matters be made and the responsible ones sent to you. Good-bye. I, Chaerēmon, Akusilaus’s son, gave the memorandum above. In the fourth [year] of Gaius Caesar Emperor Augustus, 19 Pachōn. Cultural differences no doubt meant that Paul and his ministry team ate different sorts of food in the different cities to which they traveled. This would have been the least of their challenges, however. More significant would be the different expectations of how a community following the one God should respond to cultural forces in its specific city. In the following excerpts, we will take a look at the city as a foundational Roman community, including some of the significant cities in Acts and the letters of the New Testament. We will save Rome for the third section of this book. Greek cities could thrive only if benefactors funded improvements to their infrastructure and sponsored athletic events. Note how the following inscription, found on a marble stele and dated to between 2 bce and 2 ce, in the middle of the reign of Augustus, shows how this city of Kyme, in the area of Aeolia, continued its life as a Greek polis while accepting the cultural and political benefactions of Rome. 43. ROMANS INCLUDED IN GREEK COUNCIL PRESIDENT’S BENEFACTION (2 bce–2 ce)18 Proposed by the leaders. Three selected by lot wrote: Asklapōn [son] of Dionysius, Hegesandros [son] of Herakleides, Athenagoras [son] of Dionysios, and by the secretary for the assembly, Heraios [son] of Antipatros. Since Kleanax, [son] of Sarapion and [son] by nature of 18. My translation of the Greek text provided by R. A. Kearsley in New Docs 7 (1994), §10, “A Civic Benefactor of the First Century in Asia Minor.”
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Philodemos, the president, on both sides [inheriting] from ancestors nobility and an unexcelled delight for honoring his fatherland, has provided many and great [favors] for the city all through his life, at no time being careless in what concerns the assembly, governing, with what is best, things for the city in both speech and action; in view of these things, in his present, honorable term as president, praise has been registered to him by the people, and his many accomplishments, [performed] during former terms of elected office, meet the assembly’s thanksgiving. So much so that he, serving as priest of Dionysos Pandemos, completed the founding mysteries for the city, paying for the fivefold performance of the mysteries; when the time to pay came, he showed his love of honor and his loyalty, being the first to undertake the position; and, summoning by written announcement citizens and Romans, neighbors and foreigners, he prepared a banquet in the sanctuary of Dionysos and entertained them at great expense—organizing the feast year after year; and inviting a multitude to the wedding of his daughter, he prepared a meal. Therefore, the assembly, while remembering these benefactions, did not ignore the rest of the expected ways in which he benefited them. So also the president Kleanax deserves praise and honor since, when a fine son came [into his family], he planned out a refined education [for his son], and presented to the assembly a man worthy of the family Sarapion, and a defender and helper, one who in many ways has already shown his enthusiasm for the city through his own manly deeds; one who loves his father and deserves, with the approval of the assembly, to be added here, whose love for his father is witnessed also by [this] decree of the assembly in perpetuity. The assembly, in approval of Kleanax the president, gives praise to the one who has consistently shown good favor toward the assembly, and now, having completed his presidential roles, on the one hand, on New Year’s Day, with sacrifices to the gods in the custom of our homeland, he also gave wine to everyone in the city and carried out expensive shows and made the sacrifices for prosperity according to the custom of our homeland, and entertained in the president’s hall for several days many of the citizens and Romans. Then he also fulfilled [the ceremony] for the departed on the usual day in the custom of our homeland, also with sacrifices, and distributed the milk porridge to all the freedmen and slaves in the city; and in the [Festival of] the Lark he was the first and
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only one to announce to the citizens and Romans and residents and foreigners that he would entertain them in the president’s hall, and [he completed] the throwing rite in the same way as other presidents did,19 and he provided wreaths for the processions; and provided a meal for the priests and the victorious athletes in the sacred games and the magistrates and many of the citizenry; also, in the Augustan Games sponsored by [the Assembly of] Asia, just as he promised, he completed the sacrifices and sumptuous banquets, sacrificing oxen to Emperor Caesar Augustus and to his sons and to the other gods, after which sacrificing he also held a banquet, having invited by announcement in the marketplace Greeks and Romans and nearby residents and foreigners . . . Having paid for the chorus, he also completed the rest of the ceremonies . . . In view of these reasons, it has been resolved by the council and the assembly to crown him at the Dionysia in front of the altar of Zeus after the sacrifice and among all the . . . at the election after the vows and in the . . JERUSALEM For Jews throughout the Mediterranean world, Jerusalem was its center, and in the spiritual center of Jerusalem was its temple. In the following excerpt, from Josephus, we see how the grandson of Herod the Great, Agrippa I, assumed the rule of Judea, returning home to Jerusalem by means of Roman patronage. Thus, even this holy city, the spiritual center of the world for all Jews, was kept in equilibrium by the Romans and their expectations for a peaceful city. Shortly after Gaius Caligula was assassinated in 41 ce, Claudius sought to bring equilibrium to the empire by assuaging the concerns of the Jews, who were worried about Caligula’s decree that his statue should be erected within the Jerusalem temple. Claudius not only issued decrees to the empire that guaranteed the Jews’ observance of their ancestral worship patterns but also installed his friend Agrippa I as king of the Jews, over Samaria, Judea, and parts of Syria and Lebanon. Agrippa returned to the land of the Jews from Rome with confident optimism. His payment for the those who have fulfilled a Nazirite vow to have their heads shaved apparently was a way of gaining favor with the Jewish establishment in Jerusalem. (Paul is portrayed as paying for those completing similar vows to have their heads shaved as well, perhaps
19. R. A. Kearsley explains “the Casting Ceremony” as a tradition in which food was thrown to people standing outside the president’s hall (New Docs 7 , 238).
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with money from the collection he brought from Gentile churches, in Acts 21:23-26.) Agrippa’s death is described in Acts 12:20-23. 44. AGRIPPA I, KING OF THE JEWS, RETURNS TO JERUSALEM (39 ce)20 [Claudius] promptly sent Agrippa as heir of the kingdom with more resplendent honors, with letters detailing to the leaders of the provinces and to the procurators that they regard him as a choice [ruler]. As would be the norm for one returning to improved conditions, he returned with haste, and coming to Jerusalem, he completed sacrifices of thanksgiving, neglecting to observe nothing according to the law. Accordingly he also arranged for a very considerable number of Nazirites to have their heads shaved. He hung the golden chain that had been presented to him by Gaius, weighing the same as the one of iron by which his noble hands had been bound, within the sacred courtyard, over the treasury as a memorial of the painful lot that was his and a testimony to the change for the better, in order that it might be a sign of how great ones can sometimes fall and how God raises up the fallen. . . . After having then completed his duty to God, Agrippa took Theophilus son of Ananus from the high priestly office and replaced him with Simon son of Boethus, who was called Cantheras. . . . After thus setting in order the high priesthood, the king repaid those dwelling in Jerusalem for their favor to him by lifting for them the tax on each house, holding it noble to repay with affection those who had shown love. Agrippa I was known for having the Jews’ best interests at heart. The following excerpt concerns Agrippa’s fortifications of Jerusalem sometime between 41 and 44 ce. When his project was reported back to the emperor by a Roman governor in Syria, he was pressured to stop. 45. AGRIPPA’S FORTIFICATIONS OF JERUSALEM STOPPED BY THE EMPEROR (41–44 ce)21
20. My translation of the Greek text found in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.292–94; 297; 299 (abbreviated); trans. L. H. Feldman, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1965). 21. My translation of the Greek text in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.326–27 (LCL).
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Agrippa restored the walls of Jerusalem on the side of the new city, spending the public assembly’s resources, extending both their breadth and height, and he was making them stronger than any human force [could breach], except that Marsus, governor of Syria, made plain by letter to Claudius the emperor what was being accomplished. Claudius, supposing that a revolution was underway, forcefully sent to Agrippa to stop building the walls, and [Agrippa] did not think he should disobey. TARSUS Since we have testimonies to the wealth of Tarsus from the fourth century bce and the early second century ce, the city seems to have been known for its prosperity.22 It had been made into a Greek city state by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 171 bce. Mark Antony rewarded the city for its opposition to Cassius, one of the assassins of Julius Caesar, by giving it independence and tax-free status in 42 bce. Octavian, the future Augustus, reaffirmed this status for the city after he defeated Mark Antony in 31 bce. The testimony of Acts that Paul was from Tarsus may find indirect corroboration in Paul’s own statement that after he received his call from Jesus, he went into the areas of Syria and Cilicia (Gal. 1:21), of which Tarsus was the capital, and in Paul’s insistence that he is fully a Jew (Ioudaios)—an emphasis that is more common among people living outside the homeland of their ethnicity.23 Strabo’s description of the motivation of people in Tarsus to get educated seems to fit the personality we see behind Paul’s letters, and was written around the time Paul was a youth in Tarsus. 46. STRABO DESCRIBES THE CITIZENS OF TARSUS (ca. 20 ce)24 The people there [at Tarsus] have [given such] zeal for philosophy and all other learning surrounding it, that they have exceeded Athens, Alexandria, and any other locale in which one can describe schools and seminars of philosophers. But it differs from these in that there the ones who love learning are all from that place; foreign people do not readily reside there; neither do [the native scholars] 22. Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2.23, and Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 33.17, cited by Jerome MurphyO’Connor, Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 33. 23. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 32–34. 24. My translation of Greek text found in Strabo, Geogr. 14.5.13, trans. H. L. Jones, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929). I learned of this reference from Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 35.
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remain in that place, but they even complete [their education] by living away, and after completing it they gladly live away; only a few return. But regarding the other cities, except Alexandria, I would just say it happens to be the opposite: many go to them and gladly spend time in them, but not many of the natives would go beyond their own place for love of an education, nor would they pursue one with zeal at home. But both happen with the Alexandrians, for they receive many foreigners and from their own they send out not a few. And there are schools [in Tarsus], all kinds of them for the arts of rhetoric, and to sum up it has a robust population and is quite strong, bearing the label “metropolis.” ANTIOCH In the mid-first century, Antioch on the Orontes River was the third-largest city in the Roman Empire. Only Rome and Alexandria were larger in population.25 The following selection from Josephus’s Jewish War, published in the late 70s ce, describes the well-established Jewish settlement in Antioch. The building referred to in this passage might have been constructed in the third or second century bce. The attraction of Gentiles into the synagogue community that Josephus describes seems to be a precedent for an analogous attraction described in Acts 11:19-30. Note how close a bond between the Jews and those Gentiles who worshiped with them is described at the end of this selection. 47. THE SYNAGOGUE IN ANTIOCH ATTRACTS GENTILES 26 For though Antiochus, who is called Epiphanes, after ravaging Jerusalem looted the temple, those who received the kingdom after him restored all dedicated offerings of bronze to the Jews in Antioch to be set aside in their synagogue and allowed them to share on an equal basis in the city life with the Greeks. Attended in the same way by the following kings who brought offerings to the multitude, they adorned the temple by the design and expense of the dedicatory offerings, always attracting a great crowd of Greeks to their liturgies, whose portion they made their own.
25. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 146. 26. My translation of the Greek text of Josephus, Jewish War 7.44–45, trans. H. St. John Thackeray, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1928).
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THESSALONIKA Named for a half-sister of Alexander the Great, this city was founded in 316 bce. When Rome acquired Macedonia as a province in 146 bce, Thessalonika became the province’s capital. In the turmoil of the late Republic, Thessalonika was home to Pompey and the Senate for about a year, from the spring of 49 until August of 48 bce. (Pompey had commanded the Senate to come there, since Rome was held by others.) Though Thessalonika is famous for its temple for the worship of the family of the emperor Augustus, it also contained a temple for the goddess Roma and many other foreign deities, including Zeus, Neptune, Pallas Minerva, Apollo, Diana, Venus, Mercury, Bacchus, Sol, Pan, Nemesis, Isis, Anubis, Victoria, Janus, Heracles, the Dioscuri, Perseus, Nike, Dionysios, Serapis, Asklepios, Aphrodite, Demeter, and the hometown god, Cabirus.27 Thessalonika was the center of a mystery religion devoted to the god Cabirus. The narrative behind this religion was that a man named Cabirus had been murdered by his two brothers. After the murder, Cabirus’s head was crowned, wrapped in regal purple, and buried at the base of Mt. Olympus. Cabirus was worshiped because this religion taught that he returned to life occasionally to help people in time of need. He was especially the patron god of manual laborers and was sometimes symbolized by a hammer or forge on coins minted in Thessalonika. In the early first century ce, however, this religion of poor manual laborers and slaves was absorbed into the city religion supported by the more aristocratic citizens. Robert Jewett suggests that, when Paul came preaching a crucified Messiah who would return to rescue from judgment those who follow him in worshiping the true God, the poor who needed to support themselves by manual labor would be attracted to this message, brought by an apostle who seemed himself an indefatigable manual laborer (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2:9-10; 2 Thess. 3:7-9).28 Thessalonika was also a significant center for the worship of the imperial household in the first half of the first century ce. The following coin shows this tendency, with the heads of the divine Augustus on one side, and that of the emperor Claudius on the other. 48. CLAUDIUS, SON OF GOD AUGUSTUS OF THE THESSALONIANS (ca. 41–54 ce)29
27. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 114–16, citing Dio Cassius, History 41.18.4–5 for the information about Pompey and the Senate’s year-long stay in Thessalonika. 28. Robert Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 127–32.
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The obverse side of this coin, with the wreathed head of Claudius looking left, reads in capital Greek letters: ΤΙ[ΒΕΡΙOΣ] ΚΛΑΥ[ΔΙOΣ] ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ ΓΕΡ[ΜΑΝΙΚOΣ], or “Tiberius Claudius Augustus Germanicus.” The reverse side, with the wreathed head of Augustus looking right, reads: ΘΕΟΣ ΣΕΒΑΣΤΟΣ [ΤΗΕΣΣΑΛΟ]ΝΕΙΚΕΩΝ, or “God Augustus of the Thessalonians.” As James R. Harrison has pointed out so well, the references to God and the coming of Jesus Christ in 1 Thessalonians gain significance when one realizes the ways in which this city faithfully fulfilled its calling to worship the imperial household.30 GALATIA Celtic people, also called Galatians, entered Asia Minor in 278 bce. By 232 bce, these immigrants were settled in Ancyra (today’s Ankara). By about 164 bce, they had settled around the city of Pessinus (today’s Balahissar) and had become allies of Rome. They intermarried with the indigenous Phrygian people of the area. Due to the date of the Galatians’ settlement and the area’s topographical isolation, neither the Galatians nor the indigenous Phrygians were Hellenized. The Galatians could be stereotyped as warlike barbarians and the Phrygians as an ignorant and unmotivated people.31 If Paul’s Letter to the Galatians is addressed to those people in the northern area of Asia Minor, then his question, 29. Permission to use photographs of this coin from Numismatik Lanz München (www.numislanz.de) is gratefully acknowledged. 30. 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2:12, 19; 3:11-12; 4:15-16; 5:23. James R. Harrison, Paul and the Imperial Authorities at Thessalonica and Rome: A Study in the Conflict of Ideology, WUNT 273 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011). 31. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul 185–90.
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“O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” (Gal. 3:1) fits the stereotypes of both ethnic groups in this area as gullible peoples. 49. TEMPLE TO AUGUSTUS AND HIS FAMILY IN GALATIA (ca. 10 ce)32 The Galatian people’s loyalty to Rome is evident today in the ruins of a temple to the imperial household, pictured below. The high walls of the imperial temple in Ancyra that still stand today communicate the sense of grandeur it carried, from its construction in 10 ce and even four decades later, about the time Paul may have been near it. Near the entrance of this temple, the Res Gestae Divi Augusti, the document with which this sourcebook begins, is found inscribed into its stone walls. If the Galatian believers’ desire to live according to Mosaic law was even partially motivated by a wish to enter Judaism—a religion officially accepted by the Romans—so that they would not have to risk persecution for not worshiping the Roman emperor, it would help explain why Paul ends his letter by mentioning the stigmata of Jesus on his body, immediately following his reference to the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16-17). EPHESUS The book of Acts tells us that Paul stayed for two years and three months in Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10), and later this is rounded up to three years (Acts 20:31). The city was as mixed as Rome itself, since it was the passageway for Greeks and Romans who wanted to go into Asia, and it was the passageway for some to go into the wild west of Anatolia. 50. EPHESUS HONORS FOREIGN PATRONS 33
32. Photograph by AtilimGunesBaydin, public domain via WikiMedia Commons; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:MonumentumAncyranum28Nov2004.jpg. 33. Photograph by Lyn Gateley from Silicon Valley, CA (DSC04287 Kusadasi Turkey-Ephesus) (CCBY-2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0]), via Wikimedia Commons.
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Like many cities in Greece and Asia Minor, Ephesus found itself under threat of foreign rule at different times in its history. Around 88 bce, when King Mithridates of Pontus was controlling the area, many Roman citizens of Ephesus and even noncitizens who spoke Greek with a Latin accent were killed. But later that decade, Rome again gained power over the area, and it continued to be under Roman rule through the Principate. In the inscription below, found at the south gate of the agora, honor is paid to Marcus Agrippa and his wife, Julia. By the time this gate was completed, in 4 or 3 bce, Marcus Agrippa had already died, and his widow, Julia, the daughter of Augustus, was already separated from her next husband, the future emperor Tiberius, and was soon to be sent into exile by her father for committing adultery. The text of the inscription reads: M[ARCO]AGRIPPAE L[VCI] F[ILIO] CO[N]S[VL] TERT[IVM] IMB[ERATOR (sic)] TRIBVNIC[IA] POTEST[ATE] VI ET IVLIAE CAESARIS AVGVSTI FILIAE MITHRIDATES PATRONIS. An English translation that includes the missing name of one of its patrons is:
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“To Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for three times, imperator, holding tribunician power for six times, and to Julia, the daughter of Caesar Augustus, by patrons [Mazeus and] Mithridates.”
51. THE THEATER OF EPHESUS 34 Ephesus had a population of about 250,000 in Paul’s day. It was most famous for the temple of Artemis, a magnificently constructed building founded in the seventh century bce and rebuilt many times, surviving until the third century ce. Antipater of Sidon, writing in the second century bce, wrote that the temple of Artemis in Ephesus was more magnificent than other wonders he had seen, such as Babylon’s hanging gardens, Egypt’s pyramids, and the Colossus of Rhodes. Shortly before Paul arrived in Ephesus, the stage for the theater—where a protest was held against the young church in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-40)—had been expanded. The theater itself could hold 25,000 people.35 The impressive temple for Artemis at Ephesus has led some to say that this city was remarkable for the leading roles that women performed. The priestesses serving at the temple for Artemis were highly respected religious leaders in Ephesus, occupying a unique niche in Asia Minor at a temple that combined the characteristics of the Phrygian goddess Cybele—or the Great Mother—with the more gentle Greek Artemis.36 34. The photo is by CherryX (own work) (CC-BY-SA-3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/bysa/3.0]), via Wikimedia Commons. 35. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 166–71, citing Greek Anthology 9.58 for the Antipater of Sidon testimonial.
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Sharon Hodgin Gritz has suggested that the directions that sound so restrictive to us in 1 Tim. 2:9-15 are actually a specific response to the models of femininity largely conceived in the Artemis religion of Ephesus.37 On this view, the letter––which Gritz attributes to Paul himself, though other scholars disagree––addresses women’s ostentatious and even seductive clothing, which reflected the influence of the Artemis cult and disrupted Christian worship (vv. 9-10). Similarly, the acceptance of ascetic tendencies that prohibited marriage disrupted Christian marital relationships (vv. 11-12, 15). False understandings of the role of Eve, linked to the primacy of the feminine principle in the Mother Goddess religion, denied the teachings set forth by the Genesis narratives (vv. 14-15).
52. ROAD INSCRIPTION CONCERNING IMPERIAL “GRACE” IN EPHESUS (22 or 21 bce)38
36. Sharon Hodgin Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First Century (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1991), 39 (syncretism in the Ephesian Artemis cult), 43 (Ephesus known for women leaders). 37. Ibid., 144–45.
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Perhaps more significant than these circumstantial correspondences between aspects of life in Ephesus and particular New Testament texts is the more general correspondence between New Testament language and some principal ideas current in Ephesus. James Harrison has shown the ways that imperial language about “grace” predominated through the Principate. In this Latin and Greek inscription from Ephesus, we read of how the Caesar “graced” Ephesus to provide for the construction of a street.
(Latin) By the benefit of Caesar Augustus, from the income of the sacred fields that he himself has offered Diana, a road was paved under Sextus Appuleius, proconsul. (Greek) By the grace of Caesar the Augustus, from the sacred income that he himself graced to the goddess, a road was paved during the proconsul[ate] of Sextos Appoleios.
Harrison notes that this text, though dated early in the Principate of Augustus, shows that he was already regarded as the paradigm of beneficence or the ultimate benefactor of the world. (It bears noting that the quotation of Ps. 68:18 in Eph. 4:8 has been reworded to emphasize how gracious Christ is, perhaps to show Christ as a benefactor above the Caesar.) Harrison also notes that the favors “graced” to Ephesus were clouded in the reign of Claudius by collusion between the imperial house in Rome and wealthy bidders seeking well-paying priesthoods in the Artemis religion. If the “pork-barrel” exchanges between the imperial household and the priesthoods of Artemis (or Diana) in Ephesus were well known, as Acts 19:1—20:1, 17-35 might indicate, the author of Ephesians seeks to redefine Christ in terms of what God has accomplished through Christ. The language of surpassing or excessive wealth of grace in Eph. 2:4, 7 may be an attempt to show the dominance of God’s grace over the imperial grace so ubiquitous in the propaganda from Rome and in municipal inscriptions. 39
38. SEG 41:971; C. Börker and R. Merkelbach, eds., Die Inschriften von Ephesos, vol. 2 (Bonn: Habelt, 1980), §459; my translation of the Latin and Greek texts as prepared by James Harrison, “The ‘grace’ of Augustus paves a street at Ephesus,” New Docs 10 (2012), §11 (p. 59). 39. Harrison, “The ‘grace’ of Augustus,” §11 (pp. 60–61).
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53. AGRIPPA TO THE CITY AUTHORITIES OF EPHESUS (ca. 10–5 bce)40 Sometime after the road was built, Marcus Agrippa, the right-hand man of Caesar Augustus, wrote the following letter to the city leaders in Ephesus, asking them to respect and protect the monies that its Jewish citizens were sending back to Jerusalem. Note several indications in this letter of Agrippa’s sensitivities to Diaspora Jews’ concerns. Agrippa himself wrote for the Jews in this way: Agrippa to the rulers, council, and assembly of the Ephesians, greetings. I want the oversight and responsibility of the sacred revenues offered up for the temple in Jerusalem to be assigned to the Asian Jews, consistent with the custom of their ancestors. I want the ones who steal the Jews’ sacred revenues and run for legal protection to be extradited and delivered to the Jews in line with that decree concerning how temple thieves should be extradited. I also wrote the praetor Silanus that none compel a Jew to post bail on the Sabbath.
PHILIPPI The Roman references in Philippians are due both to Paul’s imprisonment at the hands of the Romans when composing the letter (Phil. 1:12-13; 4:22), and to the distinctly Roman identity of the urbs in which the letter’s addressees lived. Philippi was founded by Philip II in 356 bce, but after Antony and Octavian finally crushed the forces allied with Brutus and Cassius in 42 bce, the city was reconstituted as a Roman colony that celebrated the victory of the Augustan house. It is possible that retired praetorian guards were settled there; this may explain why Paul makes sure to mention that his imprisonment on behalf of Christ is known throughout the whole praetorium (Phil. 1:13). 54. CLAUDIUS, SON OF DIVINE AUGUSTUS CELEBRATED AT PHILIPPI (41–54 ce)41
40. My translation of the Greek text of Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 16.167–68, trans. Ralph Marcus, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1963).
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The following coin is dated from the reign of Claudius, and thus could have been in circulation when Paul’s letter was read in the mid-50s ce to the church in Philippi.
The photographs show a coin that is worn with age, and thus is missing some of the letters inscribed on its outside edges. Based on other coins from Philippi, the complete inscriptions on this coin likely read: TI[BERIVS] CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG[VSTUS] P[ONTIFEX] M[AXIMVS] TR[IBVNICIA] P[OTESTAS] IMP[ERATOR] on the obverse side, or “Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, highest priest, (holding) tribunician power, emperor.” On the reverse side of the coin, we read COL[ONI]A AVG[VSTA] IVL[IA] PHILIP[PENSIVM], or “Colony Augusta Julia of the Philippians,” with statues of Augustus and one other person on a platform inscribed DIVVS AVG[VSTVS], or “Divine Augustus.” Numismatists are agreed that one figure on the platform is Augustus. They are divided regarding whether the second figure is Julius Caesar or a woman, representing the city of Philippi, who is crowning Augustus. The former view fits with the history of the area and its identity as a Roman colony. The latter view perhaps matches the inscription on the altar better, and is a common image on Greek coins.42 Though located in Greek Macedonia, two battlegrounds near Philippi were sacred places in the Roman Principate. On one, Julius Caesar’s armies defeated Pompey’s armies. On the other, Octavius and Mark Antony’s armies avenged the assassination of Julius Caesar by killing Brutus and Cassius while defeating their armies. Besides these sacred battlegrounds from the past, the 41. Permission to use photographs of this coin from Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger (www.coinhirsch.de) is gratefully acknowledged. 42. See the summary at “Philippi, Macedonia,” Forum Ancient Coins, http://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=philippi.
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thriving Roman colony at Philippi was significant testimony to the ongoing, vibrant presence of the Romans in Greek Macedonia. The Roman colony in Philippi was founded by Julius Caesar and settled with more veterans under Augustus’s reign, thus testifying to what the public, Roman discourse would call the divine foresight and generosity of the Julio-Claudian line. This perception of the colony at Philippi might animate some of the language in Paul’s letter to the church there. Though we cannot comprehensively ascertain what Paul’s political signals are in Philippians, he does use language applied to the Roman emperor for the Lord he worships. As Peter Oakes has explained so well, the whole letter of Philippians exudes Paul’s triumphant insistence that the lordship of Christ is above any claims of Rome regarding its emperor.43 The same can be said about what the letter is claiming for Christ in relation to the Roman deified virtues of beloved Victoria and Pax (Phil. 2:9-11; 3:20; 4:7, 9). COLOSSAE It is entirely plausible that Paul met Epaphras, a native of Colossae, in or around Ephesus, and that Epaphras then traveled the 120 miles back to Colossae, a city in the valley of the Lycus River, and founded a church there. In the year 213 bce, two thousand Jewish families were moved by Antiochus III from Babylonia to an area near the Lycus Valley to help ensure that local people from Laodicea did not rebel against him again. By 62 bce, the district containing Laodicea had eleven thousand Jewish men in its population. About two decades later, the authorities of Laodicea affirmed to the Romans that they would not seek to keep the Jews from observing their Judaism there. The cities of Hierapolis and Laodicea apparently grew larger and lasted longer than Colossae, to judge from the ruins in the Lycus Valley. It is useful for our purposes to observe that certain Jewish practices as well as the angel worship that concerns the author of Colossians (see Col. 2:16-19) may have come from a Jewish apocalypticism that was held by the descendants of the Babylonian Jews who had moved there over five generations earlier.44 55. PATRONS WHO REPAIRED THE BATHS OF COLOSSAE (late first or early second century ce)45 43. Peter Oakes, Philippians: From People to Letter, SNTSMS 110 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). 44. Murphy-O’Connor, Paul, 231–33, 248. Calculations of the population are on 232, citing J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (London: Macmillan, 1904), 19, and Cicero, Pro Flacco 68, for the eleven thousand Jewish men, and Josephus, Ant. 14.241–43, for the record of Judaism as a permitted religion there.
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The following inscription from Colossae demonstrates how this city’s leaders valued their Greek identity and self-sufficiency as a city, well into the Principate, after a church was founded in their urbs. To good fortune! For Korymbos, lover of the fatherland . . . for the restoration of the baths . . . and for the water duct . . . of the Colossian assembly . . . on the altar from their own Tryphon son of Tryphon, grandson of Diodoros Menogas son of Menogas, grandson of Menogas, great-grandson of Menogas, great-great-grandson of . . . Menas son of Ktesas, grandson of Ktesas, great-grandson of Ktesas, great-great-grandson of . . . Theodoros son of Theodoros, grandson of Likinnios Herakleon son of Herakleides, grandson of Herakleon Tryphon son of Menandros, grandson of Menandros, greatgrandson of Menandros, great-great-grandson of Minnion Tydeides son of Zosimos Demetrios son of Apollonios, grandson of Mokeas Ktesas son of Heraklides, grandson of Ioulis The inscription provides evidence contradictory to what most New Testament scholars have traditionally said about Colossae, that the city deteriorated and did not recover after the earthquake of 61/62 ce. In this inscription, we see evidence that significant repair was made by the city’s own Korymbos and other citizens. The inscription thus shows pride that Colossians on their own were able to restore the bath house and its water duct. The preponderance of Greek names shows that even at this period in the Principate, this city valued its Greek identity. Cadwallader even suggests that listing “Greek” before “Jew” in Col. 3:11 might have been done in deference to the strongly Greek identity of Colossae, as though the author of Colossians knew that “Greek and Jew” would sound better in Colossae than “Jew and Greek.”46 45. Text and extended commentary in A. H. Cadwallader, “Honouring the Repairer of the Baths: A New Inscription from Kolossai,” Antichthon 46 (2012): 150–83; my translation of the Greek text of 1–7, 23–26, 32–35 of A. H. Cadwallader, “Honouring the Repairer of the Baths at Colossae,” New Docs 10 (2012), §17. 46. Cadwallader, “Honouring the Repairer of the Baths,” 112. See the “Jew and Greek” in Gal. 3:28 or Rom. 1:16; 2:10.
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Corinth In 1 Cor. 1:26-27, Paul writes to his community in Corinth, “Consider your call, brothers and sisters, not many of you were wise humanly speaking, not many of you were powerful, not many of you were well-born. But God chose the things that are foolish in this world to shame those who are wise; God chose the weak people of this world to shame the strong.” This verse has usually been taken to mean that most church members in Corinth were poor. An alternate translation, however, perceives rhetorical questions expecting an affirmative answer: “Look to your call, brothers and sisters: were not many of you wise according to the flesh, were not many strong, were not many of noble birth?”47 If this argument is right, then the Erastus mentioned in the inscription below, if indeed the same Erastus, is not the lonely rich person in Corinth, as those who portray the Corinth church as composed exclusively of poor people might claim. 56. THE ERASTUS INSCRIPTION 48 The following inscription is still legible at Corinth at the paved marketplace. It reads, ERASTVS PRO AEDILITATE S[VO] P[ECVNIO] STRAVIT, or “Erastus, for his aedileship, with his own money paved (this).” It is possible, though not conclusively proven, that the Erastus of this inscription is the city treasurer Erastus mentioned in Rom. 16:23. The designation “city treasurer” could be a more specific way of describing the Roman civic office of “aedile” used to identify Erastus in the inscription.
47. Gail R. O’Day, “Jeremiah 9:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: A Study in Intertextuality,” JBL 109, no. 2 (1990): 263, following Wilhelm Wuellner, “The Sociological Implications of I Corinthians 1:26-28 Reconsidered,” in SE 6, ed. E. A. Livingstone (Berlin: Akademie, 1973), 666–72. 48. The editor thanks Michael J. Towle for permission to use his photograph here.
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It would be easy to read the letter of 1 Corinthians and conclude that the city of Corinth was known for sexual excess and experimentation. Actually, that was the reputation of Corinth from the Hellenistic period. But that city was destroyed in 146 bce by the Romans. About a century later, Julius Caesar refounded the city in 44 bce. It was in this “new Corinth” that Paul founded a community. The letter of 1 Corinthians certainly shows us that its members experienced sexual temptations, but these were probably no more intense than those of any Mediterranean city in the first century ce.49
49. Strabo, Geogr. 8.6.20c; Murphy-O’Connor, St. Paul’s Corinth: Texts and Archaeology, 3rd rev. ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2002), 55–57. Cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 6:9-10; Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:1-8.
Collegium COLLEGIUM Like certain governments today, Rome was uneasy with allowing people to assemble when their group had no license from the authorities to do so. Various kinds of social groups formed in the Greek and Roman worlds to provide social support for their members: trade guilds represented the economic interests of their members and cared for widows; burial clubs provided funerals and support for the deceased members’ families; and social or drinking clubs provided camaraderie in a pleasant context. This is a level of human relations that is one step lower, or more specific, than the city. The Romans’ term for any such guild, funeral club, or religious association was collegium; the plural is collegia. There was even one type called a collegium tenuiōrum—an “association of the weak”—that provided material support for poor people. The first-century church communities reflected in the New Testament may have been expected to provide support for the poor, as some collegia did in the Mediterranean world (Rom. 12:13, 16; 15:1; Gal. 2:10; 1 Thess. 5:14). Support for widows is attested in 1 Tim. 5:9-12. The language in Rom. 14:7-9 regarding death and life seems like it could fit in a funeral or burial liturgy. While this text does not prove anything, once one realizes how collegia took care of the burial of their members, one begins to wonder when the early churches began to fulfill this function for their members. At the same time, there may have been times when church members expected something like a collegium-sponsored handout at their church. The author’s self-descriptions and directions to the community seem to indicate that some in Thessalonika thought they no longer needed to work, a misunderstanding that seems to be addressed in both letters named for that city (1 Thess. 2:9; 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:6-13).
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ROMAN LICENSING OF COLLEGIA The Roman imperial government under which first-and second-century churches churches took root and spread was a government very concerned to keep people from forming unlicensed or unrecognized groups. It took special permission for a collegium to be recognized by the government and allowed to convene. Some of the Roman concern evident in the selection below, regarding unlicensed groups, may have been encountered by early Christian assemblies as well. 57. GOVENOR PLINY’S REQUEST COLLEGIUM (ca. 110–112 ce)1
The following exchange of letters between the Roman governor of Bithynia Pliny the Younger and the emperor Trajan illustrates how paranoid an emperor could be regarding allowing a new association to form, even if for a worthy cause. While there were fire companies and neighborhood associations in Rome and in Italy, Trajan seems concerned that no occasion for political unrest arise in Pliny’s eastern province. The significance of this letter exchange for the reader of the New Testament is that we can see how difficult it was for social groups to receive permission from the Roman government to form into a distinct group (collegium) and meet regularly. While I was making the rounds of a different area of the province, a wide-ranging conflagration in Nicomedia consumed many domestic dwellings and two public structures—the senior citizens’ building and the temple to Isis—though a road runs between them. The fire spread out widely, at first by violent wind, then by the apathy of the people who stood idly by, unmoving, standing still as spectators before such a catastrophe. And also there is no hose in public holdings, no water bucket, nor any other tool for firefighting. These items are now provided as I ordered. Please reflect, master, on whether you think a company of firemen—numbering only 150—might be set up. I shall take care that no one shall be received into the company who is not a fireman, and
1. My translation of the Latin text of Pliny, Ep. 10.33–34, in Pliny: Letters and Panegyricus, vol. 2, Letters, Books VIII–X and Panegyricus, trans. Betty Radice, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press/London: William Heinemann, 1969).
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that what is granted this group by law will not be used for something else. It won’t be hard to keep track of so few.
58. EMPEROR TRAJAN’S RESPONSE TO PLINY (ca. 110–112 ce)
According to the precedent of those in other places, you have thought that it would be possible to set up a company of firemen in Nicomedia. But we need to remember that in this province and especially in its cities, it is groups of this sort that have caused trouble. Whatever we name them and for whatever purpose we grant people to come together, in short order they become political and religious brotherhoods.2 It therefore would be preferable to make available what is needed for fighting fires, and to call homeowners themselves to do the firefighting, and if circumstances should demand, to employ the people who throng to the scene. THE COLLEGIUM AS CONTEXT FOR MEALS WITH THE GODS Communal meals could be held as city functions. More common, perhaps, was the communal meal held within a collegium. “The one who eats alone is a wolf,” the Roman philosopher Seneca wrote. The collegium provided a setting in which people could enjoy a good meal. It was normal that those at the meal would be seated and served food in distinct ways, depending on their social station. Very often, these public meals also were occasions to honor gods and goddesses. Wine and meat were traditionally offered to the gods before being consumed by those in attendance at a banquet. We have already seen how grateful the emperor Augustus was that people remembered him to the Greek gods at sacred meals.3 Paul is certainly cognizant of banquet fare that had previously been offered to idols when he writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 8:7-13; 10:23-33). The challenge for early churches in the Roman world would be to discover and regularly observe the culturally inconceivable—a publicly shared meal that respected all those in attendance and fulfilled the call of Israel’s God to holy living. This sort of meal would be inconceivable to some, because these meals often involved the consumption of meat and wine that had already been offered 2. Trajan’s word hetaeria can mean either a political or religious group. 3. Res Gestae 9.
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to a patron deity of the region or city. Also, public meals usually distinguished guests’ rank and status. Those with higher rank and status would receive better and more food and wine. Also, meals were at times preliminaries for sexual trysts outside of marriage.4 Here are some famous invitations to a meal in the temple of Serapis, found in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. 59. AN INVITATION TO DINE WITH THE GOD SERAPIS (second or third century ce)5 Nikephoros requests you to eat at a banquet6 of the Lord Serapis in the childbirth house on the twenty-third [day], from the ninth hour. Herais requests you to eat in the house of the Serapeion at a banquet of the Lord Serapis tomorrow, which is the eleventh [day], from the ninth hour. The god invites you to a banquet occurring tomorrow in the Thoereion from the ninth hour.
60. COLLEGIUM FOR THE GODDESS DIANA AND THE DEIFIED ANTINOUS (136 ce)7 In 136 ce, an association seems to have been founded for those who wished to worship Diana and Antinous. Note first the attention this document gives to food and wine; they are to be amply available at the collegium’s official meals. In this regard, consider also how regulated the public, festive dinners are in this association. Public meals were occasions when people’s status was recognized and their connections—lifelines of recognition and support—with those in power in their social networks were confirmed. Second, note the
4. The associations with polytheistic worship (1 Cor 8-10), social distinctions at others’ expense (1 Cor 11:21), and promiscuous sexual behavior (1 Cor 6:12-20) all can be tied to public meals in the letter of 1 Corinthians. 5. My translation of the Greek texts provided by G. H. R. Horsley, “Invitations to the kline of Sarapis,” New Docs 1, §1. 6. The word for “banquet,” usually spelled klinē in Greek, can be translated either “couch” or “banquet,” since those at such banquets reclined on couches. 7. Translation and parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 310, and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press.
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document’s concern that members have their funerals and burial expenses covered by the collegium. In the year that Lucius Commodus and Sextus Vettulenus Civica Pompeianus were consuls, five days before the Ides of June (June 9), at Lanuvium in the temple of Antinoüs, in which Lucius Caesennius Rufus, patron of the municipality, had directed that a meeting be called through Lucius Pompeius. . . . Name, president (quinquennalis) of the worshipers of Diana and Antinoüs, he promised that he would give them, out of his generosity, the interest on fifteen thousand sesterces, namely, four hundred sesterces on the birthday of Diana on the Ides of August (August 13), and four hundred sesterces on the birthday of Antinoüs, five days before the Kalends of December (November 27). He also instructed that the bylaws that they set up be inscribed on the inner side at the bottom of the four-columned porch (tetrastyle) of the temple of Antinoüs as recorded below. In the year that Marcus Antonius Hiberius and Publius Mummius Sisenna were consuls, on the Kalends of January (January 1), the benevolent association (collegium salutare) of Diana . . . and Antinoüs was founded. Lucius Caesennius Rufus, son of Lucius, of the Quirinia tribe, being for the third time sole magistrate (dictator) and also patron. Clause from the decree of the Senate of the Roman people: These are permitted to assemble, convene and have an association (collegium): those who desire to make monthly contributions . . . may assemble in such an association, but . . . not . . . in the name of such an association except once a month for the sake of . . . , to provide burial for them when they die. May this be favorable, propitious, and happy to the emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus and to the entire imperial house, to us, to our families, and to our association, and may we have made proper and careful arrangements for providing decent arrangements at the departure of the dead! Therefore we must all agree to contribute faithfully, so that our association may be able to continue in existence a long time. You who desire to enter to enter this collegium as a new member must first read the bylaws carefully before entering, so as not to find cause for complaint later or bequeath a lawsuit to your heir.
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Bylaws of the Collegium  It was voted unanimously that whoever wishes to enter this association shall pay an initiation fee of one hundred sesterces and an amphora of good wine, and shall pay monthly dues of five asses (= 1.25 sesterces).  It was voted further that if anyone has not paid his dues for six consecutive months and the common lot of humankind befalls him, his claim to burial shall not be considered, even if he has provided for it in his will.  It was further voted that upon the death of a paid-up member of our body, there will be due him from the treasury three hundred sesterces, from which sum will be deducted a funeral fee of fifty sesterces, which will be distributed at the funeral pyre (among those attending); the obsequies, furthermore, will be performed on foot.  It was further voted that if a member dies farther than twenty miles from town and the association is notified, three men chosen from our body will be required to go there to arrange for his funeral; they will be required to render an accounting in good faith to the membership (populus), and if they are found guilty of any fraud they shall pay a quadruple fine. They will be given money for the funeral expenses (funeraticium), and in addition a round trip travel allowance of twenty sesterces each. But if a member dies farther than twenty miles from town and notification is impossible, then he who has carried out the funeral shall claim his funeral expenses (funeraticium) from the association. The seals of seven Roman citizens must be attached to the documents and the matter has been approved [sic]. And security must be given that no one else is going to claim a further sum, and that the stipends and the money spent on the obsequies in accordance with the bylaws of the association have been deducted. Let no bad faith attend! Also let no patron or patroness, master or mistress, or creditor have any right of claim against the association, unless he has been named heir in a will. If a member dies without a will, the details of
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his burial (funus) will be decided by the president (quinquennalis) and the membership (populus).  It was voted further that if a slave member of this association dies and his master or mistress unreasonably refuses to relinquish the body for burial, and he has not left written instruction, a funeral with an image of him will be held.  It was further voted that if any member takes his own life for any reason whatever, his claim to burial shall not be considered.  It was further voted that if any slave becomes free, he must give an amphora of good wine.  It was voted further that if any master (magister), in the year when it is his turn in the membership list to provide dinner, fails to comply and provide a dinner, he shall pay thirty sesterces into the treasury. The man next in line shall be required to give the dinner, and the delinquent shall be required to reciprocate when it is the latter’s turn.  Roster (ordo) of dinners: eight days before the Ides of March (March 8), on the birthday of Caesennius . . . the father; five days before the Kalends of December (November 27), on the birthday of Antinoüs; on the Ides of August (August 13), the birthday of Diana and of the association (collegium); thirteen days before the Kalends of September (August 20), on the birthday of Caesennius Silvanus, his brother; the day before the Nones of (?) (September 12 [?]), the birthday of Cornelia Procula, his mother; nineteen days before the Kalends of January (December 14), the birthday of Caesennius Rufus, patron of the municipality.  Masters (magistri) of the dinners in the order of the membership list (album), appointed four at a time in turn, shall be required to provide an amphora of good wine each, and for as many members as the association has, bread costing two asses, four sardines, the setting, and warm water with service.
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 It was voted further that any member who becomes president (quinquennalis) in this association shall be exempt from contributions for the term when he is president, and that he shall receive a double share in all distributions.  It was further voted that the secretary (scriba) and the messenger (viator) shall be exempt from such obligations and shall receive a share and a half in every distribution.  It was voted further that any member who has administered the office of president honestly shall receive a share and a half of everything as a mark of this honor, so that other presidents will also hope for the same by discharging their duties properly.  It was voted further that if any member wishes to lodge any complaint or discuss business, he is to bring it up at a business meeting, so that we may have the banquet in peace and good cheer on festive days.  It was further voted that any member who moves from one seat to another so as to cause a disturbance shall be fined four sesterces. Any member, moreover, who speaks abusively of another or causes an uproar shall be fined twelve sesterces. Any member who uses any abusive or insolent language to a president at a banquet shall be fined twenty sesterces.  It was further voted that on the solemn days of his term each president is to conduct worship with incense (?) and wine and is to perform his other functions clothed in white, and that on the birthdays of Diana and Antinoüs he is to provide oil for the association in the public bath before the banquet. 61. FRIENDS OF AUGUSTI (Imperial Period)8 8. C. Habicht, ed. Die Inschriften des Asklepieions. Die Inschriften von Pergamon (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969), no. 85. Translation and all parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 120, and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press.
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We will have occasion to see more of the way in which the city of Pergamum in Asia Minor was a center for the worship of the emperor Augustus and his family. The following inscription, found on a little altar in Pergamum near its temple for Asklepios, mentions a collegium of friends of the Augusti, which probably ensured that the appropriate worship of the family of Augustus was maintained in that city. It is likely that this collegium included sacred meals in its service to the house of Augustus. For good fortune! Epiktesis daughter of Heraklas, who has served as priestess, has set up this altar for Asklepios Soter (“Savior”) and for the association (symbiōsis) of friends of the Augusti (philosebastoi) from her own resources. 62. THE COLLEGIUM OF HOMONOIA (second or third century ce)9 Another way in which the religious orientation of collegia could manifest itself was in the worship of a deified virtue, such as Concordia, the virtue of social harmony. It is known as homonoia in Greek, a virtue to which Paul called his churches, though without using the term (see Rom. 12:16a; 15:5; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2; 4:2). Here is an inscription found on a marble altar in Thrace, dedicated to the imperial household, the people of Rome, and the associates of Concordia. Note that the collegium seems to be named for the virtue of social harmony, concordia or homonoia. For good fortune! This was dedicated to the household of the Augusti, to the sacred Senate and People of Rome, to the Council and People of Philippopolis, to the goddess Demeter and Kore, and to the associates (synētheis) of Homonoia (i.e., Concord personified). Tiberius Claudius Claudianus Quintillianus and his son Tiberius Claudius Varius Quintillianus set up the altar from their own resources. COLLEGIUM AS FUNERARY ORGANIZATION Aside from meals, collegia were also formed in part to provide a proper funeral and burial for their members. 9. IGBulg 5:5434; SEG 47, no. 10989. Translation and parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 67, and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press.
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63. THE SILVERSMITHS OF EPHESUS PROTECT A GRAVE (41–54 ce)10 Here is a grave inscription from the silversmith collegium of Ephesus, which makes the group appear almost as intimidating as Luke’s portrait of them in Acts 19:23-40. The grave, the area around it, and the underground tomb belong to M. Antonius Hermeias, silversmith (argyrokopos) and temple keeper (neopoios), and to his wife Claudia daughter of Erotion. No one may be buried in this grave except those written above. But if anyone dares to bury a body or to erase the inscription, that one will pay one thousand denarii to the silversmiths in Ephesos. The Sanhedrin (synedrion) of silversmiths takes care of this grave and Erotion dedicated five hundred denarii, and the inheritance was given in the sixth month on the established eighth day. 64. GRAVESTONE OF SLAVE PROVIDED BY COLLEGIUM 11 Some funerary associations seem to have been formed for slaves of large households. The association (collegium) of the family of Sergia Paullina, daughter of Lucius (Sergius Paullinus), dedicated this to Cerdon, fellow slave. In memory. 65. COLLEGIUM OF THE GREAT AND SMALL PROVIDES GRAVE 12 The name of the collegium mentioned on this gravestone seems to make clear that it probably included slaves. Perhaps the collegium functioned as a sort of labor union, at least in regard to ensuring that the slaves were buried and that their tombs were provided with headstones. It is possible that the “small” of the collegium name on the following grave inscription refers to slaves.
10. Translation and all parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 161, and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press. 11. CIL 6:10260. Translation and parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 323(A), and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press. 12. CIL 6:10264. Translation and parenthetical terms are from AGRW, no. 323(E), and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press.
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To the divine spirits. The tomb of Eutychia. The association of the great and small (collegium maiorum et minorum) which is in the household of Sergia Paullina, daughter of Lucius Sergius, made this monument. 66. COLLEGIUM PROVIDES GRAVESTONE FOR GOLDSMITH13 Here is another gravestone for a slave who died at age thirty. To the divine spirits. Dedicated to Hilarus the goldsmith. The association (collegium) that is in the household of Sergia Paullina, daughter of Lucius (Sergius Paullinus). His fellow slaves from the same household . . . He lived thirty years. COLLEGIUM AS ROMAN MODEL FOR SYNAGOGUE AND CHURCH One way in which Rome “spare[d] the conquered” was to allow its conquered peoples to keep their own religion. In most cases, provided the conquered people would show allegiance to Rome when asked—by offering sacrifice to the emperor’s genius or swearing a loyalty oath to the imperial household––they could also keep on following their own religion. Judaism in the Principate was in a different category, since the Romans did not typically ask Jews to offer sacrifice to the emperor. Daily sacrifices were made on behalf of the emperor at the temple in Jerusalem; this was part of the deal that was struck that allowed Jews exemption from periodic enforcement of the worship directed toward the emperor’s genius in the provinces. As a legitimate religion recognized by imperial Rome, Jews were allowed to meet in synagogues throughout the Roman Empire. The material evidence for synagogues shows that they functioned and were regarded as a type of collegium.
13. CIL 9:9149; translation and all parenthetical terms from AGRW, no. 323(G), and are included with the permission of Baylor University Press.
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67. SYNAGOGUE GRAVE MARKER FOR WOMAN14 This is an inscription from a synagogue in Rome, dating from perhaps the third century ce. It is now held in the Terme Museum there, near the Baths of Diocletian. It was found in the Jewish catacombs. Since some readers will have studied Greek, I take the liberty of offering the Greek transcription so that they might follow my translation more closely. ὧδε κεῖτε Σαλὼ θυγάτηρ Γαδία πατρὸς συναγωγῆς Αἱβρέων ἐβίωσεν ΜΑ ἐν εἰρήνη ἡ κοίμησεις αὐτῆς Here rests Salō, daughter of Gadia, father of the synagogue of the Hebrews. She lived forty-one [years]. May her sleep be in peace.
68. PLINY ASKS THE EMPEROR HOW TO HANDLE CHRISTIANS (ca. 110–112 ce)15 It is inevitable when considering the transition from synagogue to church to consider what the liturgical practices were like in first-century synagogues and in the early Pauline communities we now call “churches.” Pliny the Younger, governor of the Roman province of Bithynia-Pontus from 110 to 112, wrote a letter back to the emperor Trajan in Rome, requesting advice on how to handle the Christians in his province. It is worth reading to see how he describes their worship practices. The letter is much longer than most of Pliny’s letters, thus illustrating how he feels he needs to describe what the Christians are like and how puzzled he is regarding how to proceed with them. Sir, I am accustomed to refer everything about which I’m uncertain to you. For who can better take care of my hesitation or educate my ignorance? I have never attended the trials of Christians, so I don’t know how and how far they are usually punished or prosecuted. I am also at quite a loss whether there should be a certain age limit, or to hold nothing back of what would normally be given to mature adults from someone of any age. I don’t know whether to give pardons when people change their minds, or to hold that there is no advantage for recanting for the one who was really a 14. CIJ 1.510; photograph by Jastrow, public domain via Wikimedia Commons; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inscription_pater_synagogue_Terme.jpg; my translation. 15. My translation of Pliny, Ep. 10.96.
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Christian. I don’t know whether to punish for the label itself, even if the associated crimes are not lacking, or to punish for the crimes that come with the label. At this point, for those who are brought to me as Christians, this is how I’m proceeding. I asked them directly if they were Christians. If they confess that they are, I have asked them again and even a third time, reminding them of the penalty, but if they continue I command that their lives be taken. For I was not in any doubt that whatever it was they were admitting, their sure defiance and inflexible obstinacy should be punished. There have been some charged with the similar madness who, because they were Roman citizens, I designated to be extradited to Rome. Now that I have addressed this, as usually happens, the crime is extending itself, with more kinds of charges arising. A defamatory booklet has been published anonymously that includes the names of many. I asked that those be released who have been denying that they are or were Christians, when they followed me in invoking the gods and your image, which on this account I had ordered be brought in along with images of the gods, so they could make offering with incense and wine, and beyond this they cursed Christ—nothing of which, I understand, could be spoken if they are true Christians. Others labeled by an informer said they were Christians, then immediately denied it; they were Christians but gave it up, up to three years before, some even more years, some even up to twenty years ago. These all made obeisance to your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ. Furthermore, they affirmed that their fault or error amounted to habitually meeting on a certain day before daylight to speak a hymn back and forth among themselves to Christ as if to a god and to bind themselves by a sacred oath not for criminal intent, but to avoid pilfering, mugging, and adultery, nor to break any agreement, nor to hold back someone’s collateral when asked to return it. After completing this custom, they used to be dismissed and then come together later for eating food, that is, common, harmless food, which habit they made an end of after my edict in which I prohibited all religious or political associations, in line with your guidance.16 On the basis of this policy, I considered it more necessary to seek the truth by 16. Pliny’s word hetaeria can mean either a political or religious group. See the letter of Trajan regarding such groups (letter 10.34 in the collection of Pliny’s letters) included here as item 58 on page 143 above.
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means of torture from two slave girls who were called “ministers.”17 I discovered nothing except a depraved and excessive superstition. So I have postponed this sort of trial, taking recourse to get your perspective. In my view, it seems to be a matter that deserves your counsel, because of the number of those who are threatened. For many people of every age, of every social order, of either sex are summoned and will be summoned to trial. Nor is it just the cities, but small towns and farm areas have been pervaded with the infection of this superstition. It is sufficiently certain that the temples that stood deserted are now beginning to be visited, and the sacred ceremonies that for a long time were abandoned are once again taken up; everywhere the meat of sacrifices is being sold, for which up till now a buyer could hardly be found. From this it is easy to think how great a group of people might mend their ways if there were space given for them to repent.
69. THE EMPEROR RESPONDS ON HOW TO HANDLE CHRISTIANS (ca. 110–112 ce)18 Here is the emperor Trajan’s response to his governor’s inquiry. You have carried out the strategy you ought to, my Pliny, in processing their charges—the Christians who were accused before you. For no universal guideline, having a fixed template as it were, can be established. They should not be sought for; if they are brought to court and proven so, they must be punished. Still, if someone denies that he or she is a Christian and makes this obvious, that is, by invoking our gods, no matter how shady this person may have been in the past, let this one receive mercy on the basis of his or her repentance. Certainly, anonymously published defamatory booklets ought to have no place in determining the crime. For they set a very bad precedent, nor are they acceptable in our time.
17. Pliny’s word is ministra, the same word used for Phoebe in the Vulgate at Rom. 16:1. 18. My translation of Pliny, Ep. 10.97.
Domus The public association, or collegium, definitely provided an identity to its members in specific and differentiated ways in which the urbs could not. The collegium allowed for fine calibrations of social status and specific preferences in religion to be celebrated. At a more intimate and thus more profound level, the household, or domus, provided the context in which identity was formed during the Principate. During the Principate the domus, or household, consisted of a paterfamilias, or legal head of family, his wife, children, adopted children, freedmen, freedwomen, and slaves. This helps to explain why the household codes in Eph. 5:21—6:9 and Col. 3:18—4:1 proceed to give guidelines for marital, filial, and then master-slave relationships. All these relationships were family matters, relationships of the domus. Roman men in the Principate were on average older when they married than men who first marry in Western societies today.1 In addition, women who married in the Principate were on average younger when they married than women who first marry in Western societies today. This led to some phenomena we might not easily imagine simply from reading the New Testament. First, most Romans had lost their fathers by the time they reached adulthood. Hardly any Roman men would have known their paternal grandfather; the three-generation family was nonexistent. The idealized scenes in books 22 and 24 of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus and his son fight the suitors, and then Odysseus’s father and son join in the fighting near the very end of the epic, are Greek ideals of the household that in most cases were irrecoverable in the Roman domus during the Principate. Even the scene of Aeneas carrying his father out of Troy at the beginning of the Aeneid is 1. Information in this paragraph is heavily indebted to the arguments of Richard P. Saller, Patriarchy, Property and Death in the Roman Family, Cambridge Studies in Population, Economy and Society in Past Time 25 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
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stretching beyond realistic portraiture of domestic relationships for the work’s first Roman readers. The uncle-nephew/niece relationships, father-adopted son relationships, and the relationships between masters and freedmen and freedwomen were much more significant than we might imagine. Under the cloud of paternal mortality, the Roman father was very sensitive to his role in providing for his family, both during his life and after his death. The image of the stern father who purportedly had the legal right to execute disobedient children thus needs to be corrected to a more loving, affectionate father who was quite focused on providing for his family’s material needs. 70. A ROMAN STOIC ON THE MAIN GOAL OF MARRIAGE (mid-50s ce)2 As is the case with other cultures, in the literary evidence for the Roman family, members of the highest level of society, those of senatorial rank, are disproportionately represented. We will have opportunity to look at these sorts of texts later in this section, but we will begin with the lecture notes of a Stoic philosopher and teacher in Rome, Musonius Rufus, mentioned above. He was a popular teacher in Rome around the time Paul sent his letter to the Romans, in the mid-50s ce. The main goal of marriage: sharing life and begetting children. “The husband and wife,” he said, “should join with each other so that they make life with one another, together making it common and regarding everything never as one’s own, not even each one’s body.3 The origin of a human is a great thing, which this coupling completes. But this does not yet sufficiently explain what marriage is all about, for apart from marriage, this coupling together can happen otherwise, as even when animals couple themselves together. But a symbiosis is always necessary in marriage, a care of the husband and wife for one another, when healthy, when ill, and at every occasion, such that each is set for the other, along with the making of children; these are what amounts to a marriage. Where, therefore, this care is complete, and those who are together hold it completely 2. Musonius Rufus, 13A–B; my translation of Greek text in C. MVSONII RVFI RELIQVIAE, ed. Otto Hense (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1905), 67–70. 3. The mutuality Musonius advocates here, including the husband’s respect for the wife, makes the statements in Eph. 5:21, 28 appear less countercultural than is sometimes asserted.
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for one another, each striving to excel the other in this care, this then is a marriage that has arrived and is enviable, for such a sharing is beautiful. But where each looks out for one’s own interests and ignores those of the other, or by Zeus where one has the other, and lives in the same house, yet focuses on things outside, unwilling to yoke together and unite, there the fellowship must be lost, the practical issues for those living together will turn out badly, and one will go completely away from the other or if they live together it will be worse than living in a desert. “So people getting ready to marry need not consider the family, considering if the other comes from an aristocratic line, nor money, considering if the other possesses some or much, nor bodies, considering if they have good looks. For it is not wealth, not good looks, not birth into high society that helps to advance intimacy and harmony, nor do any of these help things go better for producing children. But in regard to bodies, they will work for marriage if there is health, an acceptable appearance, and a capacity for work, which things contribute to making things worse for seducers, more fit for whatever physical activities are needed, and not lacking for procreation. Personalities should be most fit for what is considered to contribute to moderation and righteousness, and on the whole be most disposed toward virtue. For what marriage can be good, what communion be effective, without harmony? How can two goodfor-nothing people show harmony of mind toward each other? Or how can a good person live harmoniously with one who is goodfor-nothing? This would no more happen than if a straight stick fit alongside a crooked one, or two crooked ones match one another. For when the crooked will not fit with one similarly crooked, then even more it will not fit with its opposite that is straight. So a good-for-nothing person cannot be a friend or live in harmony with another good-for-nothing person, much less with someone who is good.” Of course, the ideal that a philosopher taught did not make it into every Roman home. With regard to marital relationships, there seemed to be a double standard in expectations, as can be seen in the following excerpt from Suetonius’s biography of Augustus. Though exceptional visibility of the princeps’s household exposed its members to unique pressures, the double
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standard in expectations of sexual fidelity that the following excerpt illustrates was not unique to that level of society. 71. THE DOMUS OF AUGUSTUS (ca. 21 bce–14 ce)4 According to Suetonius, Augustus was acknowledged by all to have committed adultery, yet when he learned that his daughter and granddaughter had also committed adultery, he banished them. While the following excerpt regarding the emperor Augustus’s domestic behavior is not proof of how the average Roman head of household lived, it is worth seeing how he as a known adulterer is still regarded as “blameless.” The description of Augustus’s domestic life begins with describing the marriages he arranged for his daughter Julia, and the lives of her children, Augustus’s grandchildren. §64.1. He had three grandsons from Agrippa and Julia, Gaius, Lucius, and Agrippa, and two granddaughters, Julia and Agrippina. For Julia he arranged marriage to Lucius Paulus, the son of the censor, and for Agrippina he arranged marriage to Germanicus, his sister’s grandson. He adopted Gaius and Lucius in a home [ceremony], buying by means of the penny to the scale from their father Agrippa, and when they were yet young, he introduced them to managing the state, dispatching them as consuls in training around the provinces and armies. §64.2. He so raised daughter and granddaughters that they were accustomed to spinning wool, and he prohibited them from saying or doing anything unless it were done openly and was what could be registered in the daily summary of household activities; he was so intent on eliminating their contact with people outside the family that one time he wrote in a letter to Lucius Vinicius, who was an upstanding young man of the higher order, that he had not behaved properly, since he had come and wished his daughter well at Baiae. He trained his grandsons how to read and swim, and was diligent in nothing more than that they should imitate his handwriting. He would not eat with them unless they were seated on the low couch [with him], and he would not travel unless they preceded his vehicle or rode alongside on their horses. 4. Suetonius, Aug. 64.1–65.3; my translation of the Latin text of Suetonius I, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1951).
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§65.1. But when he was happy with the fidelity even of his progeny and in the ordered comportment of his household, fortune deserted him. He exiled both Julias, daughter and granddaughter, since they were besmirched by every sort of perverse behavior; Gaius and Lucius both he lost within a period of eighteen months; Gaius died at Lycia and Lucius at Massilia. He adopted his third grandson Agrippa and at the same time his stepson Tiberius in the curial assembly by means of legislation; of these he soon after disenfranchised Agrippa because of his mean spirit and bad temper, and sent him to Surrentum in exile. §65.2. He held up at the deaths of his family members with more endurance than he did with their indecencies. He was not so much broken by the loss of Gaius and Lucius, but he would not enter the Senate when sending it word regarding his daughter, read aloud to them by his representative, staying away from contact with people for quite a while, and he even contemplated executing her. At any rate, when a close friend of Julia, the freedwoman Phoebe, hanged herself, Augustus said he wished he were Phoebe’s father. §65.3. After he exiled Julia, he did not allow her to taste wine or other delicacies of fine society. He did not allow any man, free or slave, to approach her unless he permitted it after consultation, and [with the stipulation that] he be informed of the man’s age, height, [skin] color, and also regarding any marks or scars on his body. 72. A ROMAN STOIC ON FILIAL DISOBEDIENCE (mid-50s ce)5 Western civilization’s question regarding how much authority parents have over children can be seen at least as early as Aristophanes’s play The Clouds. First-century Roman society also faced this question. A common stereotype of the Roman household is the absolute authority, the power of life or death, that the father held over children. But Musonius Rufus seems to question this in ways that no doubt influenced some Christians as well in living out commands
5. Musonius Rufus, 16 (first two-thirds of section); my translation of Greek text in Hense, MVSONII RVFI RELIQUAE, 81–85.
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such as Jesus’ call to follow him ahead of one’s own family (Matt. 10:37-38; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 14:25-33). Some youthful man who wanted to study philosophy but was prohibited by his father from doing so, asked him, “Musonius, please tell me if one must obey parents in all matters, or are there some matters in which they should be ignored?” And Musonius responded, “That each person,” he said, “should obey his own mother or father seems good, and I for one praise this. But let us look carefully at what it means to obey, or instead, first let us study what sort of thing it is to disobey and who is the disobedient one, so that by this approach we may better see what sort of thing it is to obey. “Consider, for example, if for a sick son, a father who is not a physician and not learned in issues of health and illness should require the sick son to take as medicine something that would be damaging and unhelpful, and the sick one is not ignorant of this, surely if he doesn’t follow what is ordered he is not disobeying nor is he a disobedient person, is he? It would rather not seem to be. Or what if the father were sick and should ask for wine or food when not appropriate, which if he took would make his sickness worse, and would the son, knowing this and not giving them, be disobeying his father? It would not be said so. Still, I think one would appear far less disobedient who, having a materialistic father and being commanded by him to rob or take for his own another’s money with which he is entrusted, does not fulfill the command. Do you suppose that fathers who command such things to their children don’t exist? I know a certain father so evil that he sold his good-looking son in the prime of the boy’s youth. If that youth who was sold and designated by his father for shamefulness had refused and would not go, shall we say the youth is disobedient or levelheaded? This isn’t worth asking, is it? Yes, it is reproachable and blameworthy to disobey and be a disobedient person, but not to do what is not good is not blameworthy, but deserves praise. So whether a command comes from one’s father or the ruler or, by Zeus, the despotic king, the one who does not obey the one commanding what is evil, unjust, or shameful is by no means disobeying, since he does no injustice, nor does he sin.6 The disobedient one is only the 6. Musonius Rufus had ample occasions in his life to consider the nature of genuine obedience or disobedience. He was exiled to the island Gyarus by Nero, perhaps the “despotic king” in the line above,
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one who disregards and ignores when commanded toward the good and beautiful and beneficial. Such a person, then, is disobedient. But the one who obeys well acts in exactly the opposite way and is the opposite of him; he is the sort of person who hears anyone who advises what is appropriate and completes it of his own will; this is the one who obeys well. So in relation to parents as well, a person is obedient who responds voluntarily whenever they advise these good things. I would even say that any person who does what is right and appropriate, even when that person’s parents did not advise it, is obeying those parents; and that I speak rightly, take note of the following. The one who does what his or her father wants and pursues this father’s counsel I think is obeying the father; and the one who acts as he ought to act and follows the better track of action is in agreement with the father’s counsel. In what way? It is because all parents definitely want what is best for their own children, and wanting what is best they desire what is right and useful to be performed by them. Therefore, whoever does what is proper and beneficial, this one does what the parents want. Therefore, he has obeyed parents who does these things, even if the parents have not verbally ordered these things. This thing alone should one take into account who wants to obey parents in every one of his actions—if what he is about to do is virtuous and beneficial; if there is nothing else, then such a person lives uprightly and is the very person who is obedient to parents in practice. “And therefore, young one, do not be afraid that you are disobeying your father if you do not do what your father demands when he demands you do something that is not right; or when he prohibits you from doing what is right, do not fear doing these things. Do not allow your father to be a pretext for you to sin, whether he commands you to commit a wrong or forbids you one of the virtues. For there is no compulsion for you to follow evil orders, and you seem to me to be not ignorant of this yourself. You would definitely not follow your father in music if he with no acquaintance with music ordered you to play the guitar wrongly, nor if you were educated in grammar and he, uneducated, demanded that you write and read not as you learned, but differently, nor if you, skilled in steering a ship, and he, unskilled, ordered you to move the rudder in 65 ce. Though he returned after Nero’s death, he was exiled again by Vespasian, at some point after 71 ce.
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wrongly, you would pay no attention to him. What then? That’s enough on this line. “But if your father, being ignorant, should prohibit you who know and are educated in what philosophy is from philosophizing, then should you pay attention to him, or instead should you teach him, when he counsels you toward what is not good? It seems so to me.”
73. A FATHER MOURNS A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD SON (second or third century ce)7 As stated above, ordinarily one’s father would be dead by the time one reached adulthood. The following epitaph oozes with the pain of a father who has lost his twenty-year-old son. The epitaph might contain a request that others bury the father with his son in the same grave. Secundus the brave, buried by the hands of his father, here I reside, being young and handsome. For mortals there is not enough of life, but whenever the leftovers of life come, you must die. For the thread of the Fates spins this for us, to pass again to Hades. For when twenty years of age I died quickly, and leaving the brilliance of the sky, the flame of the sun, I go fighting elsewhere in the air. Fulvius Alphius made this sign for Secundus his sweetest child; this the bitter daemon ordered us, so I do it, though I do not want to. Let no stranger despoil the corpse; if anyone wants to despoil my child’s body, he shall pay two thousand Attic [drachmai] to the treasury.8 But if someone of his kin by blood wishes to bury [someone] here, this the custom permits. Good-bye. 74. PLINY GIVES ADVICE ON SOCIAL GRADATION AT MEALS (ca. 105 ce)9
7. W. Peek, Griechische Versinschriften aus Kleinasien (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1980), 38 no. 21a; translation adapted from G. H. R. Horsley, “‘Do Not Disturb’ in Nikaian Epitaphs,” New Docs 4, §6, p. 25. 8. Here we see not a curse, but a fine imposed on would-be grave-robbers. 9. My translation of the Latin text of Pliny, Ep. 2.6, found in Pliny: Letters, vol. 1, trans. William Melmoth, rev. by W. M. L. Hutchinson, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press/London: William Heinemann, 1915).
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Meals in wealthy Roman households provided ready contexts for social ranking. Slaves at Roman convivia were of course required to stand and remain silent throughout the meal, and they themselves took pleasure in giving poorer food and drink to guests who ranked below others.10 But the meals were occasions in which people could compare the social levels of the guests. The following letter illustrates how conscious the Romans were of the social gradations that hosts could enforce at public meals. Paul responds to the tendency to distinguish between social levels at meals when he gives directions about his church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:17-22, 33-34. It would take too long to recall, nor does it matter, how it happened that I, a man of few friends, should share a meal with someone who thinks he has a high standard of living while also being economical, though it seems to me that his lifestyle is simultaneously greedy and extravagant. For he set some excellent courses before himself and a few others, but cheap morsels to the rest. He had even divided up the wine in small flasks according to three types, not to give people the opportunity to choose, but rather to take away such an opportunity. One kind was for us—for himself and me, another for a few friends—for he maintains certain levels of friendships, and the third was for our freedmen—his and mine. Someone seated by me noticed and asked whether I thought this was a good idea. I said no. “So then,” he asked, “what habit do you follow?” “I set before everyone the same items, since I invited them for a meal, not for a grade report. I put all things on an equal level for those I have equalized at the table and couch of my dining room.” “Does this extend even to your freedmen?” “Even that far; I consider them comrades then, not freedmen.” And he replied, “That’s a lot for you!” “Hardly,” I replied. “How can you do it?” he asked. “You need to realize that my freedmen don’t drink the same wine I do, but I drink the same wine the freedmen drink.” And by god if you can show restraint in your appetite, it is not too much to use yourself what you share with many guests. Hold that in check, then, regress on the scale of social order, as it were. If you are thrifty in consumption, you will realize that your moderation is a considerably more proper response to them than an unfavorable insult. 10. John H. D’Arms, “Slaves at Roman Convivia,” in Dining in a Classical Context, ed. William J. Slater (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), 174–75, 177.
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So what? Let not the extravagance of some people’s dining tables be foisted on you, a young man of excellent character, under cover of stinginess. Since my dear friendship is due you, when something like this arises, be forewarned by my experience—you should avoid it! So keep in mind that nothing should be shunned more than that recent linking of extravagance and greed, which are rather loathsome when distinct and separated, and even more loathsome when joined together. Be well. The Greek symposium and the Roman convivium were known in the first century for combining excess in eating and drinking with sexual indulgence.11 We have ample evidence of women dinner companions in the Greek symposium, and Bruce Winter thinks that the combination of Paul’s correction of the “belly for food” slogan and his warning about copulating with prostitutes arises directly from the Greek symposium in which gastronomical and sexual excess went hand in hand (1 Cor. 6:12-20).12 75. THE FEAST OF TRIMALCHIO (ca. 54–66 ce)13 Heterosexual attraction no doubt energized banquets in all Mediterranean cultures, but the Roman convivium was famous for a different set of sexual attractions than the Greek symposium. While the emperor Tiberius is said to have hosted a banquet in which the food was served by naked women,14 this is definitely an exception to the Roman pattern, which favored male over female slaves for public meals. The Roman convivium featured pourers of wine who were young, beardless, attractive men with long hair and Greek names. While they were not supposed to flirt with the guests, their owners could use them however they chose.15 As Seneca writes, “The server of the wine has to dress like a woman and to wrestle with his advancing years; he can’t get away from his boyhood, but is continually dragged back to it. His body hair is plucked away, and he is kept beardless; he is forced to keep awake all night, dividing 11. Alan Booth, “The Age for Reclining and Its Attendant Perils,” in Slater, Dining in a Classical Context, 105. 12. Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 82–85. 13. My translation of the Latin text of Petronius, Satyricon 74–75, found in Petronius, trans. Michael Heseltine, rev. by E. H. Warmington, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1969). 14. Suetonius, Tib. 42.2. 15. D’Arms, “Slaves at Roman Convivia,” 173, 176.
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his time between the drunkenness and lust of his master.”16 In the following selection from, Petronius’s Satyricon, note how the master of a Roman feast, the fabulously wealthy freedman Gaius Trimalchio, upsets his wife Fortunata by his behavior and his explanation, near the end of the selection, why he was kissing someone at the banquet. These dainties being eaten, Trimalchio turned to his household staff, saying, “Why haven’t you dined yet? Go away, that others may come to their duty.” Hereupon a second set came in; while the others cried, “Farewell, Gaius!” these [said], “Hail, Gaius!” At this point our good humor was disturbed for the first time; for when a rather goodlooking slave boy entered along with the new waiters, Trimalchio laid hold of him and started kissing him for a rather long time. At this Fortunata, to establish firmly equal right, began abusing Trimalchio, calling him an abomination and a disgrace, that he could not restrain his appetite. Finally she even added “Dog!” Trimalchio, offended at her abuse, threw a cup in the face of Fortunata. She screamed out, as if she had lost an eye, and clapped her trembling hands to her countenance. Scintilla was equally alarmed, and sheltered her shuddering friend in her bosom.17 At the same time a dutiful slave boy applied a pitcher of cold water to her cheek, over which the poor lady drooped and began to lament and sob. But Trimalchio said, “For what!” “Has this slut no memory? Didn’t I take her from the sale stand, and make her a free woman among her others? But there, she puffs herself out, like the frog in the fable; she’s too proud to spit in her own bosom, a blockhead, not a woman. The one who is born in a hovel shouldn’t dream of a palace. As I hope to prosper, I’ll see to taming this Cassandra in soldier’s boots.18 Why! when I was only worth two cents, I might have married ten millions of money. You know I might. Agatho, perfumer to the lady next door, drew me aside, and ‘I’ll give you a hint,’ said he; ‘don’t let your race die out.’ But I, with my silly good nature, and not wanting to seem trifling, I’ve driven my ax into my 16. Seneca, Ep. 47.7; my adaptation of D’Arms’s translation. 17. Scintilla is the wife of Trimalchio’s friend Habinnas. Fortunata and Scintilla had been cuddling and kissing on a couch at the meal (Satyricon 67). Now Scintilla tries to comfort Fortunata after Fortunata’s husband Trimalchio insulted her. 18. Cassandra was a wild priestess among the Trojans. In the world of Trimalchio, a Cassandra in soldier’s boots signifies a woman who is rather wild.
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own leg. All right! I’ll make you long yet to dig me up again with your fingernails! You will understand what you’ve done to yourself momentarily. I forbid you, Habinnas, to put her statue on my tomb at all, that I may not have any scolding when I’m gone. So that she may know that I can give back evil, I won’t have her kiss my dead body!” After this lightning strike, Habinnas began to entreat him to cool his anger. “There is no one of us,” he urged, “who does not sin; we’re men after all, not gods.” Scintilla spoke to the same purpose with tears in her eyes, and begged him, in the name of his good spirit and addressing him as Gaius, to tame himself. Trimalchio could restrain his tears no longer, but cried, “As you hope, Habinnas, to enjoy your little fortune—if I’ve done anything wrong, spit in my face. I kissed the good, careful lad, not because he’s a pretty boy, but because he’s so thrifty and clever. I tell you he can recite ten pieces, reads his book at sight, has bought himself a Thracian costume out of his daily rations, besides an armchair and a pair of cups. Does he not deserve to be the apple of my eye? But Fortunata vetoes it. Is that how it seems to you, you shaky girl? I warn you, make the most of what you’ve got, you cormorant; and don’t make me nasty, sweetheart, else you’ll experience my temper. You know me; once I’ve made up my mind, I’m a nail pounded into a board! 76. EPICTETUS DESCRIBES RUNAWAY SLAVES (ca. 108 ce)19 Trimalchio’s kissing of the unnamed slave prompts us to consider in more depth the places that slaves occupied within the domus. New Testament readers might immediately think of Paul’s Letter to Philemon when considering the institution of slavery. Whether Philemon was the master of a runaway slave named Onesimus is an open question.20 And while the precise occasion behind the letter cannot be recovered, it is useful at least to start with the social vulnerability of the runaway slave. If we allow this letter at least to serve as a 19. My translation of the Greek text of Arrian’s Discourses of Epictetus 3.26.1–3. provided in Epictetus: The Discourses As Reported by Arrian, the Manual and Fragments, trans. W. A. Oldfather, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928). 20. John Knox, Philemon among the Letters of Paul: A New View of Its Place and Importance (New York: Abingdon, 1959); Allen Dwight Callahan, Embassy of Onesimus: The Letter of Paul to Philemon, New Testament in Context (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997).
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window into the vulnerability that estranged household members experienced in Paul’s day, then it is useful to compare the following stereotypical description of runaway slaves with what Paul says regarding how he will repay what Onesimus owes his master in Philem. 18-19. This selection can be dated to the early second century ce, when Arrian heard Epictetus lecturing in Nicopolis. Shouldn’t you be ashamed, since you are more fearful and more lowborn than runaway slaves? How do they slip away from their masters when fleeing? On what sorts of lands are they depending, on what sorts of household servants? Don’t they immediately pack away just a little for the first days away, then later when carried over land and sea, don’t they employ one trick and then another to stay nourished? And which fugitive ever died of starvation? But you are fearfully quaking, thinking through sleepless nights that what is necessary for living will fall short for you. Wretched one, are you so blind, unseeing of the way ahead, where the want of the staples of life ends up? Where does it end? It ends where fever, or where a rock that lands on you leaves you, at death.
77. BROTHER ASKS BROTHER TO CATCH RUNAWAY SLAVE (ca. 16–15 bce or earlier)21 Aside from the genre of philosophical discourse, we also have a letter from firstcentury bce Egypt about a runaway slave. The Roman provincial authorities did not track all runaway slaves. In the world behind the text of this letter, the matter was completely handled as a household matter. The only possible use of civil authorities might come in the posting of a public notice, mentioned in the antepenultimate sentence of the letter. Hermēs to Eros, his brother, may you prosper and be well. My slave Herakleides has vanished after your departure. Since he is familiar with all your [possessions] . . . I think that he has lifted them. Knowing your love of honor and [your] attention to detail I [judged] I would ask you by letter. If after checking you should find this one, after binding him hand and foot, send him back to us. If his location is unknown, someone from my [household] will be available 21. My translation of Greek text provided in New Docs 8, §3; emphasis on the domestic nature of the search for this slave (p. 25).
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until by a sign an announcement is made as is fitting. Give this letter up also to other friends and household members. Your attention to detail, watchfulness, and unresting nature has prompted me to write to you. You completely encourage [me] by watching over yourself so that you stay well. Good-bye. [Year] 15 Pachōn 2. 78. A SLAVE IS SOLD TO APOLLO (first century bce)22 The Greek practice of selling a slave to Apollo as a way of freeing the slave continued at Delphi well into the Principate. S. R. Llewelyn notes that there are about one thousand inscriptions dating from 201 bce until 100 ce that document the sale of a slave to Apollo. This sort of sacral manumission meant that the slave’s status in the household changed to that of freedman or freedwoman. Here is such a document, to which we might compare Paul’s language in Philem. 15-21, which asks for a slave to be freed. Does that letter participate in the view that as soon as a slave belongs to a deity, the slave is no longer owned by his or her former master or mistress? The expression ὑπὲρ δοῦλον in Philem. 16, usually translated as “more than a slave,” is worthy of reflection in light of the wide range of relationships that slaves experienced in the domus with the paterfamilias and his kin and the resonance this text evokes with sacral manumission practices. It has also been suggested that this idea of sacral manumission at least lies in the background of Rom. 6:22, since that text assumes that slavery to God means freedom from a former master.23 22. SEG 31:543; J.-F. Bommelaer, “Quatre notes delphiques,” BCH 105 (1981): 461–63; my translation from Greek text provided New Docs 6, §10, “The Slave of God (Rom 6.22) and Sacral Manumission” (p. 72). On the connection to Rom. 6:22, see ibid., 75. 23. In LAE 319–30, Deissmann argues that Paul knew about this specific practice of manumission by sale to Apollo and wrote in analogy to it. F. Bömer, Untersuchungen über die Religion der Sklaven in Griechenland und Rom (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1960), 2:133–39, followed by Llewelyn, “Slave of God,” 75–76, argue for a much looser connection, allowing for the probability that Paul did not know about sacral manumission at Delphi. Since sacral manumission also happened at synagogues, however, the idea that some precedent in Paul’s cultural world prompted him to use slavery to God as the material cause of freedom from slavery to sin. This idea is also possibly behind 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:21-24, 35; Gal. 5:1, 13. The comprehensive study by J. Albert Harrill deserves mention here as well. In summing up his study of 1 Cor. 7:21, he writes, “By permitting the manumission exception within his wider discussion of marriage, Paul makes room in his theology for the institutionalized exercise of manumission. In 1 Cor 7:21, the Apostle exhorts slaves who are offered manumission indeed to avail themselves of the opportunity and to use freedom” (The Manumission of Slaves in Early Christianity, HUT 32 [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995], 127, emphasis original).
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What follows is a fragmentary inscription from Delphi, which Llewelyn has reconstructed based on standard formulas in such inscriptions. [When . . . was ruling in month . . . dedicated to Pythian Apollo a male slave named Theophanes, . . . in race . . . at the cost of . . . silver minae and he holds the complete amount, just as Theophanes trusted the sale to the god on the qualification that he be free and not be seized as a slave by] anyone for the remainder of his life. [Guarantor . . . If anyone happens to seize] Theophanes with an order to make him a slave, [let the transaction to the god be confirmed by the one] who dedicated and the guarantor. [He is hereby empowered] to rescue Theophanes [since he is immune and not subject] to any [suit or fine. Witnesses are priests] of Apollo: Aiakidas, [Emmenidas and Chaleans Dam]on, Kallimachos . . . Freed slaves, of course, would in most cases remain within the domus, now in the changed role of freedman or freedwoman. As such, they could enter into business partnerships with the paterfamilias or other kin of the paterfamilias. Paul references this role in 1 Cor. 7:22, when he writes that the one who is called while a slave is a freedman belonging to the Lord. The statement might relativize the legal relationship of slaves in a way perhaps already noticed in Philem. 16. Even if one does not consider the social reconstruction latent within Paul’s “freedman of the Lord” phrase in 1 Cor. 7:22, it is evident that here again we see this most intimate circle of social correlation and distinction, the domus, refigured by a first-century Christian to describe a believer’s identity in Christ.
Introduction The Eternal City and its Hold on the World
This section of the sourcebook is devoted to understanding the city of Rome itself, and the ways in which it kept the world in its grip. It influenced the world through war, commerce, games, and emperors. If you are studying the book of Revelation, this is the section of the sourcebook with which to begin. The book of Revelation relates the evil beast to a city on seven hills (see Rev. 17:7-18), a reference that in the first century ce indicated the city of Rome. And just as Babylon stands for Rome in 1 Pet. 5:13 and in 4 Ezra (also called 2 Esdras), which was written by a Jew around the year 100 ce, it is almost certain that the first hearers of Revelation would have thought of Rome when they heard the book’s various descriptions of Babylon. But as indicated in the introduction to this sourcebook, it is not my goal to convince my readers that the author of Revelation intended for all readers to think of Rome when they read the book’s descriptions of Babylon. It is rather simply to argue that since we seek to read the books of the Bible in the contexts in which they were written and first heard, we should consider ways in which the book of Revelation may reflect the military, commercial, athletic, and imperial dimensions of the Roman Principate.
War War was one of the Romans’ distinctive arts, signaled clearly at the beginning of Virgil’s Aeneid. Published after Virgil’s death in 19 bce, this poem anchors the warring ways of Augustus and the Roman Principate in a story of how the mythical founder of Rome followed destiny to found Rome through warfare. 79. ROME’S FOUNDER IS THE WARRING AENEAS 1 I extol battle and the man, who first from the shores of Troy wandered by fate to Italy and came to Lavinia’s shores; he—much shaken on earth and in the deep by heavenly forces, by cruel Juno—never forgetting and angry, suffered much even in war, that he might found the city and carry his gods to Latium, from whence come the Latin kind, the Alban fathers and the towering walls of Rome.
In the famous charge that Anchises, the father of Aeneas, gives to his son, every one of the Roman ways identified presupposes the activity of war. I date this to the year of Virgil’s death, since the Aeneid was published shortly thereafter. 80. THE ESSENCE OF LIVING AS A ROMAN (19 bce)2 You who rule peoples by command, O Roman, remember— these are your ways—to impose the law of peace, to bear with those beaten, and to overthrow the proud.
1. My translation of Virgil, Aeneid 1.1-7; from Latin text of R. A. B. Mynors, ed., P. Vergili Maronis Opera, OCT (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), 103. 2. My translation of Aeneid 6.851–53, from the Latin text of Mynors, P. Vergili Maronis Opera, 254.
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In the last scene of the Aeneid, the hero is described again as a warrior, brave in battle gear. When he sees the sword belt of his fallen ally Pallas worn by the archenemey Turnus, he is moved to seek revenge and thrusts his sword into Turnus’s chest.3
81. AUGUSTUS OF PRIMA PORTA AS WARRIOR WHO RESTORED PEACE (20 bce)4 3. Virgil, Aeneid 12.938–51. 4. The first photo is the work of By BrokenSphere (Own work) (GFDL [http://www.gnu.org/ copyleft/fdl.html] or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0]), via Wikimedia Commons, found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Augustus_of_Prima_Porta_replica_Rosicrucian_Park_closeup.JPG.
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The centrality of war in Roman identity under the Principate is seen in the visual record as well. In this military sculpture of Augustus, over two meters high, the breastplate depicts the return of the Roman legions’ lost eagle standards to Augustus and comrades. 82. JEWS UNDER ROME CALL HER “EDOM” (fifth century ce)5 While Jews of the first century might think of Idumaeans such as the Herod family as Esau or Edom, from at least the second century ce on, they also called the Roman Empire “Edom,” the nation descended from Esau, because of Isaac’s words to Esau in Gen. 27:40: “By your sword you shall live.”6 Paul’s quotation of Mal. 1:3-4 in Rom. 9:13 contains his only use of the name “Esau.” In the rabbinic literature of the Tannaitic period, Esau or Edom is routinely used to designate Rome. Gershon Cohen has dated the earliest rabbinic connection between Edom/Esau and Rome to Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph in the second century ce, and Carol Bakhos concurs.7 In the following Passover homily, from as late as the fifth century ce, we can see how Jews looked for God to judge Rome. As with Egypt He took each of the chiefest among them and slew them, so, too, with Edom: A great slaughter in the land of Edom, among them to come down shall be the Remim (Isa 34:6-7), that is, as R. Meir expounded it—among those to come down shall be the Romans [pre-eminent among all the peoples of Edom]. 83. ROME NO LONGER NEEDS TO WIELD THE SWORD (mid-50s ce)8 Well into the fifth century ce, Edom, the descendants of Esau, continued to be known in the Jewish consciousness as the nation that lived by the sword (Gen. 27:40). The connection between Edom, who lives by the sword, and Rome in 5. William G. Braude and Israel J. Kapstein, trans., Pesikta de-Rab Kahana: Rab Kahana’s Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of American, 1975), Piska 7.11 (p. 152; bracketed words supplied by Braude and Kapstein). 6. For the connection of Esau/Edom with the Idumaeans, see 1 Macc. 5:3, 65. 7. Gershon Cohen, “Esau as Symbol in Early Medieval Thought,” in Studies in the Variety of Rabbinic Cultures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1991), 245, as found in Carol Bakhos, Ishmael on the Border: Rabbinic Portrayals of the First Arab (Albany: State University of New York Press), 63–64. 8. My translation of Calpurnius Siculus, Eclogue 1.42–68 from Latin text in Minor Latin Poets, trans. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961).
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Jewish thinking is significant for readers of the New Testament because Paul describes the sword as a threat in his Letter to the Romans (Rom. 8:35; 13:4). He also alludes to Edom in his description of the woes besetting his people (Rom. 9:13). Fanciful as it may seem to some, the propaganda for the emperor Nero that circulated at the time Paul wrote his Letter to Rome claimed that Rome no longer needed to use the sword. Paul seems to be reacting to this propaganda when he reminds the Romans that the government does not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4). One could even say that the destruction of Jerusalem that followed about fifteen years after Paul wrote this warning proves Paul’s point, that Rome’s sword was definitely still active.9 In a secure peace, the age is reborn, dear Themis has now finally given up the ashes of mourning and returns to earth; blessed times follow the youth who won the case on behalf of the Julii of the mother city.10 Then he, God himself, will rule the peoples; the impious Bellona will surrender, her conquered hands behind her back, and with her weapons plundered, she will wrench her wild gnashing onto her own organs in the way that she scattered civil wars over the whole globe; no longer will Rome weep over Philippi, no triumphal processions over a captive shall she lead; all wars will be extinguished in the prison of Tartarus, for they will immerse their heads into the shadows, fearing the light.11 Bright peace shall come, bright not in appearance only, such as happened often when free of declared war, with far foe tamed, she nonetheless diffused public discord by means of hidden weapons—a secret sword. Clemency has commanded every crime of counterfeit peace to fade into the distance and has crushed every wild sword. No longer shall the funeral march of a chained senate weary the executioner’s work, no more a full prison with few [senators] for unhappy senate fathers 9. See Neil Elliott, “Romans 13:1-7 in the Context of Imperial Propaganda,” in Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society, ed. Richard A. Horsley (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997), 184–207; Neil Elliott and Mark Reasoner, eds., Documents and Images for the Study of Paul (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), 159–61. 10. Both Themis and her daughter Astraea are associated with justice in classical mythology. J. W. Duff and A. M. Duff interpret the case won by a youth for the Julii of the mother to refer to a speech that Nero gave early in his reign for the citizens of Ilium, the “mother” of Rome, citing Suetonius, Nero 7, and Tacitus, Ann. 12.58 (Minor Latin Poets, 223). 11. Bellona is the goddess of war. “Philippi” is a paradigmatic reference to civil war, when the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian beat those of Brutus and Cassius at that city in 42 bce.
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to count.12 Full quiet shall come; unacquainted with unsheathed sword, she shall restore another reign of Saturn in Latium, another reign of Numa, who first taught the work of peace to armies that exulted in bloodshed that drew fervor from Romulus and his war camps, Numa, who after silencing the battle gear commanded the horns to sound in sacred ceremonies, not in battles.
84. ROMANS CARRY HOLY VESSELS FROM THE JERUSALEM TEMPLE (70 ce)13 The destruction of Jerusalem and sack of the second temple, carried out with Roman efficiency by Vespasian’s son Titus, was memorialized on the arch of Titus in Rome. The image of the Romans carrying away the lamp stand and other vessels of the temple is especially poignant for anyone familiar with the way that this sacrilege is emphasized in the Jewish Scriptures in regard to the 12. Calpurnius refers to the proscriptions of Claudius, as if he executed so many senators that it was difficult for the senate to gather with a quorum. Suetonius says that Claudius executed thirty-five senators and three hundred equestrians (Claud. 29.2). 13. By Gunnar Bach Pedersen (own photo) (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons; http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fra-titusbuen.jpg.
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Babylonians’ destruction of Solomon’s temple (2 Kgs. 25:13-17; 2 Chron. 36:17-19; Dan. 1:2; 5:2-3). 85. CALGACUS AND AGRICOLA PREPARE TROOPS FOR BATTLE (84 ce)14 In the following scene of a war in Britain, the historian Tacitus describes how his father-in-law Agricola engaged the barbarian Britons. Notice how the selection begins by describing war as Agricola’s comfort after losing his infant son. The narrative is especially significant since it includes Tacitus’s rendition of the speeches that the Britons’ chief Calgacus gave to his warriors and that Agricola gave to the Roman forces before their battle. Calcagus’s definition of the Roman peace at the end of §30 is remarkable, given its preservation by a Roman historian. Yes, history is written by the winners. But in this case, Tacitus has passed on a credible description of Roman policy from the perspective of the losers. The rest of the selection is clearly from a Roman perspective, and chronicles how the Roman war machine worked in its difficult contest in Britain. §29. At the summer’s start, a blow wounded Agricola at home; he lost his son, born the previous year. He responded to the situation neither with the showy bravery of grand men nor contrarily by the laments and grieving borne by women; in his bereavement, war was among his solutions. So he dispatched the fleet on ahead to plunder a number of places and so create wide and unsettled terror; and with a lightly armed force, to whom he added the most courageous from the Britons who were proven through a long period of peace, he arrived at Mount Graupius, which the adversary already occupied. For the Britons, unaffected by the outcome of their earlier battle, and expecting either vengeance or bondage, and finally understanding that the common threat must be kept away by concerted action, summoned men by dispatching ambassadors making treaties in all their domain. There were already above thirty thousand men who could be seen, and still flowed all the young, and with them those elders still fresh and green, famous in war and every man wearing his insignia; among the many leaders, a man outstanding in courage
14. Tacitus, Agr. 29–34. My translation of Latin text in Tacitus I: Agricola, Germania, Dialogus, trans. M. Hutton and R. M. Ogilvie, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1970).
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and birth called Calgacus addressed the densely packed crowd of men chafing for battle in this way: §30. “When I ponder our reasons for fighting and the crucial position we hold, I have a great conviction that the unity you display today will bring the dawn of freedom for all Britain; for you have gathered in unity, and you have no part in slavery, with no other territories nor even the sea secure, where the Roman navy threatens. So combat and war, which are honor for the strong, are at the same time the safest option for the weak. Previous battles, which were settled with the Romans with varied results, fostered hope and help in our efforts, because we, the most noble of all Britain, who live in its inner zone, have never ever looked on the shores of servitude, and have kept our eyes unharmed from contact with despotism. Up to this day, a lack of reportage has defended us who live in the farthest land on earth, the last of the free; but now, the remotest boundary of Britain lies open, and what everyone knows nothing about becomes a marvel; but there is no people beyond us, nothing is out there except waves, rocks, and the Romans, who are more death-dealing than these, for in them is a pride that no servility or modesty can escape. Raiders of the world, they have exhausted the earth by their careless pillaging, and now they scavenge the ocean: if an adversary be rich, they are greedy; if poor, they are aggressive; neither east nor west have satisfied them; of all people they alone on earth are drawn equally and desire wealth and poverty. To rob, slaughter, ravage they falsely name ‘empire’; where they make a wasteland they name it ‘peace.’ §31. “By nature, it is children and kin that everyone loves before anything else; these are conscripted away to be slaves elsewhere; when they escape the libido of the enemy, our wives and sisters are dishonored by men who call themselves allies and guests. Our properties and funds become taxes; field and harvest go for their food requisition; our very bodies—even our hands—are crippled as we construct roads through woods and swamps under their taunts and whippings. People sell those born for slavery in a single transaction, then afterward they receive support from their owners, but Britain purchases its own slavery each day, and each day supports [its owners]. In a household, the newest slave is the runt beneath all
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other slaves; thus in this worldwide, long-standing slavery, it is now we, the cheap and most recent purchase, who are sought for devastation, for we do not possess farmlands, mines, or harbors for which we might be reserved to work. The bravery and fighting spirit of subjected peoples do not please their rulers, and our distant location and obscurity itself make us both safe and suspect. So give up hope for compassion, be brave at last, whether it is safety or honor that is most dear. The Brigantes people, led by a woman, torched a Roman colony and devastated their camp; and if initial success had not seduced them to back off, they could have finally thrown off the enslaving yoke. We, whole and unconquered, will fight to keep our liberty, not to bear repentance—let us clearly display at the first engagement what sort of men Caledonia has been saving. §32. “Do you believe that the Romans’ courage in warfare is equal to their decadence in peacetime? No, their reputation comes from the squabbles and division among us; their enemies’ defects turn to the glory of their army, which is brought together from a hodgepodge of nations so that it stays together when the results are favorable and will dissolve when they are negative, unless you think that those Gauls, Germans, and—I am ashamed to say—many from among the Britons who offer their blood to the domination of a foreign power that has been our enemy longer than we its slaves, are held to it by faithfulness and preference. Fear and terror are weak ties of affection; where you remove these, the ones who desist from fearing will begin to hate. Everything that will motivate toward victory is ours; there are no wives [here] spurring on the Romans; there are no parents to criticize the runaway; many have no homeland, or a foreign one. Few in number, afraid in [their] ignorance, gazing with empty eyes at the strange sky, ocean, and woods around them, the gods have brought them to us as prisoners and conquered, into our power. Don’t be intimidated by a vain outward display, shining gold and silver that does not protect or cause injury. Even among our foes’ army we will find a hand for us. The Britons will recognize their own interest; the Gauls will recall their past freedom; the remaining Germans will abandon them just as did the Usipi not long ago. Past these forces there is nothing to fear—just unmanned forts, settlements of old men, towns fed up and vacillating between rebellious people and despots. Here is a
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leader, here an army; there tribute, mining, and other penalties of servitude, which can be extended forever or avenged promptly on this field. So as you go into the battle line, consider your ancestors and descendants.” §33. His talk met with an enthusiastic response—the roaring, singing, and dissonant yells as is the way of barbarians. Troop lines formed, and there were flashes of weapons as the most daring ran in front; while the battle formation was solidifying, Agricola thought that he should kindle his forces, though they were so excited that they could scarcely be restrained inside their defense lines, so thus he spoke: “It is now in the seventh year, compatriots, that by the power and protection of the Roman Empire and by our loyalty and labors you have beaten Britain. In all these engagements and fights, which have demanded not just bravery before the foe but also hard work and perseverance in battling nature itself, I have had no criticism to make of you my soldiers, and you have had none to make regarding me your general. So we have moved past boundaries—I from previous legates, you from prior armies—we hold the border of Britain not by report or rumor but by encampments and arms; Britain is discovered and subjected. Often while marching, as tired as you were while walking through swamps, mountains, and streams, I heard the most courageous voices ask, ‘When will the adversary be handed over? When will [their] bravery [appear]?’ They are arriving now; they’ve been pulled out from their hideouts; prayers and labors are opened; all is favorable for the victors, and the same is against the conquered. The faraway path we have traversed, the woods through which we have found our way, the marshes we have forded—these amount to honor and splendor if we are faced forward, but our best luck today can become more dangerous if we are fleeing; we do not have precise acquaintance with this terrain, nor lavish provisions, but we have hands, and the swords they hold, and in these are everything. I decided quite a while ago that retreat is not safe for either armed forces or their leader. Therefore, though a death in honor is preferable to a shameful life, security and heroism are set together in this very place, nor will it be contemptible to die here at the end of cosmos and creation.
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§34. “If there were exotic peoples and strange battle formations gathered, I would cite cases of other armies to embolden you; but now you only need to remember your own accomplishments and inquire of your own sight. These are the people who jumped one legion last year as though they were night thieves, and knew their own loss when they heard your war cry; these are those most prone to flee among all the Britons; this is the cause of their long survival. In the way we penetrated forests and ravines, the bravest animal would attack us head on, but the scared and lazy ones were repelled by the sound of our marching line, thus the bravest Britons have died quite a while ago; the remnants are the majority who are lazy and afraid. You have discovered them finally, not because they took a stand, but because they are caught; the emergency and extreme fear have fixed their battle line in their own tracks, in which you will produce a glorious and spectacular victory. Now quit pursuing, wrap fifty years up with one awesome day, and show the government that her army never deserved the blame when wars were extended or revolts incited.” There follows a narrative of the battle, in which Agricola’s forces beat the more numerous Britons, though the latter began the engagement on the high ground of the battle. After a comprehensive pursuit of the Britons, and a slow march to instill fear in the surviving peoples, Agricola stationed some of his soldiers in a camp for the winter.15 Warfare is emphasized in the book of Revelation as being a distinct problem for the earth. The red horse in Rev. 6:4 is mounted by a rider who takes peace from the earth and is given a large sword. This image gains in significance when we realize that the apocalyptic vision of variously colored horses who patrol the earth is taken from Zech. 1:8-11, where a man riding on a red horse says, after patrolling the earth, that the whole earth is at peace (Zech. 1:11). Whatever one’s interpretation of the world ruler, or Babylon, it is clear that warfare is one of its distinguishing marks: “If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword must this one be killed” (Rev. 13:10b). This word comes true in the showdown between the armies of the beast and the army associated with the Word riding the white horse (Rev. 19:19-21).
15. Tacitus, Agr. 35–38.
Commerce Rome also held sway over the world by its commerce, including its taxation. 86. DOMITIAN AIMS AT JEWISH FUNDS (ca. 90 ce)1 This selection is of interest not simply for showing how Domitian took money from the Jews but also for Suetonius’s description of those Jews who sought to avoid paying the tax on Jews. Could he be referring to Christians who did not pay the Jewish tax? Once again, if there is no antecedent for “he” and “him” in Suetonius’s biographies, they refer to the emperor he is chronicling, in this case, Domitian. §12.2. Inheritances of those completely unrelated to him were seized if one person would say that he had heard the deceased say while he lived that Caesar was to be his heir. Besides others, he most vigorously enforced the Jewish tax; those were handed over [for trial] who, though not claiming Jewish identity, lived such a life or hid their background, not paying the tribute imposed on [that] people. I recall being present as a young man when a ninety-year-old man was checked by a procurator in a crowded court [to see] if he was circumcised. 87. PLINY THE ELDER DESCRIBES ROMAN IMPORTS OF TREES AND FISH (70 ce)2 Aside from Roman management of Jewish funds that had originally been collected for the temple, Rome’s commerce spanned all the world that it knew. 1. Suetonius, Dom. 12.2; my translation from Latin text found in Suetonius II, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1914). 2. Pliny, Natural History 12.4; my translation adapted from Latin text in Pliny, Natural History, vol. 4, trans. H. Rackham, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).
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In this description of trees, Pliny seems rather matter-of-fact about the troubles taken for importing them, as well as exotic fish. Thereafter, trees with sap more charming than fruit brought tranquility to humanity, because trees provide olive oil that refreshes the limbs and wine that restores human energy, and actually all the tastes that come automatically through the year, and even desserts, though war must be fought with wild animals to obtain them and [though] the fish that feed on sailors’ corpses are [now] desired. 88. THE PROVINCES SUPPLY ROME’S KITCHENS (ca. 110 ce)3 Juvenal’s satire that follows seems to be self-conscious of the way that the Roman economy drains resources from the rest of the world. The master will have a red mullet fish that Corsica sent or one from the rocks of Tauromenium; for, our having consumed everything and now with our ocean spent in order to sate our gluttony, the nets from the market are always passing through our home seas, not allowing Tyrrhenian fish to grow [to full size]. Thus the provinces stock our hearth; from them are obtained what Laenas the inheritance-hunter buys, [what] Aurelia [then] sells. 89. THE MARKET AT POMPEII (ca. 75 ce)4 Roman power enabled the empire to draw goods from around the world. In the market, or macellum, of Pompeii, there is a room that was apparently devoted to the worship of the emperor. The architecture of this market is a clear sign that the commerce of Rome was symbiotically attached to its political power. In the portrait of the market below, note the variety of people depicted and the variety of commodities being exchanged. Roman commerce was surely a medium for the domination of a wide cross-section of the earth, an idea also evident in Rev. 18:3, 9-17. In typical fashion in which parody is played off against a divinely 3. Juvenal, Satire 5.92–99; my translation of Latin text in Juvenal and Persius, trans. G. G. Ramsay, rev. ed., LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1940). 4. By Wmpearl (Own work) (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Fresco_from_the_House_of_Julia_Felix,_Pompeii_depicting_scenes_from_the_Forum_market.JPG.
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ordained reality, Revelation also hints at how the nations will spontaneously bring their wealth into the new Jerusalem, thus continuing a theme from Isaiah (Isa. 60:11-13, 16; 66:12; Rev. 21:24).
90. DIVINE JUDGMENT FOR ROME’S ECONOMIC RAPACITY (32 bce)5 The Jewish critique of Rome’s commercial dominance began before the composition of the New Testament. In the following quotation, from the Sibylline Oracles, we read a Jewish critique of that dominance, using the same image of fornication that Revelation uses to portray the economic stranglehold that “Babylon” has on its world.
Whatever amount Rome accepted from tribute-paying Asia, Asia will receive three times in money from Rome, whose deadly pride will be repaid to her; however many from Asia served the household of the Italians, twenty times that many will be serfs in Asia— Italians in need, they will have to pay over ten thousand times. O Rome, voluptuous golden child of Latium, virgin, often and much-wooed to weddings, wine-besotted, as a hired maid you will be married without any adornment. Often the madame will cut your pretty hair and, justice-dealing from heaven as far as earth, will throw you, but from earth heavenward again you will rise, since mortals are subject to a paltry, unjust life. Samos will even be sand, Delos will be unknown, and Rome will be a flood: all the prophecies will be completed. 5. Sibylline Oracles 3.350–80; my translation of Greek text in The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha, ed. Ian W. Scott (Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), http://ocp.tyndale.ca/sibylline-oracles.
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Smyrna destroyed without a word. Vengeance there will be, but for the bad counsels and the evil of its rulers, while gentle peace will travel to Asia land, and Europe will be blessed at that time, the sky will be full of life many years strong, without storm or hail, sustaining all, even birds and reptile beasts of the earth. O most blessed, whatever man will live to that time, or woman; there will be word of blessed ones as in a bucolic scene, for all favor from twinkling heaven will come on men and fair justice with it, the concord that excels all sound resources for mortals, and affection, faith, friendliness even from strangers themselves, while lawlessness, reproach, malice, anger, folly, poverty will retreat from men, and suppression will retreat, and slaughter, cursed contentions, and ruinous quarrels, and night thefts, and every wrong in those days.
91. A JEW MOURNS THE WEALTH OF ROME GAINED AT ZION’S EXPENSE (100 ce)6 The imposition of Roman law in the provinces meant that Rome gained great natural resources at the expense of the nations it ruled. The apocalyptic section of 4 Ezra begins with precisely this inequity and shows us that Jews continued to criticize Rome’s heavy-handed commercial dealings through the end of the first century ce. In the thirtieth year of the ruin of the city, I was in Babylon, I, Salathiel, who am also Ezra, and I was disturbed as I lay on my bed, and my thoughts were rising up in my heart, because I saw the abandonment of Zion and the abundance of those who lived in Babylon. 92. TREASURES FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR TRIMALCHIO AND FORTUNATA (ca. 65 ce)7 6. 4 Ezra 3:1-2; my translation of Latin text in The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha, ed. Ian W. Scott (Society of Biblical Literature, 2010), http://ocp.tyndale.ca/4-ezra. 7. Petronius, Satyricon 37–38; my translation of Latin text in Petronius, trans. Michael Heseltine and E. H. Warmington, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969).
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Roman extravagance at the expense of others was noted by the Romans themselves, as we can see in Petronius’s Satyricon. I leave it to readers to decide whether Petronius is celebrating or criticizing the ways in which a Roman freedman and freedwoman could bring the treasures of the world into their own domus. This might usefully be read alongside the list of goods that Babylon imported from the nations of the world in Rev. 18:11-13. Our excerpt begins as the main character turns to his neighbor to learn about the couple who are hosting them at table. I couldn’t taste another bite, so I turned toward him to learn more; I began to invite wild stories and to ask who that woman was, running here and there. “Wife,” he said, “of Trimalchio, called Fortunata, who counts cash by basket-loads. And just lately, who was she? I don’t mean to offend you, forgive me, but you would not have wanted to accept bread from her hand. Now, without cause or reason, she has ascended into heaven, and Trimalchio is everything. What is more, if she were to tell him it is dark at noon, he would believe it. He doesn’t know what he owns; he is that wealthy; but this bitch has made plans for everything, even where you would not think. She doesn’t drink, she’s sober, [takes] good counsel such as the gold you see, but has an evil tongue, is a magpie on the bed-pillow. She loves whom she loves; she does not love whom she does not love. Trimalchio has properties where kites want to fly, uncounted wealth. There is silver plate in his butler’s apartment that is worth more than anything in others’ fortunes. And wow, his household slaves! By Hercules, I don’t think that a tenth of them could recognize their own master. What is more, he can hide out with anyone of these he wants. Nor should you think that he buys anything. All is domestically grown: mastic peppers, citrons, green peppers; if you ask for hen’s milk you will get it. To top it off, when the wool being produced was not quite good enough, he purchased rams from Tarentum and introduced them into the flock. In order that Attic honey might be produced at home, he directed that bees be brought in from Athens; the native ones will become better by the little Greek ones. Within just these days, he wrote that mushroom seedlings be sent from India. There is not one mule he has that is not born from a wild ass. You see all the pillows. There is not one without purple or red filling. So blessed is his spirit.
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93. SLAVES USED FOR COLLATERAL AT POMPEII (51 ce)8 The description of Petronius and Fortunata’s wealth includes their slaves. The last items in the list of Babylon’s imports in Rev. 18:13 are “slaves, that is, human souls” in most English translations. Richard Bauckham notes how the first word in this phrase, literally “bodies,” was used for slaves in the slave trade, while the phrase “human souls” or “human lives” is probably taken from Ezek. 27:13. The emphatic ending of this list of commodities, with two different terms for slaves used, is significant. Richard Bauckham writes, “He is pointing out that slaves are not mere animal carcasses to be bought and sold as property, but are human beings. But in this emphatic position at the end of the list, this is more than just a comment on the slave trade. It is a comment on the whole list of cargoes. It suggests the inhuman brutality, the contempt for human life, on which the whole of Rome’s prosperity and luxury rests.”9 In the following text, found on a wax tablet in Pompeii, dated to October 5, 51 ce , Suavis, who has fallen behind on a loan from Cinnamus, states that the slaves he had offered as collateral for his loan will now be put up for auction. When Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus, for the fifth term, and Lucius Calventius Vetus were consuls, on the fifth of October, at the forum in Puteoli, in the Sextian porch of Augustus, a note was fastened on the pilaster on which was written what is written below: Man Felix, man Carus, man Januarius, woman Primigenia, woman Primigenia the younger, boy Ampliatus, whose ownership Marcus Egnatius Suavis was announced to have given to Gaius Sulpicius Cinnamus by formal transfer of a fiduciary pledge of one sesterce for a twenty-three-sesterces [debt]; they will be sold on October 14 in Puteoli at the forum, before the Caesonian portico. The pledge came into default from September 15.
94. SELL THE OLDER MALE SLAVES, NOT THE GOOD-LOOKING YOUNG ONES! (ca. 100 ce)10 8. Pompeii tablet 19; my translation of Latin text found in John A. Crook, “Working Notes on Some of the New Pompeii Tablets,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 29 (1978): 233. 9. Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (London: T&T Clark, 1993), 370–71. 10. Martial 11.70; my translation of Latin text in Martial: Epigrams, trans. Walter C. A. Ker, LCL (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).
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We can only imagine the lives behind the names mentioned in the above note from the forum of Puteoli. In the following excerpt, Martial’s social critique regarding the usefulness of young male slaves in contrast to older ones illustrates the tragic use of human lives that could be part of the slavery mentioned in Rev. 18:13. Tucca, can you sell the ones purchased for 100,000 sesterces? Can you sell, Tucca, your “lords” who are grieving? Don’t their charms, their raw, complaining comments, or their necks scarred by your teeth still move you? A crime! Lift the tunic on both sides and his groin lies open, and his organ may be viewed, taken by your hand. If a lot of cash is what you need, sell your silver, tables, porcelain cups, estates, home; sell old slaves—they’ll forgive—sell inherited slaves. Sell all, unhappy man, so you won’t sell your boys! It was a luxury to buy them—who will question or contradict?—but will be far greater luxury to sell. 95. LAW FOR TAXATION ON SLAVE TRANSACTIONS (ca. 43 ce)11 Not only did Rome interfere in the Jewish taxes originally collected for the temple, as we saw at the beginning of this section on commerce, but Rome exerted a heavy hand on the Mediterranean world by taxation. It is no accident that two different terms for taxes are used in Rom. 13:7, as if Paul is trying to say, “Pay every sort of tax levied on you!” In the following inscription, found at Rome and dating from early in the reign of Claudius, the 4 percent tax on the sale of slaves represents double what this tax rate was in the reign of Augustus. When Tiberius Claudius Drusus, son of Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was highest priest, holding tribunician power for the third time, consul for the third time, acclaimed emperor for the fifth time, father of the fatherland. The associates of revenue [set a tax of] 5 percent on freed slaves and 4 percent on sold slaves.
11. CIL 6:915; ILS 1. 203; my translation of Latin text as found in Smallwood 431; my bracketed words.
Games While commerce certainly pulled resources from around the world into Rome and Roman Italy, Rome actively sponsored games both in the eternal city and around its empire. As we will now see, the games were more than entertainment; the games functioned to hold the world in Rome’s grip. Artistic and athletic competitions provided a medium through which to connect the Mediterranean world to the mythic web that was so crucial in keeping Roman rule intact. In the year 249 bce, Republican Rome had started the “secular games,” or games of the epoch, which were only to be held every one hundred years, so that no person could see them more than once in a lifetime. The political significance of the games is evident in the fact that they were actually held three times within a century during the Principate. Augustus held them in 17 bce, Claudius in 47 ce, and Domitian in 88 ce. The implicit claim behind any of these instances was that these were games for the world, which only Rome could provide, games that signaled the start of a new age.
96. AUGUSTUS REVIVES THE SECULAR GAMES (17 bce)1
§31.4. [Augustus] restored some ceremonies from antiquity that had little by little been eliminated: the augury for [the empire’s] safekeeping, the office of a specially designated priest of Jupiter,2 the goat festival of February 15,3 the secular games, and the neighborhood festivals.4 At the goat festival, he prohibited men without beards from running, and at the secular games, he prohibited youth of either gender from frequenting the night events, unless they 1. Suetonius, Aug. 31.4; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius I, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1951). 2. This priest was called the flamen dialis. 3. Lupercalia. 4. Compitalia.
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were with any adult kin. For the neighborhood Compitalia, he set the precedent that the gods5 should be adorned two times per year, with spring flowers and then summer.
97. CLAUDIUS RECALCULATES THE DATING OF THE SECULAR GAMES (47 ce)6
§21.1. [Claudius] often donated food to the people. He staged several events, not only the usual sort in the accustomed places, but also newly developed ones and ones repeated from antiquity, held where no one previously staged them. The games of the dedication of Pompey’s theater, which he had rebuilt after a fire, he initiated from a raised platform in the orchestra after first making prayer in the upper temples and then descending through the middle of the theater while all sat silently. §21.2 He held the secular games, as though Augustus had done so prematurely, not setting them apart for the proper time; though he himself, in his own histories, set forth that when they had been neglected, Augustus, after very carefully following the rationale for the years, brought them back into sequence. Thus the announcer’s message prompted laughter when, according to solemn custom, he gave invitation to the games “which none had seen nor would any see again,” since there were present some who had seen them previously, and some of the actors also who had been part of the former production were producing this one also. 98. DOMITIAN STAGES THE SECULAR GAMES (88 ce)7
§ 4.3. [Domitian] produced the secular games, calculating the time not by the year in which Claudius recently [held them], but by when Augustus formerly staged them; on circus day, so that it would 5. Lares Compitales. 6. Suetonius, Claud. 21.1–2; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius II, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1914). 7. Suetonius, Dom. 4.3–5; my translation from Latin text in Rolfe, Suetonius II; my bracketed words.
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be easier to reach one hundred races, he shortened the single races from seven to five times around. § 4.4 He set up a three-part competition to be held every five years for Jupiter of the Capitol, with music, horse riding, gymnastics, and with quite a few more prizes than are now granted. For they were competing in Greek and Latin prose speech, and besides those who sing while playing the lute, there were groups of such singers and instrumentalists; and on the track, there were races actually for young women. He presided over competitions in sandals, with a purple toga in Greek style, wearing a golden crown with images of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva; sitting near him was the priest of Jupiter and the Flavian priesthood, in similar garb, except that their crowns also included his own image. He observed the Quinquatria8 annually in Alba, where he established a priesthood, from which were randomly chosen those to hold official positions and to offer wild animal events and games on the stage, besides the speechmaking and poetry. § 4.5 He donated three hundred sesterces to each of the people three times and among his shows for the festival of the seven hills9 gave a prodigious feast, with bread baskets going to Senate and equestrians, to the commoners little baskets with a side dish; when the food began to be distributed, he was the first to eat. The next day he scattered projectile gifts of every kind, and because most fell among the [common] people, he said that five hundred food-tickets should be for each tier of equestrian and senatorial orders.10
8. A five-day festival for Minerva, beginning around March 20. 9. Cf. Rev. 17:9. 10. The emperor’s distribution of food to people sitting in designated areas might remind New Testament readers of Mark’s detail in his feeding of the five thousand narrative, where he states that the people were seated in groups by hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:40).
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99. NERO COMPETES IN GREEK GAMES AND BEGINS A CANAL (66–67 ce)11 We usually think of Roman emperors sponsoring and presiding over games. The following selection is a reminder that the emperor Nero also competed in artistic games. While doing so in Greece, he also decided to initiate a project to build a canal across the Achaean isthmus. The famous Pythagorean Apollonius of Tyana had predicted that the Achaean isthmus both would and would not be dug. In his second-century biography of Apollonius, Philostratus tells us of Nero’s participation in the Greek games, his ambitious initiation of the canal, and of his decision to call off the project, thus fulfilling Apollonius’s prophecy. This paragraph gives us a good sense of the extent to which an emperor would go in seeking to benefit a given province. This excerpt begins with a description of the philosopher Apollonius’s travels through Greece, since that allows us to see an implied contrast between Apollonius and Nero in regard to their participation in the games. Lechaeum is the point on the Gulf of Corinth, north of the city of Corinth, at which the digging began for a canal across the Greek isthmus. Cape Maleas is the southeastern corner of the Peloponnesus, considered a hazardous area when sailing between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Aegina is a significantly sized island in the Saronic Gulf, on the east or Aegean side of Nero’s proposed canal. [Apollonius] paid visits also to all the Greek temples, to the one for Dodona and the one for Pythian [Apollo] and the one in Abae, and he entered [the temples] of Amphiaraus and Trophonius, and he climbed to the one for the Muses on [Helicon Mountain]. And when he paid visits to the sacred places and set them straight, the priests joined and the nobles followed; cups of reason were set out and the thirsty drew from them. And when it was [time for] the Olympic Games and those from Elis were calling him to participate in the competition, he said, “You appear to me to discredit the splendor of the Olympic Games, if sending emissaries is necessary for those coming on their own initiative.” When he was on the isthmus, with the sea bellowing around Lechaeum, he said, “This strip of land will be cut, but rather not.” This was a forecast by him 11. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.24; my translation of Greek text in Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana I, trans. F. C. Conybeare, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1912). The 740 meters is the metric equivalent of the four stadēs found in Philostratus’s description. See also Dio 62.16 and Suetonius, Nero 19.1–2; 22.3–23.1 for more on Nero’s trip to Greece and participation in its games.
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of the cutting of the isthmus, which happened a little while later, which after seven years Nero planned. For [Nero] departed from his palace and set forth for Greece, placing himself under the heralds at the Olympic and Pythian Games, also conquering at the Isthmian Games; his conquests were in singing with the cithara and in speechmaking; he won the tragedian prize in the Olympic Games. It is told that he then fixed on the new excavation through the isthmus, addressing how it was circumnavigated by joining the Aegean with the Adriatic, in order that every ship would not have to sail Cape Maleas, providing that many might cut the circle of their voyage by the canal. But note the result of Apollonius’s word; the digging got its start from Lechaeum, digging about 740 meters, when it is said that Nero halted the cut, some [explaining that] Egyptian scientists were telling him the sea above Lechaeum would rise and cause Aegina to disappear, but others say he feared a revolution in regard to his power. Thus the saying of Apollonius that the isthmus would be cut and would not be cut.
100. THE CAREER OF A PROFESSIONAL CHARIOT DRIVER (early second century ce)12 One significant way the Romans pacified those they ruled was their sponsorship of chariot racing, athletic games, and other contests. Both in the city of Rome and elsewhere in the empire, chariot racing was pursued through competition among four clubs: Whites, Blues, Reds, and Greens. Each club was led by a dominus and had its own support system, with physicians, veterinarians, stables, horses, grooms, coaches, and chariot drivers. Fans would typically follow and support only one club. Chariot drivers did move from club to club at certain points in their careers. The following selection provides a summary of a chariot driver who died at age twenty-two. The statistics on his tombstone indicate that he was not considered a champion driver, but rather someone who delivered adequately for his team. Besides the element of human interest, the selection is noteworthy as evidence for the tremendous pull of human and monetary resources that this sport brought into Rome. It helps to provide one context for the “horses” and “human lives” listed in the commerce of Babylon (Rev. 18:13). 12. CIL 6:10050; my translation of the Latin text there. The background information on the sport of chariot racing in the headnote that follows comes from Robert K. Sherk, trans. and ed., The Roman Empire: Augustus to Hadrian (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 215n1.
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Crescans the charioteer, of the blue club, from the Moor race, twenty-two years old. He first won a chariot race when Lucius Vipstanio Messala was consul, on the birthday of the divine Nerva, his twenty-fourth race. These were his horses: Circio, Acceptore, Delicato, Cotyno. [He raced] from [the consulship of] Messala to Glabrio the consul, on the birthday of the divine Claudius. 13 races entered: 686 wins: 47 in races of singles: 19 doubles: 23 trios: 5 sent ahead: 1 held: 8 snatched: 38 14 placed second : 130 third: 111 Earnings recorded: 1,558,346 sesterces
13. The dates given are November 8, 115, for his first win and May 10, 124, for his last race. The sport eclipses the person. The first win and last race are what matters, not Crescans’s birthday or death day, though in most chariot drivers’ epitaphs the day of last race and death day are probably the same, given the dangers of the sport. 14. “Sent ahead” seems to mean that Crescens was sent out by his team as a rabbit in a race to tire the opponents in the hope that another chariot from his team would then take the lead. This win indicates that though sent out as a rabbit, he won the race. “Held” seems to indicate that in these races, Crescens held the lead consistently in the race. “Snatched” seems to mean that he snatched the lead from someone else, after a struggle or in a come-from-behind finish. See H. A. Harris, Sport in Greece and Rome (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), 199–200.
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101. LIFE AND DEATH AMONG THE GLADIATORS (ca. 37–41 ce)15 Chariot drivers were not the only ones whose lives were cheap in the vast structure of Roman imperial games. Gladiators provided entertainment for Romans at state funerals, at expensive dinners, and at games staged for the public. The rich and varied sport of gladiator competition included such types of gladiators as the retiarii (armed with trident, net, and dagger), secutores (armed with helmet, tall shield, and short sword), and bestiarii (matched against beasts), mentioned below. The following excerpt from Suetonius’s biography of Caligula illustrates the fragility of life inside and outside of the gladiatorial arena. [Caligula] was angry at the crowd, who favored the side against his own wish; he exclaimed, “If only the people of Rome had one neck!” and when the thief Tetrinius was requested, he said that the ones who asked for Tetrinius were also Tetrinians. Five tunic-wearing retiarii were to fight against the same number of secutores; when the retiarii gave up without a contest, they were commanded to be struck down. But then one retiarius grabbed his trident and killed all the winners. [Caligula], in an edict, mourned this as a most brutal slaughter, and he cursed those who had the heart to watch. The tragedy for Caligula was that a condemned gladiator, a tunic-wearing retiarius—considered weaker than a normal retiarius—in front of a watching crowd, was able to kill those granted life. But those who read the context of Suetonius’s biography of this emperor could argue that a second tragedy was that the cheapening of human life extended beyond the games into Caligula’s daily life. For Suetonius elsewhere describes how Caligula led criminals—without checking the charges against them—into the arena when money was short to feed the beasts whom gladiators were supposed to fight. And in mock fighting or sacrificing, Caligula was not above striking down his fellow participants. He would also threaten to behead his wife or lover when kissing them.16 Human lives were cheap within the chariot-racing games and the varieties of gladiatorial games. But this valuation was not limited to the 15. Suetonius Cal. 30.3. My translation of Latin text in Rolfe, Suetonius I. 16. Suetonius Cal. 27 (criminals substituted for victims of the bestiarii); 32.2–3 (slaughtering fellow participants in mock battles or sacrifices); 33 (threatening wife or lover).
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circus or colosseum where such games were held. 102. GENEROUS CITIZENS PROVIDE FOR GAMES IN IGUVIUM (date unknown)17 In the lean philosophy of Roman welfare, Roman leaders under the Principate regarded their duty to lead as fulfilled if they provided “bread and circus” for the masses of people under their rule. The “circus” half of this phrase includes the idea of sports and games that leaders often sponsored in honor of the Roman emperor and pantheon. Paul seems to have known about the Isthmian Games mentioned above near Corinth, since the “perishable wreath” he mentions in 1 Cor. 9:25 accurately describes the crown of celery leaves, or later pine leaves, that victors would win there. It is also very possible that the special meals for the games were the occasions that presented members of the church with the opportunity to eat food offered to idols at prestigious social events in Corinth, as Bruce Winter suggests (1 Cor 8:1—10:21).18 But the imperial authorities in Rome did not provide all the resources for the games. The following texts show how generous citizens provided for games around the empire. Gnaeus Satrius Rufus, Gnaeus’s son, one of the four justice magistrates, made an offering of paneled ceilings for the basilicas, fastened iron to the roof joists, laid a stone pavement and circumscribed [each basilica] with a raised step at his own expense. 6,000 sesterces in honor of the duumvirate 3,450 sesterces for legions’ support 6,200 sesterces for restoring temple of Diana 7,750 sesterces for the games [dedicated] to the Victory of Caesar Augustus
17. ILS 2.5531; my translation and bracketed words, based on Latin text of EJ no. 336. 18. Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 269–86.
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103. SPONSORSHIP OF SIX DAYS IN CIRCUS AND THEATER (date unknown)19 Here is an inscription that details the gifts that someone named Clemens provided for the circus and theater in Umbria.
To . . . Vibius’s son, from Clustumina tribe, father. To . . . Tiberius’s son, from Clustumina tribe, brother. To . . . mother. . . . Clemens, Tiberius’s son, from the Pupinia tribe, secretary [to the council of] twenty-six, the people’s choice to be military tribune, one of the two justice magistrates at Carsulae, for six days of the circus and six of the theater he first offered a show of gladiators in the city.
104. THE COLOSSEUM OR FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATER (completed in 80 ce)20 Of all theaters for games, the city of Rome itself had the greatest. Titus, who in 80 ce completed the colosseum, also known as the Flavian amphitheater, was acclaimed by many for this structure and the games that it held. Vespasian began construction on the colosseum in 70 ce, and Titus completed it, winning great popularity. It still stands in Rome today.
19. ILS 1.1901; my translation and bracketed words based on Latin text of EJ no. 337. 20. By Jaakko Luttinen (Own work) (CC-BY-SA-3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/ 3.0]), via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Panorama_outside_of_Colosseum.jpg.
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105. MARTIAL PRAISES THE FLAVIAN AMPHITHEATER (ca. 81 ce)21 The following excerpts from Martial’s On the Spectacles demonstrate what a magnetic hold Rome held on the world through the colosseum and the games staged inside it. Martial published a set of celebratory verses, or epigrams, in the year 80 to celebrate the dedication of this structure. When one reads through the whole set of twenty epigrams, they seem mostly focused on events involving bestiarii, gladiators who fought animals in the colosseum, rather than other sorts of games that also took place within its high walls. §1. Let primitive Memphis be silent about the miracle of her pyramids, let Assyrian diligence not put forward its Babylon, nor let the gentle Ionians be praised for Trivia’s temple;22 let the altar full of horns conceal Delos; nor let the Carians raise to the stars with excessive praises the mausoleum that hangs in open air. All toil gives way to Caesar’s amphitheatre. Fame shall declare one work instead of all.
21. Martial, On the Spectacles 1, 3, 10, 20. My translation of Latin text in Martial: Epigrams I, trans. Walter C. Ker, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1968). 22. The temple of Diana at Ephesus; see Acts 19:23-41. Trivia (or “three ways”) is a Roman nickname for Diana, celebrating her rule over the crossroads; see Virgil, Aeneid 6.35.
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§3. Who is so secluded, what people so barbarous, Caesar, from which is no spectator in your city? From Orpheus’s mountain [Haemus] came the farmer of Rhodope, the Sarmatian filled with horse blood came, and he who drinks after detecting the River Nile’s head, the one on whom the wave of high Tethys comes, Arab hurried, Sabaeans hurried, and Cilicians are drenched here in their clouds. Sygambrians, their hair coiled in a knot have come, and with hair coiled another way the Ethiopians. The speech of the peoples is varied, but still it is one, when you are declared true father of the fatherland.23 §10. Deceitful lion with thankless mouth wounded his trainer, having dared to spurn known hands; but he endured punishments matching so great a crime, and he that had not borne lashes bore the spear. What habits are fitting for people under such a princeps, who commands the mind of beast to be more mild? §20. When one side called for Myrinus, the other for Triumphus, Caesar, with both hands, promised equally. There would be no better way to end the funny feud. O charming mind of our unconquered princeps! 106. PERGAMUM ASSEMBLY HONORS HYMN SINGERS (41–54 ce)24 Cities were routinely expected to honor the emperor and his household. Here is a record of honors that the assembly of Asia offered for those singing hymns to the imperial household. These artistic competitions were held in order to see who could best sing the praises of Rome or her emperor. The following selection shows how singers came from Asia Minor to Pergamum for the contests mentioned above. Pergamum, also known as Pergamon, is a city not far from the ancient site of Troy. When Aeneas is greeted by the god of the Tiber River in book 8 of the Aeneid, the god greets him as though Aeneas is still responsible for Pergamum: “O, born of people from God, you who restored to us Troy city from enemies, and who serve 23. The universalism evident here is worth comparing, both for similarities and differences, with the universalism we see in the Pentecost narrative of Acts 2:5-41 and other indications of some sort of universal horizon in Luke-Acts (Luke 2:1, 14; Acts 14:8-18; 17:22-31). 24. IEph 3801; SEG 4 (1930) no. 641; translation from AGRW, no. 160 is used by permission of Baylor University Press.
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eternal Pergama. . . .”25 It is not surprising, then, that a temple especially devoted to the worship of the Roman emperor would be located in Pergamum. This is the one city among the seven addressed in Revelation 2–3 that is identified as the place “where Satan has his throne” (Rev. 2:13). . . . on behalf of the eternal, enduring Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus and his whole household. During the crown bearing of Tiberius Claudius Asklepiodoros son of the Quirinian Tryphon, and while Alexandros son of Apollonides was secretary of the People and both temple warden and distributer of the properties of the temple of Augustus, the hymn singers set this up according to the existing decree which was engraved by the sacred synod in Pergamon, inasmuch as this offering is just and kind toward them (i.e., toward members of the imperial household). Hosios son of Apollonios Herm . . . took care of it. . . . Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, twice proclaimed emperor, high priest, with tribunician power, twice appointed consul, proconsul, father of the fatherland, to the sacred synod of the hymn singers, greetings. Acknowledging the decree which . . . . . . resolved by the Hellenes of Asia (i.e., the provincial Assembly of Asia) on the motion of G. I. Anaxagoras son of . . . Caesar-loving high priest of Asia and life-long director of contests for goddess Roma and god Augustus Caesar, Zeus Patroos (“Ancestral”), emperor and greatest high priest, father of the fatherland and of the whole race of humankind: Since it is proper to offer a visible exhibition of piety and of every intention befitting the sacred to the Augustan household each year, the hymn singers from all Asia, coming together in Pergamon for the most sacred birthday of Augustus Tiberius Caesar, god, accomplish a magnificent work for the glory of the synod, singing hymns to the Augustan household, accomplishing sacrifices to the Augustan gods, leading festivals and banquets.
25. Virgil, Aeneid 8.36–37, my translation of Latin text of R. A. B. Mynors, ed., P. Vergili Maronis Opera, OCT (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969).
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107. AN INSCRIPTION FROM PERGAMUM (27 bce–14 ce)26 The record of worship for the Roman emperor in the area of Pergamum antedates the reign of Claudius. The following inscription, on white marble, was found near Pergamum, and is now held in the Bergama Museum there. The inscription dates from the reign of Augustus. Note the terms used that could carry divine connotations. Emperor Caesar, god Augustus, son of god. The People of Amisos and the fellow members of the corporate body of Romans honored their own savior and founder.
26. IPergamonSupp, AM 24, 1899, no. 16; IGRR 4:314; PH316328. Translation from AGRW, no. 114, used by permission of Baylor University Press.
Emperors For better or worse, the emperors caught the interest and fired the imagination of people in the Mediterranean world. In this section, we examine both the concrete actions by which emperors ruled, and the stories or myths that circulated about them. TIBERIUS We consider Tiberius as the second emperor of the Roman Empire. Yet during his reign, Romans and those under Rome’s influence did not at first consider him to be the emperor of a form of government different from the Republic. 108. TIBERIUS STRENGTHENS THE OFFICE OF PRINCEPS (14–37 ce)1 In the following selection, from the biography by Suetonius, we can see Tiberius gradually taking charge and continuing the moral and religious agenda that Augustus had initiated, upholding traditional marriages and ridding Rome of foreign religions—including Judaism—in order to strengthen the observance of Roman civic religion and other religions traditionally accepted by the Roman Republic. §33. In gradual steps, Tiberius revealed the princeps, and while for a though he was remarkable for inconsistency, nevertheless he often and rather carefully took efforts to be helpful and useful for the national interest. Also, at first he intervened only that an abuse not be made. Therefore he rescinded certain decrees of the senate, sometimes proposing to sit on the bench with magistrates, or else at the side of the court area, in order to be an advisor. And if there was a rumor that one should escape freely, he would appear all of a sudden in the courts and speak to the jury, either from before or 1. Suetonius, Tib. 33–37; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL.
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on the bench, calling them to remember the law’s sanctity and their promise, and the gravity of the crime about which their decision was needed. If there was anything happening in public morality arising from apathy or loose living, he took in hand to correct it. §34. Tiberius reduced the costs of entertainment for the populace by decreasing actors’ salaries and limiting the number of gladiator fights on any holiday. One time, he strongly reacted against an unexplained spike in the cost of statues made of Corinthian bronze, and of gourmet fish—three mullets had been put on sale, each for one hundred gold pieces. His response was that a limit should be set for the costs of household furnishings, and that price levels should be reviewed and adjusted each year by the senate. The aediles were simultaneously to ration the quantities of food put up for sale in restaurants and diners, going so far as to prohibit pastries. And to provide a model in his project against waste, he often offered at official dinners the partially eaten dishes from the previous day, or just one side of a boar, which he remarked had all the same qualities that the whole one did. He made an executive prohibition of promiscuous kissing and the giving of New Year’s gifts after January 1. He was accustomed to give a return gift that was four times [the original gift’s value], presenting it in person, but bothered at being interrupted for the whole month by those unable to gain access to him on the festival day, he no longer continued this. §35. He was the author of an ancestral custom that married women debased by indecency be punished by such common sentence as family members imposed, with no public prosecutor present. He dissolved the oath of a Roman knight, so that he might divorce his wife after she was discovered in disgrace with her sonin-law, though he had earlier vowed he would never spurn her.2 2. Incest of mother-son varieties was considered unequivocally wrong by the Romans. Note how Paul is upset at the pride of the Corinthian church when one of its members so involved in what is only slightly different from the example above, incest with a stepmother. Paul’s description of “such a porneia that is not even found among the Gentiles” is evidence of the Roman intolerance of these forms of incest (1 Cor. 5:1-13, quotation from 5:1). See Bruce W. Winter, After Paul Left Corinth: The Influence of Secular Ethics and Social Change (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), 44–57.
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Married women from upstanding families who themselves were known to be loose began to offer themselves openly as prostitutes, then to dodge the punishment for adultery, they gave up the rights of their rank; loose men who were members of either order intentionally arranged to take a lower rank so that they could get around the senate’s prohibition against their participation in the theater or the stadium. All those men and women who broke the law in this way were exiled, which hindered others from similarly hiding behind such a ruse. Tiberius criticized a senator when he heard that he had left the city of Rome shortly before July 1, so that he could rent a rental house for a cheaper rate later, when demand would be lower. He denied the office of quaestor to another who had married a woman a day before he threw the dice for a province, but then divorced her the next day.3 §36. He got rid of foreign religions [in Rome], especially the Egyptian and Jewish, compelling all citizens who had joined these superstitious religions to burn their religious clothing and other paraphernalia. Young Jewish men were taken to unhealthy climates, with the apparent reason that they were being made to take the oath [of the military]; others of the same ethnicity or who believed similarly were removed from the city and threatened with perpetual slavery unless they complied. Tiberius also expelled all astrologers, but for those who petitioned and promised to give up their art, he gave forgiveness. §37. Tiberius made it a priority to keep the peace against marauding robbers and libertarian outbreaks by shortening the distances between army outposts through Italy. In Rome, he set up a camp for the praetorian cohorts, who until then had been housed in scattered barracks. Popular tumult and uprisings he restrained in very severe ways, and he zealously would not permit them to revolt. The crowd at the theater had settled into divisions who supported rival thespians, and one time when their fights ended in slaughter, Tiberius banished not simply the divisions’ leaders but also the thespians who provided the pretext for the commotion; and he never gave in to the people’s appeals by restoring them. When a difficulty broke out in Pollentia, where the townspeople would not 3. While unclear, it is possible that the office was only open to married men.
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let a leading centurion’s corpse be taken from the market area until they had extorted money from his heirs for a gladiator spectacle, Tiberius sent one cohort from Rome and another from the realm of Cottius, concealing their destinations, to enter the town at the same time from gates at either end, threaten with their weapons, sound their bugles, and take most of the commoners living there, along with their officials, into prison for life. He also eliminated through the whole empire the right of sanctuary traditionally held. When the people of Cyzicus dared some violence against the citizens of Rome, he revoked the public freedom they had merited [as allies] in the war against Mithridates. After he came to power, he engaged in no military campaign, but assigned the job of handling enemies’ threats to his legates, approving offensive movement only hesitantly and by necessity. He repressed hostile and suspect kings more by threats and complaints than by force; and he lured some of them to him [in Rome] with flowery promises—then did not send them back, like the German Maroboduus, the Thracian Rhascuporis, and the Cappadocian Archelaus, whose realm he diminished into the vestige of a province. LOYALTY OATHS In the provinces around the Mediterranean world, the Romans imposed their rule through bonds of loyalty forged between the people and the emperor. One means of forging these bonds was by offering and in some cases requiring the provincials to swear loyalty oaths to the emperor. 109. BODY, SOUL, AND LIFE FOR AUGUSTUS (3 bce)4 The first loyalty oath we shall consider was sworn in the northern area of Asia Minor, known as Paphlagonia, to Augustus and his descendants. It is of interest to us because its description of what one will sacrifice on behalf of the emperor might be answered by Paul’s blessing on those who worship the rival “God of peace” in 1 Thess. 5:23. Of Imperator Caesar, son of the god, Augustus, in the twelfth consulship, third year, on March 6 in Grangra, the oath completed 4. IGRR 2:137; OGIS 532; ILS 8781; my translation of Greek text and its bracketed words as found in OGIS 532.
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by those living in Paphlagonia and the Romans who do business among them: I swear by Zeus, Earth, Sun, all the gods [and] goddesses, and Augustus himself that I will be favorable toward Caesar Augustus and his children and progeny all the time of my [life] in word and action and thought, considering as friends those whom they may consider and holding as enemies those whom they may judge, and for what matters to them I will spare neither body [nor] soul nor life nor children, but in every way for the things that affect them I will undergo every danger; and whatever I might perceive or hear against them being said or planned or done, I will report it and I will be an enemy to the person saying or planning or doing [any of] these things; and whomever they judge to be their enemies, these, on land and sea, with arms and steel will I pursue and ward off. If I do anything contrary to this [oath] or anything not in agreement with what I have sworn, I pray that there may come upon myself, my body and soul and life, my children and all my family and whatever is of benefit to us, destruction, total destruction, till the end of all my line [and] of all my descendants, and may neither the [body] of my family or of my descendants by earth or [sea] be received, nor may bear fruit [for them]. They swore according to these very [words] in the lands of Augustus throughout the provinces by the altars [of Augustus]. And similarly the Phazimonians living in what is [now] called [Neapo]lis [swore the oath], all of them, in the Augustan temple by the [altar of] Augustus. 110. LOYALTY OATH TO CALIGULA (37 ce)5 Here is an oath dated to May 11, 37, from Aritium in Lusitania. While Gaius Ummidius Drumius Quadratus was legate for the praetors of the emperor Gaius Caesar Germanicus. Let those of Aritria swear: In sincerity of my spirit, that I will be the enemy of those I recognize to be enemies of Gaius Caesar Germanicus; and if someone is threatening or will threaten danger to him or his safekeeping, I will not relent from pursuing him till he has fully paid what he owes to him. [Neither] will I regard [my self] nor 5. ILS 1.190; my translation of Latin text in of Smallwood 32.
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my children more precious than his safekeeping. Also, I will hold those who happen to have hostility toward him as my enemies. If I [knowingly] intentionally act or have acted falsely, then let Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the divine Augustus and all other undying gods make destitute country, safety, and everyone’s fortune. May 11 in old city of Aritium, when Gnaeus Acerronius Proculus and Gaius Petronius Pontius Nigrinus are consuls, when Vegetus, son of Tallicus is magistrate . . . 111. PILGRIMAGE, SACRIFICES, AND OATH FOR CALIGULA (37 ce)6 In this excerpt, note the thoughtful care and expense that went into this delegation’s trip, its oath, and sacrifices, at the beginning of the reign of Gaius Caligula. It is from Assus, in the area of Greece known as the Troad. When Gnaeus Aceronius Proculus and Gaius Pontius Petronius Nigrinus were consuls—a proclamation of the Assians according to the people’s choosing: Because the reign that was hoped for and sought in prayer has been proclaimed, of Gaius Caesar Germanicus Augustus, and because the world has no limits to its happiness, and because all of the city and all of the province has intensely wished to view the god, because humanity’s most delightful time is now here upon us, it seemed [good] to the board and to the Romans doing business among us and to the assembly of the Assians to form a delegation of the leading and influential Romans and Greeks to meet him, offer congratulations, and ask him to keep our city in his mind and watchfulness, as he promised on his own when first he came, with Germanicus his father, to our city’s province. The Assians’ Oath: We swear by the Savior Zeus and the god Caesar Augustus and the Holy Maiden of our ancestors that we will aid Gaius Caesar Augustus and his entire household and will consider our friends whomever he might choose and, as our enemies, whomever he might accuse. If we are genuinely swearing, may it go well for us, but if perjuring, [let] opposite things [come].
6. IGRR 4.251; my translation based on Greek text of Smallwood 33. Bracketed words are my own addition.
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The representatives kept their promise out of their own resources. Gaius Varius Castus, son of Gaius, of Voltinia tribe, Hermophanes, son of Zoilus, Ctetus, son of Pisistratus, Aechrion, son of Calliphanes, Artemidorus, son of Philomusus, these indeed, after praying for the safekeeping of Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, offered sacrifice to Zeus of the Capitol in the name of our city. GAIUS CALIGULA 112. LETTER OF GAIUS CALIGULA TO THE DELEGATION OF ACRAEPHIA IN BOEOTIA (37 ce)7 We do not possess an official response to the Assians’ oath, meeting, and sacrifices when they visited Rome at the beginning of Caligula’s reign. But we do possess this emperor’s official response to a similar delegation. One may compare Caligula’s response here with his later decree that a statue of him be installed in the temple of Jerusalem. [Emp]eror Augustus Caesar, descended from the god Augustus, grandson of Tiberius Caesar, high priest, with the power of the tribune, consul, to the united body of Achaeans, Boeotians, Locrians, Phocians and Euboeans, greeting. After reading the proclamation offered me by your delegates and observing that you held nothing back in your generosity of [enthus]iasm and devotion to me, since each of you has planned to sacrifice on behalf of my health and you have united in a shared holiday and have announced the highest honors possible for you, I congratulate you for all these and send my favorable response, aware of the genius of each of the Greek people groups from long ago; I give you permission to meet as a united body. But in regard to the statues of me that you announced, hold off on most of them, if you please, and be content with the ones planned to be installed at Olympia, Nemea, Delphi, and on the isthmus, in order that you can trouble yourselves with low[er expe]nses. The delegates whose names stand written below offered me your decree. Be well. Leader of the delegation: . . . Off[ered] in Rome on the 19th day of August.
7. ILS 8792; my translation of Greek text and bracketed words as found in Smallwood 361.
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The office of emperor was definitely a node from which religious myths and political mechanisms emanated, bringing control of Rome to the world. Ready to absorb new religions when their proponents offered loyalty oaths and worship to the genius of the Roman emperor, the Principate was caught off guard by the Christians, who worshiped the God of Israel, had no arrangement with Rome for offering sacrifices on the emperor’s behalf as the Jews did in the Jerusalem temple, and refused to worship the emperor. Though Christianity was not illegal during the years in which the New Testament was written, its followers were considered criminal when they refused to take loyalty oaths to the emperor or would not cooperate when asked to offer sacrifice to the emperor. CLAUDIUS Transitions of power reveal key characteristics of societies and those attempting to lead them. 113. ANNOUNCEMENT OF DEATH OF CLAUDIUS AND NERO’S ACCESSSION (54 ce)8 Here is a draft of an announcement in Egypt of Claudius’ death and Nero’s installation as the next emperor. After filling up what was owed to his forebears, Caesar the revealed god has gone to them, and the anticipated and longed for commander of the world has been announced; the good genius of the world, the source of the greatest goods, Nero, has been announced Caesar. Therefore, we all should wear wreaths and offer ox sacrifices, to express our thanks to the gods. The first year of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the 21st of the new Augustus month. Of the twelve Caesars described in Suetonius’s biographical set by that name, five were accorded divine honors after their deaths. This means that the Roman senate apotheosized them, or declared them divine. The book of Revelation seems to be aware of an expectation that one world ruler will recover from a fatal illness or return from the dead (Rev. 13:3, 12, 14; 17:8, 11).
8. POxy 1021, my translation of Greek text in Smallwood 47.
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114. PUMPKINIFICATION OF CLAUDIUS AT HIS DEATH (54 ce)9 We will consider below the powerful belief that one of the emperors would return from the dead, but it would be best to consider here an excerpt from a spoof called the Apocolocyntosis, or “Pumpkinification” of the divine Claudius. The term apocolocyntosis is a play on the word for divinization, apotheosis. In this excerpt, we see how some Romans were able to poke fun at the Roman senate’s official declaration that Claudius had become a god. It is also useful for us as evidence that first-century peoples could think of those who were deceased as living elsewhere, after their deaths on earth. In the case of Claudius, this excerpt will end at the point where unjust practices he pursued in the Roman courts catch up with him after death. This excerpt begins with a poetic section describing how the god Phoebus Apollo sings to the three fates. Phoebus is present: glad he is to sing a merry song; Now helps the work, now full of hope upon the harp doth play; The sisters listen to the song that charms their toil away. They praise their brother’s melodies, and still the spindles run, Till more than man’s allotted span the busy hands have spun. Then Phoebus says, “O sister Fates! I pray take none away, But suffer this one life to be longer than mortal day. Like me in face and lovely grace, like me in voice and song, He’ll bid the laws at length speak out that have been dumb so long, Will give unto the weary world years prosperous and bright. Like as the daystar from on high scatters the stars of night, As, when the stars return again, clear Hesper brings his light, As the ruddy dawn drives out the dark, and brings the day, As the bright sun looks on the world, and speeds along its way His rising car from morning’s gates: so Caesar doth arise, So Nero shows his face to Rome before the people’s eyes, His bright and shining countenance illumines all the air, While down upon his graceful neck fall rippling waves of hair.”10 Thus Apollo. But Lachesis, quite as ready to cast a favorable eye on a handsome man, spins away by the handful, and bestows years and years upon Nero out of her own pocket. As for Claudius, they tell everybody 9. Seneca, Apocolocyntosis; translation from the public domain translation, Seneca: Apocolocyntosis, W. H. D. Rouse, trans. (London: William Heinemann, 1913). 10. Nero was famous for his wavy hair.
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to speed him on his way With cries of joy and solemn litany. At once he bubbled up the ghost, and there was an end to that shadow of a life. He was listening to a troupe of comedians when he died, so you see I have reason to fear those gentry. The last words he was heard to speak in this world were these. When he had made a great noise with that end of him which talked easiest, he cried out, “Oh dear, oh dear! I think I have made a mess of myself.” Whether he did or no, I cannot say, but certain it is he always did make a mess of everything. What happened next on earth it is mere waste of time to tell, for you know it all well enough, and there is no fear of your ever forgetting the impression which that public rejoicing made on your memory. No one forgets his own happiness. What happened in heaven you shall hear: for proof please apply to my informant. Word comes to Jupiter that a stranger had arrived, a man well set up, pretty grey; he seemed to be threatening something, for he wagged his head ceaselessly; he dragged the right foot. They asked him what nation he was of; he answered something in a confused mumbling voice: his language they did not understand. He was no Greek and no Roman, nor of any known race.11 On this Jupiter bids Hercules go and find out what country he comes from; you see, Hercules had travelled over the whole world, and might be expected to know all the nations in it. But Hercules, the first glimpse he got, was really much taken aback, although not all the monsters in the world could frighten him; when he saw this new kind of object, with its extraordinary gait, and the voice of no terrestrial beast, but such as you might hear in the leviathans of the deep, hoarse and inarticulate, he thought his thirteenth labor had come upon him. When he looked closer, the thing seemed to be a kind of man. Up he goes, then, and says what your Greek finds readiest to his tongue: “Who are you, and what your people? Who your parents, where your home?”12 11. The phrase “no Greek and no Roman” plays on a court case that Claudius oversaw in which a Greek had unlawfully pretended to be a Roman citizen. When a dispute ensued regarding whether the defendant should be required to wear a Greek tunic or allowed to wear a Roman toga during his trial, Claudius ruled that the defendant should wear the Greek tunic when accused and the Roman toga when defended (Suetonius, Claud. 15.2).
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Claudius was delighted to find literary men up there, and began to hope there might be some corner for his own historical works. So he caps him with another Homeric verse, explaining that he was Caesar: “Breezes wafted me from Ilion unto the Ciconian land.” But the next verse was more true, and no less Homeric: “Thither come, I sacked a city, slew the people every one.”13 The gods begin to debate whether to accept Claudius as a god on Mount Olympus and what sort of god he should be. It almost looks as though Claudius will be made a god when the deified Augustus (first emperor of Rome) makes a speech ending with a motion to remove Claudius from heaven and send him to the underworld. Then arose the blessed Augustus, when his turn came, and spoke with much eloquence. “I call you to witness, my lords and gentlemen,” said he, “that since the day I was made a god I have never uttered one word. I always mind my own business. But now I can keep on the mask no longer, nor conceal the sorrow which shame makes all the greater. Is it for this I have made peace by land and sea? For this have I calmed civil wars? For this, laid a firm foundation of law for Rome, adorned it with buildings, and all that—my lords, words fail me; there are none can rise to the height of my indignation. I must borrow that saying of the eloquent Messala Corvinus, ‘I am ashamed of my authority.’14 This man, my lords, who looks as though he could not hurt a fly, used to chop off heads as easily as a dog sits down.15 But why should I speak of all those men, and such men? There is no time to lament for public disasters, when one has so many private sorrows to think of. I leave that, therefore, and say only this; for even if my sister knows no Greek, I do: ‘The knee is nearer than the shin.’16 This man you see, who for so many years has been masquerading under my name, has done 12. A quotation from Homer, Odyssey 1.17. The quotations from the Odyssey are particularly apt in a satire of this sort, since Claudius was known for his penchant for quoting Homer (Suetonius, Claud. 42). 13. The last two lines are from Homer, Odyssey 9.39–40. 14. Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus, after recommending that Augustus be given the title “father of the fatherland,” was appointed prefect of the city in 25 bce, but resigned after six days in office, and is famous for the phrase quoted here by Augustus. 15. As will be emphasized in the following paragraphs, Claudius was rather cruel as an emperor, executing many without even the semblance of a trial (Suetonius, Claud. 29).
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me the favor of murdering two Julias, great-granddaughters of mine, one by cold steel and one by starvation; and one great grandson, L. Silanus—see, Jupiter, whether he had a case against him (at least it is your own, if you will be fair). Come tell me, blessed Claudius, why of all those you killed, both men and women, without a hearing, why you did not hear their side of the case first, before putting them to death? Where do we find that custom?17 It is not done in heaven. Look at Jupiter: all these years he has been king, and never did more than once break Vulcan’s leg, ‘Whom seizing by the foot he cast from the threshold of the sky,’18 and once he fell in a rage with his wife and strung her up: did he do any killing? You killed Messalina, whose great-uncle I was no less than yours. ‘I don’t know,’ did you say? Curse you! That is just it; not to know was worse than to kill. Caligula he went on persecuting even when he was dead. Caligula murdered his father-in-law, Claudius his son-in-law to boot. Caligula would not have Crassus’ son called Great; Claudius gave him his name back, and took away his head. In one family he destroyed Crassus, Magnus, Scribonia, the Tristionias, Assario, noble though they were; Crassus indeed such a fool that he might have been emperor. Is this he you want now to make a god? Look at his body, born under the wrath of heaven! In fine, let him say the three words quickly, and he may have me for a slave.19 God! who will worship this god, who will believe in him? While you make gods of such as he, no one will believe you to be gods. To be brief, my lords: if I have lived honorably among you, if I have never given plain speech to any, avenge my wrongs. This is my motion.” Then he read out his amendment, which he had committed to writing: “Inasmuch as the blessed Claudius murdered his fatherin-law Appius Silanus, his two sons-in-law, Pompeius Magnus and L. Silanus, Crassus Frugi his daughter’s father-in-law, as like him as two eggs in a basket, Scribonia his daughter’s mother-in-law, his wife Messalina, and others too numerous to mention; I propose that strong measures be taken against him, that he be allowed no 16. It is unclear how this proverb is functioning here. Perhaps it relates to Augustus’s focus on his own kin whom Claudius killed, rather than people from the general public. 17. Claudius was known for his devotion to ancient customs (Suetonius, Claud. 22). 18. Homer, Iliad 1.591. 19. The challenge is focused on Claudius’s slowness and stammer, though we are not sure what specific phrase of three words’ length was in view.
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delay of process, that immediate sentence of banishment be passed on him, that he be deported from heaven within thirty days, and from Olympus within thirty hours.” This motion was passed without further debate. Not a moment was lost: Mercury screwed his neck and haled him to the lower regions, to that destination “from which they say no traveler returns.”20 As they passed downwards along the Sacred Way, Mercury asked what was that great concourse of men. Could it be Claudius’ funeral? It was certainly a most gorgeous spectacle, got up regardless of expense, clear it was that a god was being borne to the grave: tooting of flutes, roaring of horns, an immense brass band of all sorts, such a din that even Claudius could hear it. Joy and rejoicing on every side, the Roman people walking about like free men. Agatho and a few fuddy duddy lawyers were weeping for grief, and for once they sort of meant it. The judges were crawling out of their dark corners, pale and thin, with hardly a breath in their bodies, as though just coming to life again. One of them, when he saw the fuddy duddy lawyers putting their heads together, and lamenting their sad lot, up he comes and says: “Didn’t I tell you the Saturnalia could not last for ever?”21 When Claudius saw his own funeral train, he understood that he was dead. For they were chanting his dirge in anapests, with much moping and mouthing: “Pour forth your laments, your sorrow declare, Let the sounds of grief rise high in the air: For he that is dead had a wit most keen, Was bravest of all that on earth have been. Racehorses are nothing to his swift feet: Rebellious Parthians he did defeat; Swift after the Persians his light shafts go: For he well knew how to fit arrow to bow, Swiftly the striped barbarians fled: With one little wound he shot them dead. 20. Catullus, Poems, 3.12. 21. Saturnalia was the festival in mid-December dedicated to the god Saturn, in which everyone—including masters and slaves—was to switch roles. The valid judges who could reemerge now that Claudius had died are describing the thirteen years of his reign as one long Saturnalia festival.
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And the Britons beyond in their unknown seas, Blue-shielded Brigantians too, all these He chained by the neck as the Romans’ slaves. He spoke, and the ocean with trembling waves Accepted the axe of the Roman law. O weep for the man! This world never saw One quicker a troublesome suit to decide, When only one part of the case had been tried, (He could do it indeed and not hear either side). Who’ll now sit in judgment the whole year round? Now he that is judge of the shades underground Once ruler of a hundred cities in Crete, Must yield to his better and take a back seat.22 Mourn, mourn, idle lawyers, you bribe-taking crew, And you, minor poets, woe, woe is to you! And you above all, who get rich quick By the rattle of dice and the three card trick.”23
Claudius was charmed to hear his own praises sung, and would have stayed longer to see the show. But the Talthybius24 of the gods laid a hand on him, and led him across the Campus Martius, first wrapping his head up close that no one might know him, until between Tiber and the subway he went down to the lower regions. His freedman Narcissus had gone down before him by a short cut, ready to welcome his master.25 Out he comes to meet him, smooth and shining (he had just left the bath), and says he: “What make the gods among mortals?” “Look alive,” says Mercury, “go and tell them we are coming.” Away he flew, quicker than tongue can tell. It is easy going by that road, all down hill. So although he had a touch of the gout, in a moment they were at Dis’s door. There lay Cerberus, or, as Horace puts it, the hundred-headed 22. A reference to King Minos, who ruled all of Crete justly and then became one of the three judges of the underworld. 23. Horace, Odes 2.13.35 24. Talthybius, herald, is used here for Mercury. 25. Tiberius Claudius Narcissus was famous as one of Claudius’s favorite freedman who served as his loyal secretary (Suetonius, Claud. 28, 37). He was executed at the instigation of Agrippina (Claudius’s widow and mother of the next emperor, Nero) within weeks of Claudius’s assassination. Since he was very wealthy, his household may have continued for some years and perhaps the house church mentioned by Paul in Rom. 16:11 was composed of slaves and freedmen/women of his household (Robert Jewett, Romans: A Commentary, Hermeneia [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006], 967–68).
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monster. Claudius was a trifle perturbed (it was a little white dog he used to keep for a pet) when he spied this black shag-haired hound, not at all the kind of thing you could wish to meet in the dark. In a loud voice he cried, “Claudius is coming!” All marched before him singing, “The lost is found, O let us rejoice together!”26 Here were found C. Silius consul elect, Juncus the ex-praetor, Sextus Traulus, M. Helvius, Trogus, Cotta, Vettius Valens, Fabius, Roman knights whom Narcissus had ordered for execution. In the midst of this chanting company was Mnester the mime, whom Claudius for honor’s sake had made shorter by a head. The news was soon blown about that Claudius had come: to Messalina they thronged: first his freedmen, Polybius, Myron, Harpocras, Amphaeus, Pheronactus, all sent before him by Claudius that he might not be unattended anywhere;27 next two prefects, Justus Catonius and Rufrius Pollio; then his friends, Saturninus, Lusius and Pedo Pompeius and Lupus and Celer Asinius, these of consular rank; last came his brother’s daughter, his sister’s daughter, sons-in-law, fathers and mothers-in-law, the whole family in fact. In a body they came to meet Claudius; and when Claudius saw them, he exclaimed, “Friends everywhere, on my word! How came you all here?” To this Pedo Pompeius answered, “What, cruel man? How came we here? Who but you sent us, you, the murderer of all the friends that ever you had? To court with you! I’ll show you where their lordships sit.” 28 115. A PORTRAIT OF CLAUDIUS (ca. 57 ce)29 The notion ridiculed by the preceding satire is represented without irony in this cameo, of sardonyx and gold, representing Claudius as a deified being.
26. This is a play on a common chant in the worship of Osiris. 27. Suetonius mentions how the paranoid Claudius usually required all those visiting him to be frisked, rooms he was entering to be searched, and a bodyguard to accompany him everywhere (Claud. 35). The point here is that since he always wanted to be guarded, he ordered some of his subjects to be executed so that they could attend him in hell. 28. Homer, Iliad 9.385 29. Sardonyx and gold cameo, first century; from the Cabinet des Médailles, Paris. By Atelier de Tienen (Clio20) (GFDL [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html], CC-BY-SA-3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/] or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0]), via Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cameo_Claudius_Cdm_Paris_Chab220.jpg
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NERO In traditional summaries of Nero’s reign, a five-year period of his fourteenyear reign is considered his “five good years” or simply the quinqennium, a period when there was relative peace in the empire and when Nero governed responsibly. The idea that Nero governed effectively for a five-year period and then lapsed into incompetence because of growing irresponsibility in his own life seems to come from the following paragraph in Aurelius Victor’s Book on the Caesars. Though this author lived in the fourth century, he does refer to Trajan, who reigned as princeps from 98 to 117, as identifying five good years in Nero’s reign. The problem with this identification, at least as described in the selection below, is that the examples of Nero’s good administration occurred in 64 (annexation of Pontus Polemoniacus) and 65 (annexation of the Cottian Alps).30 I wonder if Trajan’s remark, described below, may simply reflect that emperor’s longing for what he perceived as a more glorious past, when a younger empire could extend its borders more easily than it could do half a century later. 116. THE FIVE GOOD YEARS OF NERO (54–59 ce?)31 Though for quite a while, the youth [i.e., Nero] exerted absolute rule, for as long as his stepfather did, nevertheless he was so significant, especially in extending the city, so that Trajan correctly and rather frequently remarked that all the emperors lagged quite far behind the five-year period of Nero. In that time, he brought Pontus to the jurisdiction of a province, with Polemon’s agreement, for whom it is named Pontus Polemoniacus, and he did the same with the Cottian Alps after the monarch Cottius died. So it is definitely the case that young age is not a hindrance to brilliant rule, but this brilliance can quickly change when one’s character is spoiled by laxity, and the lack of laws over young people’s behavior leads to awful results later. For he passed what remained of his life in such a shameless way that one is unsettled and ashamed to remember that someone like him ever lived, not to mention that he ruled nations.
30. Robert K. Sherk, trans. and ed., The Roman Empire: Augustus to Hadrian (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 74n1. 31. Aurelius Victor, Liber de Caesaribus 5.2–4, my translation of Latin text at http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/victor.caes.html#5.
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117. NERO LIBERATES GREECE (67 ce)32 In the year before he died, Nero made an extensive tour of Greece, where he was very popular. Here is an address that Nero gave on this tour, announcing freedom from Roman taxation, found on a marble stele in the area of Greece known as Boetia. Nero died at his own hand, unpopular and in peril of being deposed by his army. He was not deified, as was his predecessor Claudius. Though his memory was not damned by the Senate, some occurrences of his name in this inscription have been erased, always worth noting, since erasing an inscription in marble takes deliberate effort. The erased letters for “only Nero” are therefore marked by an underlined font below, as found in the original text reproduced by E. Mary Smallwood. Though the quotation of this inscription ends with his famous “only Nero” line here, there are four more times that his name was erased in the rest of the inscription. Emperor Caesar announces: Because of its good will and devotion to me, I want to give something back to noble Greece, and so I direct as many as possible from this province to gather at Corinth on November 28. When the crowds came together in an ekklēsia, he said what follows: You Greek men—here is an unanticipated gift—though nothing from my generosity is not hoped for, I give you a grander gift than you could request. All you in Achaia and the Greeks living on what up until now is the Peloponnesus, get free status with no taxes—a gift no one of you ever held in your best of times, when you were subjected to other or your own rulers. I wish that Greece were still as thriving as it once was so that more citizens might benefit from this my grace. Therefore, I blame the circumstances of the time for cutting short the greatness of my grace. Now it is not from pity for you, but rather from my beneficence that I give this gift, and I give this in response to your gods, whose providence toward me on land and sea I have always known, since they gave me the charge to bestow such favors. Other rulers have liberated cities, only Nero even a province.
32. ILS 2.8794; my translation of Greek text in Smallwood 64.
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118. NERO BLAMES CHRISTIANS FOR FIRE IN ROME (64 ce) 33 The well-known account of Nero blaming the fire that burned in Rome on Christians illustrates the precarious place that Christians held under the Principate. Note Tacitus’s conclusion in this excerpt that though undeserving of Nero’s blame for starting the fire, Christians were still socially odious. §38. An awful event came next. Whether it happened by chance or was maliciously engineered by the emperor is still debatable, since writers have taken either side, an event more terrifying than any other fires that have brutally ravaged this city. It began in the area of the circus next to the Palatine and Caelian Hills, among the stores that sold fireproof goods. The fire began and immediately became so intense that it held in its grip the whole length of the circus. Here no houses stood with stone fencing, no walled temples, nor any other hindrance that would slow it down. This fire in its rage moved at first across the level parts of Rome, then it rose up the hills, while still destroying all below, outrunning every defensive attempt, so quick the scourge and so vulnerable the city, with its tight, crooked alleys and streets, characteristic of old Rome. To compound the disaster, there were the cries of fear-stricken women, the invalid elderly, defenseless and weak children, throngs trying to deliver themselves or someone else—hauling out the invalids or waiting for them—and by their delay or their hurrying they hindered the whole situation. And many times when they turned back, flames caught them at their flanks or directly in front. Or when they gained a safe place near them, once the fire reached it, they realized that the spots they thought to be safely removed were vulnerable to the common danger. Finally, unsure what to flee and where to go, they filled streets or fell down in open fields; some of these had lost all possessions, including their food, and others their families whom they so loved, died even though ways to safety were wide open for them. And no one was brave enough to fight it, since a number of people were constantly threatening that the fire should not be extinguished and others were brazenly throwing firebrands, shouting that no one had authorized the fire extinguishing. They
33. Tacitus, Ann. 15.38–44; my translation of Latin text in Tacitus V: The Annals Books XIII–XVI, trans. John Jackson, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1937).
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were either trying to pillage more easily or else following someone’s directive. §39. Nero then was in Antium; he did not come back to Rome till the fire came near his home, which he had constructed to join the imperial palace to the terraces of Maecenas. But the fire could not be blocked from consuming the palace, home, and all surrounding it. Nevertheless, to comfort the populace who were now rendered homeless, he opened the Campus Martius and Agrippa’s public buildings, and constructed short-term buildings to house the impoverished crowd. Useful supplies were delivered from Ostia and surrounding cities, and the corn price was lowered to three sesterces per peck. These measures gained the people’s favor but had no real consequences, because a story was circulating throughout the city that right when Rome was burning, he stood on a household stage and sang about the fall of Troy, likening the contemporary disaster with the catastrophe of long ago. §40. On the sixth day, the fire was extinguished at the bottom of the Esquiline Hill, by destroying all structures across a wide area, so that the raging of the fire encountered only empty earth and open heaven. But even before all anxieties cleared or hope came back to the people, the fire blazed back, with just as much intensity this time, and particularly in the more grand areas of the city. So even though fewer lives were lost, the gods’ and goddesses’ temples, and the piazzas set aside for the people’s pleasure, were demolished in a wider circle of devastation. This fire gained in notoriety, since it flamed into Tigellinus’s holdings in the Aemilian area, making it appear that Nero was seeking splendor by starting a new city named for himself.34 Rome is segmented into fourteen precincts. Four of these were unharmed; three were destroyed to the earth; while only a measly number of shaken and half-burned skeletons of houses remained in the other seven precincts. §41. It would be difficult to calculate the number of private estates, apartment buildings, and temples that were destroyed. Some with the most ancient heritage, such as the temple Servius Tullius 34. Tigellinus was prefect of the praetorian guard in 62–68 ce. In 64, when this fire raged, he was still closely allied with the emperor Nero.
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consecrated to Luna, the large altar and shrine dedicated by Evander of Arcadia to the incarnate Hercules, Romulus’s temple dedicated to Jupiter the Defender, Numa’s regal mansion, and the temple of Vesta, with the guardian gods of the Romans, were all burned. Also destroyed were the treasures gained by all our conquests, different masterpieces of Greek art, also the old and original monuments of brilliant men, and despite the impressive glory of the new city, the seniors among us will recall a number of institutions that are irreplaceable. Some noted that the start of the fire was on July 19, the day when the Senones conquered and burned Rome. Some others have promoted an unusual investigation in order to describe the time period between these two fires into an identically numbered trio of years, months, and days.35 §42. In the meantime, Nero made full advantage of his state’s devastation, and built an estate where gems and gold that are common by lavish spending were not as spectacular as the open grounds and lakes, with a forest on the one hand to function as primeval wilds and open lands on the other hand that offered expansive vistas. The designers and contractors on the project were Severus and Celer; these had the brilliance and daring to try by technology what nature denied, thus exhausting the emperor’s finances. They even tried to dig a canal for boat traffic from Lake Avernus to the mouth of the Tiber, either through a barren area or through hills, where there is not water supply, except the Pontine swamps. The rest of the terrain is shattered rock and very arid. If it were dug, the labor would be unbearable and unsuccessful. But Nero, who loved the unbelievable, tried to chisel through the hills nearby to Lake Avernus, and to this day one can see evidence of his frustrated hope. §43. At the same time, the rest of Rome that was not devoured by Nero’s estate was not reconstructed willy-nilly, as it was after the Gauls burned it, but instead with lines of measured streets, broad boulevards, with a limit placed on the height of houses, and the additional construction of porticoes that sheltered the front of 35. This occurred around 390 bce. John Jackson notes that in 1843, a scholar named Grotefend explained the “trio” mentioned by stating that the time between the fires can be described as 418 years 418 months 418 days (Jackson’s note in Tacitus V, 278n1).
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apartment buildings. Nero vowed he would build these porticoes with his own money, and that he would assign the open fields, when they were cleaned of rubbish, to the landowners. He also promised rewards in accordance with a person’s rank and wealth, and set a term by an amount of time by which they would obtain the rewards when a certain number of houses or apartment buildings were built. He decided on the swamps around Ostia for the debris, and made arrangements for the ships that carried grain up the Tiber to return downriver with loads of debris. The new structures were to be of a specified height, soundly made with no beams of wood, but rather stone of Gabii or Alba, since that does not burn. And in order to ensure that the water channels that had been redirected by some for their own use might flow more fully to several public sites, officials were designated, and every inhabitant was to keep some instrument for extinguishing fire in his or her courtyard. Every new structure was to be surrounded by its own wall, not by a wall shared with others. These adjustments, approved for their usefulness, brought good looks to the newly constructed city as well. But some maintained that its former setup had been better for health, since the tight streets and high buildings had not allowed the sun to beat down equally on them, and now the more open areas that were unprotected by shade were seared by a more savage light. §44. These were the measures provided by human counsels. Another task was to find a way to satisfy the gods. People consulted the Sibylline volumes, from which intercession was made to Vulcan, Ceres, and Proserpina. Juno also was petitioned by married women, at first in the area of the capitol, after that on the seacoast closest to Rome, from where water was available for sprinkling the goddess’s sanctuary and image. And the matrons held holy banquets and nighttime prayer services. But all these human attempts, all the generous donations by the emperor, and the measures taken to appease the gods did not extinguish the foreboding impression that the fire came from an imperial decree. So to eliminate this story, Nero attached guilt and placed most imaginative torments on a group detested for their shameful crimes, named Christians in common idiom. Christus, who forms the basis of their name, suffered capital punishment under the rule of Tiberius by the administration of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and the very insidious
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superstition, blocked temporarily, erupted again not just in Judea—the primary source of the mischief—but also in Rome, where everything grotesque and contemptible flows and is celebrated. Because of this, all who admitted their part in this mischief were arrested; afterward, from the leads these provided, a large number were found guilty, not really for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred against humanity. All kinds of fun were made in their executions. After being wrapped in animal hides, they were ripped apart by dogs and died, or were attached to crosses, or were sentenced to be lit on fire and burned as nighttime lamps. Nero contributed his terraces for the show, and was also hosting a spectacle at the circus, where he—dressed as a chariot driver—mixed with the people, or stood up on a chariot. Thus it was that even though these outlaws merited such strong, public punishment, some felt pity for them, since they were being exterminated not really for the good of the state, but to satisfy one person’s cruelty. 119. NERO ENDORSED BY JUPITER ON DENARIUS (66–67 ce)36 Here is a coin from the end of Nero’s reign. Note how the juxtaposition of Nero’s image with guardian Jupiter on this coin connotes the sponsorship of Nero’s rule by the highest god available in the Greco-Roman pantheon.
36. RIC 64; RSC 121; Permission to use the images of this coin from the rights holder, Roma Numismatics Ltd.—romanumismatics.com—is gratefully acknowledged. http://www.coinarchives.com/ cf79e98cce7f87f8bd49120e8500f858/img/roma/005/image00699.jpg.
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The obverse of this denarius reads IMP[ERATOR] NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS, or “Emperor Nero Caesar Augustus.” The reverse side reads IVPPITER CVSTOS, or “Guardian Jupiter.” Jupiter is holding a thunderbolt and scepter. One does not need to be an expert in ancient coins to see the claims for power made by this coin. 120. NERO’S HEAVY HAND ON THE PEOPLE OF ROME (54–68 ce)37 The large fire that Tacitus records in his annals for the time of Nero, as presented above, is corroborated by Suetonius’s biography of Nero. The latter does not mention how Nero blamed the Christians for the fire. However, it is worth looking at Suetonius’s descriptions of Nero’s punishment of Christians and of the fire, since these selections include other evidence of the people’s discontent with Nero and Nero’s persecution of Christians. In the first of the two excerpts from Suetonius’s biography of Nero, we get a list of heavy-handed actions Nero took in governing Rome. §16.2. Under him, many were severely punished and restrained, and no fewer [laws] instituted: a guideline was set for consumption, general feasts were reduced to little food baskets; food was no longer allowed to be sold in the taverns except for beans and vegetables, when before every kind of dish was offered for sale, punishments were imposed on Christians, a group of people of a new and evildoing superstition; he prohibited the chariot drivers’ amusement, who by license from times gone by would wander around to cheat and rob people for fun; the fan groups of pantomime actors as well as the actors themselves he banished with one decree. 121. POPULAR CRITICISM OF NERO (64–68 ce)38 After describing how Nero would publically snub the senators, Suetonius shifts to describing how Nero made life miserable for equestrians and those with no
37. Suetonius, Nero 16.2; my translation of Latin text in Suetonius II, trans. J. C. Rolfe, LCL (London: William Heinemann, 1914). 38. Suetonius, Nero 38–39; my translation of Latin text in Rolfe, Suetonius II. The quotation from an anonymous fragment of Greek tragedy at the beginning of 38, the poetic sections and the taunts of hecklers in 39 are verbatim quotations from Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, trans. Robert Graves (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957).
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rank as well. His example par excellence is the fire of 64 ce, which Suetonius directly ascribes to Nero’s instigation. §38. But he did not spare people or the ancestral walls. When a person in course of common discourse said, “When death comes my way, may earth be swallowed in fire,” he said, “No, ‘while I live . . .’” and he acted accordingly. For as though offended by the rundown condition of old buildings and the narrow, winding streets, he lit fire to the city so brazenly that a number of former consuls caught his associates with oakum and pine brands on their properties, but did not arrest them. He also desired the property of several grain storehouses, next to the golden house. Once demolishing the walls with siege machines, he set fire to the insides, though the wall was constructed of stone. This fire savagely continued for six days and seven nights, prompting many to take refuge around monuments or in the tombs.39 Not simply many apartment buildings, but residences that were owned by well-known generals that were yet adorned with spoils of their victories were burned, temples as well, founded in the days of the kings, and still others that were consecrated during the wars against Carthage and Gaul, even every old monument that was historically significant and had stood till then. Nero observed the fire from the tower of Maecenas, engrossed in “the beauty of the flames,” as he described it. Then he donned the clothing of a tragic actor and sang the whole of “The Fall of Ilium.” He said he would pay for the removal of corpses and debris, but he prohibited anyone from combing through the charred remains on his own estate, since he wished to gather as many spoils as he could by himself. After this, he initiated a fund for the relief of damages from the fire, and compelled people to contribute, so that the provinces and private citizens had almost no money left. §39. Fate added some surprises to the calamities occurring while Nero ruled. One autumn, thirty thousand plague-caused deaths were 39. Suetonius states this as though the tombs were a place where the fire could not reach. The later historical development of Christians frequenting the catacombs for their worship and shelter is probably coincidental. But it is possible that Suetonius is associating the Christians’ use of the catacombs with what seems to be the second known event that made the Christians politically vulnerable in Rome, the fire of 64 ce. (The first would be Claudius’s expulsion of Jews “at the instigation of Chrestus.” See Suetonius, Claud. 25.4.)
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recorded at the temple of Libitina.40 Two significant Roman settlements in Britain were stormed, and high numbers were annihilated, both Romans and their collaborators. Legions stationed in Armenia were disgracefully beaten and enslaved, and we nearly lost Syria then as well. Yet it was unexpected how surprisingly passive Nero appeared in the face of criticisms that all leveled toward him, especially in the genres of Greek and Latin parodies. Here are some illustrations of poetic lines written on the city’s walls or that circulated by word of mouth: Alcmaeon, Orestes, and Nero are brothers, Why? Because all of them murdered their mothers. Count the numerical values Of the letters in Nero’s name, And in “murdered his own mother”: You will find their sum is the same.41 Aeneas the Trojan hero Carried off his aged father; His remote descendant Nero Likewise carried off (or rather Let Death carry off) his mother: Heroes worthy of each other.42 Though Nero may pluck the chords of a lyre, And the Parthian King the string of a bow, He who chants to the lyre with heavenly fire Is Apollo as much as his far-darting foe. 40. In her translation of Suetonius, The Caesars (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2011), 254, Donna Hurley notes that Libitina was the goddess of corpses, and that these corpses were found in the fall of 65 ce. 41. This poem, written in Greek in Suetonius’s Latin text, exemplifies a word game known as isopsephism. See the discussion at the end of this excerpt. 42. This six-line poem contrasts how pious Aeneas rescued his father from burning Troy by carrying the aged man out of the city (see the ending of book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid) with the way that the emperor Nero, a descendant of Aeneas according to imperial mythology, murdered his mother. The portrait of Christ as an obedient son that is especially prominent in Hebrews may be following up on the way that the Romans valued filial piety, exemplified by Aeneas (Heb. 3:2-6; 5:8; 12:1-11).
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The Palace is spreading and swallowing Rome! Let us all flee to Veii and make it our home. Yet the Palace is growing so damnably fast That it threatens to gobble up Veii at last.43 At no time did he attempt to track down the authors; when a source delivered to the senate several names, Nero directed that they should be readily acquitted. One time as he was walking on the street, the Cynic Isidorus noisily heckled him: “In your song about Nauplius you make good use of ancient ills, but in all practical matters you make ill use of modern goods.” Another time, Datus the actor, performing in the Atellan genre, acted out the beginning of the song, “Goodbye father, goodbye mother,” miming actions of quaffing wine and swimming, since Claudius was poisoned while Agrippina almost drowned, and at the conclusion of the song, “Hell guides your feet . . .” he motioned toward those senators Nero intended to kill. Nero perhaps was unaffected by these sorts of taunts, or perhaps he simply acted like he didn’t care, in order not to encourage others to use their ingenuity in these ways. Whatever caused his relative apathy, all he did was to exile the actor and the philosopher. Section 39 of Suetonius’s biography of Nero is noteworthy for the discourse it preserves from those who disapproved of Nero as an emperor. As such, we have valuable evidence that helps to fill out our picture of how the imperial program was received in the middle of the first century ce. The number of the beast in Rev. 13:18 continues to prompt calculations for people from a variety of historical periods. Whether one holds to a preterist, futurist, or other reading strategy for the final book in the New Testament, all at least do well to consider how “the number of the beast” was first heard by early audiences in the first and second century.44 According to the literary evidence available, the one Roman emperor whose name was given numerical 43. This four-line poem makes fun of the way Nero gained more land for his estate after the fire of 64 ce, which Suetonius says was begun for this very purpose. Veii is a town about ten miles or sixteen kilometers mostly north of Rome. 44. A preterist approach to Revelation views its apocalyptic scenario as referring to events that happened or were considered soon to happen during the Roman Empire. A futurist approach to Revelation assumes that most of the book’s apocalyptic scenario must still lie in the future of today’s
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value is Nero. Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars is written in Latin, but the “Count the numerical values” poem occurs in his text in Greek, the language that used all its letters to represent numbers. Since the little poem begins with “Count the numerical values,” or more literally “A new calculation,” it is clear that Suetonius intends people to add up the values of the letters that follow. If we add up the values of “Nero” and the three words that follow in the Greek text that Suetonius provides, Νέρων ἰδίαν μητέρα ἀπέκτεινε, we find that the value of “Nero” is 1005, and that this is also the total of “killed his own mother.” The numerical equivalence of “Nero” with the three words that follow is what made this a morbidly funny isopsephism—an equation of two phrases with the same numerical value—in first-century Rome. Nero remains the best candidate for the identification of 666 in Rev. 13:18.45 It is also worth noting that the Greek word “beast,” when transliterated with Hebrew letters, also totals 666.46 NERO REDIVIVUS For those who are concerned to read the book of Revelation in terms of how it might have been perceived in the first century, the description of seven mountains along with seven and eight kings in Rev. 17:9-11 most readily evokes the Roman Principate. The seven mountains are easier to assign to the city of Rome, the eternal city on seven hills, than the more ambiguous seven kings, followed by an eighth who belongs to the seven (Rev. 17:11). This is because there is more ambiguity about the number of emperors during the Principate than there is regarding the number of hills on which Rome is built. Most historians today regard Augustus as the first emperor, though Suetonius begins his Twelve Caesars with a biography of Julius Caesar. So if the line of kings described in Revelation 17 refers to the Roman Principate, there is not a definite starting point at which all will agree. If it is Julius Caesar, Nero would be the sixth king; if it is Augustus, Nero would be the fifth. After Nero committed suicide at the age of thirty-one in the year 68 ce, Rome experienced “the year of the four emperors” in 69 ce, when four different men were acclaimed as emperor with two periods of overlapping months when two readers. Other approaches would include the literary and spiritual approaches, which prioritize the book’s literary arrangement or spiritual encouragement. 45. Hebrew and Greek letters were both used for numbers as well, each letter being assigned a numerical value. The letters in the Hebrew phrase נרון קסר, “Neron Caesar,” add up to 666; see Richard Bauckham’s explanation. Bauckham, The Climax of Prophecy: Studies on the Book of Revelation (London: T&T Clark, 1993) 384–407. 46. Ibid., 389–90.
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were concurrently ruling. The fourth of these, Vespasian, who was acclaimed emperor in July of 69 ce, finally rid himself of his rival Vitellius in December of that year, and went on to rule until the year 79 ce. If we begin with Julius Caesar as the first of the kings and count all four from the year of four emperors in 69, as Suetonius does in his Twelve Caesars, then Revelation 17 might be dated between June of 68 and January 69 ce, when Galba was reigning. He would be the seventh, and the eighth beast who belongs to the seven would on the basis of Revelation 17:8, 11 would be one of the seven who had returned to life. 122. NERO EXPECTED TO RETURN TO LIFE (ca. 110 ce)47 Nero committed suicide at age thirty-one, but a widespread belief held that he either was still alive or would come back to life. Revelation repeatedly describes a leader who has recovered from a mortal wound, as well as an eighth beast who belongs to the first seven beasts (Rev. 13:3, 12; 17:8, 11). These texts may usefully be read in light of contemporary expectations of Nero’s return. The first selection below, written during the reign of Domitian (81–96), shows how prevalent the Nero redivivus (“revived”) myth was. Nero was not at all stingy with money, neither in giving nor in taking. He died because of pride toward his eunuch. For getting angry, the eunuch leaked Nero’s designs to those around him, and they then rebelled against him and forced him to destroy himself then in that way. Even now, this is not yet clear, because other people think nothing will keep Nero from reigning for all of time. Even at this time, all yearn for him to be alive, and most people think he is, though somehow he has died not just once but often, with the people who think that he still lives. 123. NERO’S MYTHIC IMMORTALITY (120 ce)48 In Suetonius’s description of the end of Nero’s life, it is clear that the imperial myth as focused on Nero included the idea, held by some, that Nero would gain power in the east or come back to life again.
47. Dio Chrysostom, Discourse 21; my translation of Greek text found at http://penelope.uchicago.edu/ Thayer/H/Roman/Texts/Dio_Chrysostom/Discourses/21*.html. 48. Suetonius, Nero 40.1–3; 57.1; my translation of Latin text in Rolfe, Suetonius II.
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§40.1. Nearly fourteen years of torment had passed, and the world at last got rid of this princeps. It started with Julius Vindex, leader of Gaul, who ruled that province as propraetor then. §40.2. Astrologers one time had forecast to Nero that he would someday be pushed aside, whereupon he would voice the wellknown saying, “Art brings our livelihood.” This offered him the pretext of practicing cithara playing, which for this emperor was an avocation but for an ordinary person would be a necessary job. Yet some predicted that he would rule in the East after losing Rome, and others specified the royal throne of Jerusalem, while a number of them predicted the recovery of all his previous advantages. He comforted himself with such a hope, and after Britain and Armenia were lost and then regained by Rome, he considered himself protected from all the dire turns that were predicted. §40.3. And after asking the Delphic oracle and hearing that he needed to watch out for the seventy-third year, he concluded that that would be his age at death. He did not consider the age of Galba.49 He had such certainty, not just that he would enjoy a long life, but also that he would experience exceptional and continual prosperity, so that after losing significant riches in a shipwreck, he did not think twice of telling his confidants, “Fish will bring them back to me.” §57.1. He passed in the thirty-second year of his life, on the day he had killed Octavia.50 His passing prompted such happiness for all that everyone ran throughout the city of Rome wearing freedom hats.51 But for many years, some did not cease to adorn his grave with flowers every spring and summer; at times they brought out sculptures of him, standing on the forum’s platform in the magistrate’s toga, and they published edicts in his name, as if he still lived and in short order would return great evil on his foes.
49. Galba, the first to succeed Nero after Nero’s suicide, was seventy-three years old when he became emperor on June 9, 68 ce. His reign ended with his assassination on January 15, 69 ce. 50. Nero died on June 9, 68 ce, almost six years to the day after he had killed his wife Octavia, on June 8, 62 ce. 51. Hurley notes that slaves who had just been manumitted commonly wore small hats in celebration (The Caesars, 265n111).
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§57.2. At the time that Vologaesus, the king of the Parthians, sent a delegation to the senate to reconfirm their pact, with great emphasis he asked that Nero’s legacy be treasured. Last, twenty years later, when I was but a youth, a person of unknown origin came on the scene, making known he was Nero, which name had such appeal to the Parthians that they received him with joy and would not readily return him.
124. JEWISH PREDICTIONS OF NERO’S RETURN WITH THE PARTHIANS (80 ce)52 Other references to Nero’s return from death can be found in books 4, 5, and 8 of the Sibylline Oracles, evidence that Jews were advancing the myth of Nero redivivus decades after his death. Here are selections from book 4. An evil war will beat upon Jerusalem from Italy, and it will utterly destroy the great temple of God, when convinced in carelessness, piety they will throw off, committing outrageous murders before the temple. And then from Italy a great king, like a runaway slave, will flee, without being seen or heard over the Euphrates ford, who once brought a mother’s curse for a hateful murder, daring many other things, confident with his evil hand. Many will draw blood round the foot of Rome’s throne when that one flees past Parthia land. The princeps of Rome will come to Syria, who with fire the temple of Jerusalem burning, then will strike down many men, destroying the great land of the Jews with its broad roads. Then indeed an earthquake will demolish together Salamis and Paphos when the dark water engulfs Cyprus, washed by many waves. But then a torch, turned away from a cleft in the earth in the land of Italy, will extend to wide heaven, burning many cities and destroying men. Much smoking ash will fill the great sky, and showers will fall from heaven like red clay. Discern then the wrath of the heavenly God, for they will completely destroy the innocent tribe of the pious. Then to the west the strife of rising war will come, and the fugitive from Rome, holding a big spear, having crossed the Euphrates together with many myriads. Poor Antioch, they will no longer call you a 52. Sibylline Oracles 4.115–61; my translation of Greek text from The Online Critical Pseudepigrapha at http://ocp.tyndale.ca/sibylline-oracles#4-4.
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city when you fall under spears by your own carelessness; and then plague and awful strife of battle will destroy Cyprus. Trouble for poor Cyprus, a big sea wave will engulf you when you have been blown by winter winds. Great riches will enter Asia, whom Rome one time despoiled and stored in her house many things. It will return twice the amount and beyond to Asia, and then there will be no war. A sharp famine will demolish the Carians’ cities, ornately capped by the streams of the Maeander, when the Maeander conceals its dark water. But at a time when trust in godliness dies out among mortals, and righteousness is concealed in the world, unreliable ones who live for sacrilege will perform abomination, malicious and evil actions. No one will consider the godly, but will destroy all of them foolishly, a very immature people, celebrating abominations and dipping hands in blood. And then you will understand that God is not docile but with teeth-gnashing anger will destroy the whole of humankind at one time in great fire.53 The myth of Nero’s return from the dead, with an army of Parthians fighting behind him, is discussed in relation to the book of Revelation quite thoroughly by Richard Bauckham.54 The unequal parallel between this expectation—parodied in Rev. 13:3, 12; 17:8, 11—and the certain return of a Messiah, also returned from the dead (Rev. 1:18; 5:6, 9; 19:13), who will avenge God’s people who have suffered on earth, is central to the book.
53. 2 Thess. 1:5-8; Heb. 12:26-29; 2 Pet. 3:12; Rev. 20:9. 54. Bauckham, Climax of Prophecy, 407–50.
Conclusion Revelation maintains that Christ is above all lords and kings (Rev. 17:16; 19:16). Whether this supremacy means that the Roman Empire was ignored or directly confronted by the writers of the New Testament is contested, as discussed in the introduction to this sourcebook. But reading the Roman texts and viewing its images that are contemporary to the New Testament’s composition sharpens our focus on what was at stake, at least for some in the Roman Principate, when they decided to follow Christ (Matt. 16:26; Mark 8:36; John 21:18-19; Rev. 6:9-11). The emperors of the early Principate were proclaimed to be sons of God, and their generous gifts to people throughout the Mediterranean world were considered good news. The social contexts of urbs, collegium, and domus, wherever one traveled in that world, would be difficult to escape. To maintain one’s identity necessarily involved defining oneself in relation to these three social frameworks. And within the framework of the urbs, the city of Rome was most tenacious in exerting a hold on those under its rule, wherever they lived. Did Rome’s hold on its empire influence the ideas found in the New Testament? Certainly it did in the sense that the New Testament describes Roman officials, such as the procurator Pontius Pilate or the centurion Cornelius, encountering Jesus or his followers. But are the New Testament’s descriptions of Christ’s rule, its records of the church’s growth, or its pictures of end times written in light of or in reaction to Roman rule and the golden age that Roman propaganda traced back to Augustus? If the texts and images in this volume motivate readers to discern new dimensions in the New Testament’s voices, then this sourcebook’s venture to Rome will bear some fruit.
Index of Subjects 2 Esdras. See 4 Ezra 4 Ezra, 175
Asklepios, 149 Astraea, 180 astrology, 117 Atia (Augustus’ mother), 33–34 augur, 16 Augustales, 18 Augustan Games, 123 Augustus (Octavian), 9, 11, 30–41, 45–49, 51, 55–56, 67, 83, 89–90, 95, 97, 125, 127–29, 131, 133–36, 143, 148–49, 157–59, 178–79, 181, 195, 197–98, 208–9, 212–14, 241
abomination, 61 Achaea, 79, 81 Achilles Tatius, 118 Acilius Aviola, 72 Actium, 22–23, 47 aedile, 80, 139, 210 Aeneas, 29, 46, 177–78 Aeneid, 103, 119, 155–56, 177–78 Agricola, 182, 185–87 Agrippa. See Herod Agrippa I; Herod Agrippa II; Marcus Agrippa Agrippina, 72, 83, 222, 235 Akiba ben Joseph, 179 Alexander the Great, 99, 127 Alexandria, 126 Ancyra, 128–30 Antinopolis, 96–97 Antinous (Antinoüs), 95–97, 144–48 Antioch on the Orontes, 126, 240 Antiochus III, 137 Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 125–26 Apollo, 33–34, 46, 59, 127, 168–69, 200, 217 Apollonius of Tyana, 200–201 apotheosis, 12, 37, 39, 51–52, 69, 72, 95, 216–24 Appuleius, 38 aqueducts, 21, 22, 27 Aristophanes, 159 Aristotle, 103 Aritria, 213 Armenia, 24, 238 Artemis. See Diana Arval council/brothers, 16 Asinius Narcellus, 72
Bacchanalia (Dionysian rites), 110–17 Bacchus (Dionysios), 122, 127 Basilides, 82 benefactor, 57 Bithynia, 142–43, 152–54 Boetia, 226–27 Bouseiris, 75 Britain, 182–86, 234, 238 Brutus, 135–36, 181 Cabirus, 127 Caelian Hill, 83 Caledonia, 183 Calgacus, 182–85 Caligula, 59–67, 69–70, 123, 202–3, 214–15 Campania, 18, 86 Capitoline Hill, 60, 90 Cassandra, 166 Cassius, 125, 135–36, 181 Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri), 55, 60 censor, 89 census, 16, 55 Ceres (Demeter; grain goddess), 68, 149, 230
244 | Roman Imperial Texts
chariot drivers, 201–2, 231–32 chastity (Pudicitia), 68 Christianity, 5, 110, 118, 216 Cicero, 35 citizenship: municipal, 107; Roman, 105 Claudius, 52, 57, 67–73, 89, 95, 123–25, 127–28, 135–36, 181, 195, 197–98, 208, 216–24, 235 collegium, 141–55, 171, 241 Colossae, 137–38 colosseum, 83, 88, 205–7 commerce, 189–96 community, 103–5 Concordia. See social harmony Constantia. See steadfastness consul, 14, 70, 86, 89, 91, 94, 97, 110, 113, 115–16, 195, 208, 215 Corinth, 138–40, 204 curule triumph, 15 Cybele. See Great Mother Cyrus, 99 Cyprus, 239–40 Decimus Laelius, 19 Delphi, 168–69 Delphic oracle, 238 Demeter. See Ceres Diana (Artemis), 131–34, 143–48, 204, 206 Diocletian, 9 Dionysios. See Bacchus Dioscuri. See Castor and Pollux Domitia, 88 Domitian, 9, 87, 89–91, 189, 197–98, 237 domus, 155–71, 241 Drusus, 39–40, 54 Duronia, 112 Edom, 179 Egypt, 24, 97–98 Egyptian religions, 118, 211 emperor, 209–41
Epaphras, 137 Ephesus, 130–35, 150, 206 Epictetus, 107 equestrian order, 82–84, 86, 199, 210, 232 Erastus, 139 Etruria, 111–12 Euhēmeria, 119–21 faith (Fides), 10, 25, 44, 99 fasces, 15 fetial priest, 16 Fides. See faith Fortuna, 18, 117 Gaius Antistius, 19 Gaius Asinius, 16 Gaius Calvisius, 19 Gaius Censorinus, 16 Gaius Furnius, 22 Gaius Silanus, 22 Gaius Silius, 39 Gaius Valgius, 17 Galatia, 20, 128–29 Galba, 77, 80–82, 237–38 games, 22, 27, 197–208 Germanicus, 40 gladiators, 202–3 Gnaeus Lentulus, 16, 19, 20 Gnaeus Piso, 19 gospel(s), 9, 30, 32,99 grace, 30, 31, 133–34, 226 grain dole, 19, 20 grain goddess. See Ceres grain supply, 71 Great Mother (Cybele), 20, 27, 132–33 Hadrian, 45, 95–98, 145 happiness (Felicitas), 44, 68, 97–99 health (Salus), 44, 68–69 Herennius Cerrinius, 115 Herod Agrippa I, 123–25 Herod Agrippa II, 26 hidden transcripts, 3
Index of Subjects | 245
Hispala Faecenia, 112–16 honor, 18 hope (Spes), 10, 44, 68, 99 Idumaeans, 179 Ilica, 89 Illyricum, 53–54 imperator, 15 imperium, 16 incest, 210 Isis, 118, 127 isopsephism, 234–36 Iunius Caesennius, 89 Janus Quirinus (temple), 18, 20, 27, 46, 76, 127 Jerusalem, 45, 95, 123, 125, 171, 182, 238 Jerusalem temple, 61, 85, 88, 123, 126, 134–35, 151, 181–82, 195, 239 Jewish War: First, 79–80; Second, 98 Josephus, 81 Judaism, 117–18, 137, 151, 209, 211 Judea, 79–82, 98, 231 Julia (Augustus’ daughter), 40, 131, 158–59 Julia (Augustus’ granddaughter), 40, 158–59 Julius Caesar, 11, 14, 17, 20, 21, 35–36, 39–40, 45, 51, 81, 125, 136, 139, 237 Julius Fidus Aquila, 97 Juno, 27, 199, 230 Jupiter, 27, 34–35, 44, 48, 60, 81, 199, 214, 229, 231–32 Juvenal , 190 Kleanax, 122–23 Kyme, 121–22 Laodicea, 137 Latium, 119 Liber, 46 liberty (Libertas), 68
Livia (Augustus’ wife), 38, 40, 44, 52–53, 95 Livy, 110 loyalty oaths, 212–15 Lucius Arruntius, 15, 20 Lucius Caninius, 19 Lucius Lentulus, 19 Lucius Pasienus, 19 Lucius Plancus, 39 Lupercal, 20, 27 lustrum, 16, 17, 55 Lycurgus the Spartan, 107 Macedonia, 127, 136 Marcus Agrippa, 16, 36–37, 54, 131, 134–35, 158 Marcus Aurelius, 9 Marcus Crassus, 19 Marcus Lepidus, 20 Marcus Marcellus, 15, 21 Marcus Messalla, 19 Marcus Valerius, 108 Marcus Vincius, 16, 18 Mark Antony, 14, 22–23, 125, 135–36, 181 marriage, 156–59 Mars, 21, 22, 25, 27, 80 Marsus, 125 Mazeus, 131 meals, 143–48 Menenius Agrippa, 108–10 Mercury, 222 mercy (Clementia), 44–45 Minerva, 199 Mithridates of Pontus, 131 Musonius Rufus, 107, 156–57, 159–62 Narcissus. See Tiberius Claudius Narcissus Nazirite vow, 124 Neapolis, 213 Nero, 72, 75–77, 79–83, 86, 161, 200–201, 216–17, 225–40 Nerva, 91
246 | Roman Imperial Texts
Nicomedia, 142–43 Numa, 181, 229 Octavia, 238 Octavian. See Augustus Octavius (father of Augustus), 34, 38, 40 Odyssey, 103, 155 Onesimus, 167 Ostia, 230 Otho, 77, 80, 82 Paculla Annia, 115 Palatine Hill, 60 Palfurius Sura, 90 Papian-Poppaean law, 71–72 Parthians, 239–40 patricians, 15, 108–10 Paul, 1–5, 21, 23, 25–26, 30, 40–41, 43–44, 47, 68–69, 77–78, 105, 107–8, 110, 117, 121, 124–25, 127, 129–33, 136–38, 143, 163–64, 166–69, 180 Paulus Fabius Maximus, 16 peace (Pax), 10, 18, 23, 43–44, 46–47, 52, 67–69, 76–77, 92–93, 99, 136, 180–83, 211, 219 Pergamum, 148–49, 207–8 Persephone. See Proserpina Philemon, 166–67 Philip II, 135 Philippi, 135–36, 181 Phoebe, 153 Phrygia, 128–29 plebeians, 15, 18, 19, 108–10 Pliny the Younger, 91, 142–43, 152–54, 163–64 Polyphemus the Cyclops, 103 Pompeii, 190–91, 194 Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus), 127, 136 pontifex maximus, 17, 68–69, 87, 89, 94, 195, 208 Pontius Pilate, 230, 241 Porta Capena, 18
Postumius Albinus, 110, 113–17 praetor, 14, 18 praetorian guard, 40, 67, 82, 91–92, 135, 211 predestination of emperor, 47–49, 82, 93, 99 Priene Inscription, 9, 30–32 princeps, 9, 11, 14, 16, 17–18, 26, 56, 59, 72, 83, 85, 87, 90, 99, 157, 206–7, 209, 225, 238–39 Principate, 9, 11–12, 16, 24, 28, 40, 51–52, 60, 67–68, 80, 82, 85–86, 89, 91, 94–95, 97–98, 103, 105, 119, 131, 133–34, 136–38, 151, 155, 168, 175, 177–78, 197, 204, 216, 227, 236, 241 propraetor, 14, 238 Proserpina (Persephone), 230 Publius Aebutius, 112–15 Publius Fabius Maximus, 31 Publius Lentulus, 16, 20 Publius Quintilius, 18 Publius Sulpicius, 17 Pudicitia. See chastity Puteoli, 194 Quintus Fabricius, 19 Quintus Lucretius, 16, 18 Quintus Tubero, 16 Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 13–28, 45–46, 51, 76, 97, 129–30, 143 Rhodes, 53 Roma (goddess), 94, 208 Rome, 96, 108–18, 171, 175–241 Sabbath, 135 Salii, 17 Salus. See health Sardis, 56–57 Sargon, 99 security (Securitas), 43–44, 77–78 senate, 70–71, 73, 88, 90, 127, 145, 159, 181, 199, 209–10, 216
Index of Subjects | 247
senatorial order, 83–84, 89, 199, 232 Sennacherib, 99 Serapis, 82–83, 118, 127, 144 Sextus Apuleius, 17 Sextus Pompeius, 17, 38 Sibylline Oracles, 230, 239–40 slaves, 164–69, 183, 193–96 Smyrna, 89, 192 social harmony (Concordia), 10, 44, 55, 68, 148–49 son of God, 10, 98–99 Spes. See hope steadfastness (Constantia), 68 Suetonius, 11, 67, 96, 157–59, 237–38 synagogue, 151–52, 171 Tacitus, 91, 182 Tarsus, 125–26 taxation, 189, 195–96 Themis, 180 Thessalonika, 127–28, 141 Thrasyllus, 53 Tiber (river), 115, 230 Tiberius, 17, 37, 39–40, 51–57, 85, 95, 131, 159, 164, 209–12, 230 Tiberius Alexander, 82 Tiberius Claudius Balbillus, 75
Tiberius Claudius Narcissus (Narcissus), 222 Tiberius Nero, 18, 19, 24, 25, 52 Tigellinus, 228 Titus, 85–90, 182 Titus Sempronius Rutilius, 112 Trajan, 91–94, 142–43, 152–54 tribune, 15, 18, 54, 71, 116 tribunician power, 15, 17, 89, 94, 131, 195, 208, 215 Trimalchio, 164–66, 193–94 urbs, 104–40, 171, 241 Venus, 46, 127 Vespasian, 72, 79–84, 161, 237 Vesta, 229 Vestal Virgins, 18, 39 Vesuvius, Mount, 86 victory (Victoria), 10, 39, 43, 68, 127, 136, 204 Virgil, 29 virtue(s), 18, 43, 67–69, 107 Vitellius, 79–80, 82–83, 237 Vulcan, 230 war, 92, 177–87
Index of Names Judge, E. A., 56
Bakhos, Carol, 179 Barclay, John M. G., 2–4 Bauckham, Richard, 194, 236, 240 Bloom, Harold, 3 Bömer, F., 169 Booth, Alan, 164
Kearsley, R. A., 123 Knox, John, 167 Krauter, Stefan, 117–19 Lampe, Peter, 105 Llewelyn, S. R., 168–69
Cadwallader, A. H., 137–38 Callahan, Allen Dwight, 167 Carter, Warren, 2, 37 Chadwick, Henry, 5 Cohen, Gershon, 179 Cooley, Allison, 13, 19 Crook, John A., 194 Crossan, John Dominic, 2, 4
Momigliano, Arnoldo, 5 Mommsen, Theodor, 11 Moore, Stephen D., 2 Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome, 125–27, 129, 132, 137, 140 Oakes, Peter, 136 O’Day, Gail R., 138
D’Arms, John H., 163, 165 Deissmann, Adolf, 2, 4, 169 Demandt, Alexander, 11 Demandt, Barbara, 11 Dunn, J. D. G., 108
Pervo, Richard, vii Raaflaub, Kurt A., 11 Reasoner, Mark, 119 Reece, Steve, vii Reed, Jonathan L., 2, 4
Ehorn, Seth, vii Elliott, Neil, vii, 180
Saller, Richard P., 155–56 Scheid, John, 13 Scott, James C., 3 Sherk, Robert K., 201 Syme, Sir Ronald, 11
Fears, J. Rufus, 43, 48–49, 67–68 Foss, C., 56 Graves, Robert, 232–33 Gritz, Sharon Hodgin, 133 Harrill, J. Albert, 169 Harris, H. A., 202 Harrison, James R., vii, 30, 128, 133–34
Toher, Mark, 11
Horsley, G. H. R., 144, 162 Horsley, Richard A., 2–3
Wilmot, David, 95 Winter, Bruce W., 164, 204, 210 Wright, N. T., 2–4 Wuellner, Wilhelm, 138
Vermes, Geza, 2
Jewett, Robert, 127, 222
250 | Roman Imperial Texts
Yegül, F. K., 56
Index of Ancient Sources GREEK SOURCES Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1160a9–30……104 CIJ 1.510……151
Josephus Ant. 14.241-43……137 Ant. 16.167-68……134–35 Ant. 18.46-48……26 Ant. 18.65-84……118 Ant. 19.292-94, 297, 299……124 Ant. 19.326-27……125 Jewish War 7.44-45……126
Cassius Dio Roman History 40.47.3-4……118 Roman History 41.18.4-5……127 Roman History 42.26.2……118 Roman History 46.31……14 Roman History 51.17……23 Roman History 52.35.3-5……23 Roman History 53.2.4……118 Roman History 53.22.3……23 Roman History 54.6.6……118 Roman History 54.35.2……23 Roman History 60.6.6……118 Roman History 62.16……200
Musonius Rufus Discourses 13A-B……156–57 Discourse 16……159–62 fr. 39……107 POxy 1021……216 PRyl 126……119–20 PRyl 134……120 PRyl 141……120 PRyl 148……121 Philo Judaeus Legat. 160-61……118 Legat. 276-337……61 Legat. 346-373……61–66
Dio Chrysostom Discourse 21……237 Discourse 33.17……125 Epictetus 3.26.1-3……166–67
Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.24……200–201 SEG 4:641……207 SEG 31:543……168 SEG 41:971……133–34 Sibylline Oracles 3.350-80……191–92 Sibylline Oracles 4.115-61……239–40
Gr Greek eek Anthology 9.58……132 Homer Iliad 1.591……220 Iliad 2.204……60 Iliad 9.385……223 Iliad 23.724……60 Odyssey 1.17……219 Odyssey 9.39-40……219 IGRR 4.251……214–15
Strabo Geogr. 8.6.20……140 Geogr. 14.5.13……125
252 | Roman Imperial Texts
Xenophon Anabasis 1.2.23……125 Memorabilia 2.3.18……108 LATIN SOURCES Appian Roman History 3.51……14 Augustus Res Gestae Divi Augusti 1-34……13–28 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 3……45 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 6……51 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 9……143 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 13……46, 76 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 15……45 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 16……45 Res Gestae Divi Augusti 27.1……97 Aurelius Victor Liber De Caesaribus 5.2-4……225 Liber De Caesaribus 14.6-9……96 Calpurnius Siculus Eclogue 1.42-68……180–81 Catullus Poems 3.12……221 Cicero Att. 2.17.2……118 De Legibus 2.15.37……117 De Officiis 1.16.1 – 1.18.59……104 De Officiis 3.5.22……108 Phil. 5.28, 34, 45-46……14 Pro Flacco 68……137 CIL 6:915……195–96 CIL 6:10050……201 CIL 6:10260……150 CIL 6:10264……150 CIL 9:9149……151 Cornelius Nepos On Illustrious Men……13
Diodorus Siculus 40.4……13 Horace Ep. 1.3……56 Odes 1.12.49-60……48 Odes 2.13.35……222 Odes 3.4.37……56 Odes 4.2.33-52……49 Odes 4.15……46 ILS 1.190……213–14 ILS 1.203……195–96 ILS 1.1901……204–5 ILS 2.5531……204 ILS 2.8781……212–13 ILS 2.8792……215 ILS 2.8794……226 Juvenal Satires 4.51-55……37 Satires 5.92-99……190 Livy History of Rome 2.31-33 ……108–10 History of Rome 4.30.7-11……117 History of Rome 25.1.6-12……117 History of Rome 39.8.3–39.11.3……111–13 History of Rome 39.12-13……114–15 History of Rome 39.14-15……115–17 History of Rome 39.16.6……110 History of Rome 120……14 Martial Epigrams 4.30.4-5……37 Epigrams 11.70……195 On the Spectacles 1, 3, 10, 20……206–7 Orosius History against the Pagans 7.6.15……118 Ovid
Index of Ancient Sources | 253
Fasti 1.639-50……44 Fasti 1.709-22……47 Fasti 6.637-38……44 Fasti 6.640-48……44 Petronius Satyricon 37-38……193–94 Satyricon 67…… 165 Satyricon 74-75……164–66 Pliny the Elder Natural History 12.4…… 189–90 Pliny the Younger Ep. 2.6……163–64 Ep. 10.33-34……142–43, 153 Ep. 10.96……152–54 Ep. 10.97……154 Panegyric for Trajan…… 91–93 Propertius 4.11……13 Seneca Apocolocyntosis……217–23 Ep. 47.7 ……165 Servius Commentary on Aeneid 8.698……118 Suetonius Aug. 10.3……14 Aug. 11.1……14 Aug. 13……45 Aug. 15……45 Aug. 21.3……26 Aug. 31.4……197–98 Aug. 52……23 Aug. 64.1–65.3……158–59 Aug. 94.1–97.2……32–37 Aug. 99.1–101.4……37–41 Cal. 21–22……59–60 Cal. 27……203
Cal. 30.3……202–3 Cal. 32.2-3……203 Cal. 33……203 Claud. 7-10……69–71 Claud. 15.2……218 Claud. 18-19……71 Claud. 21.1-2……198 Claud. 22……220 Claud. 25.4……118, 233 Claud. 28……222 Claud. 29……219 Claud. 29.2……181 Claud. 34……71–72 Claud. 35……223 Claud. 37……222 Claud. 42……219 Claud. 43……72 Claud. 45-46……72–73 Dom. 4.3-5……198–99 Dom. 12.2……189 Dom. 13.1–13.2……90 Jul. 76……51 Nero 7……180 Nero 16.2……232 Nero 19.1-2……200 Nero 22.3 – 23.1……200 Nero 38–39……232–34 Tib. 33–37……209–12 Tib. 36……118 Tib. 42.2……164 Titus 8.1–11.1……85–88 Vesp. 4-9……79–84 Tacitus Agricola 29-38……182–86 Ann. 1.9-10……14 Ann. 2.1-2……26 Ann. 2.85.4……118 Ann. 12.58……180 Ann. 15.38-44……227–31 Ann. 15.39……86
254 | Roman Imperial Texts
Ann. 15.44……118 Tertulllian Apology for Christians 6.8……118 To the Nations 1.10.17-18……118
Valerius Maximus 1.3.2-3……117
Isaiah 43:3……24 45:14……24 60:11-13, 16……191 66:12……191
Varro Antiquites fr. 46ab……118
Velleius Paterculus 2.61.3……14
Virgil Aeneid 1.1-7……177 Aeneid 6.35……206 Aeneid 6.788-807……29–30 Aeneid 6.851-53……177 Aeneid 8.36-37……207 Aeneid 12.938-51……178
Daniel 1:2……182 5:2-3……182 9:27……61 11:31……61 12:11……61
Vitruvius On Architecture 1.1-2……47–48 JEWISH SCRIPTURES Genesis 3:13-15……69 12:16……24 19:4-9……95 27:40……179–80 Exodus 12:35-36……24 2 Kings 25:13-17……182 2 Chronicles 36:17-19……182 Psalms 68:18……22, 134
Zechariah 1:8-11……187 Malachi 1:3-4……179 1 Maccabees 1:46……61 1:54……61 5:3, 65……179 2 Maccabees 6:2……61 4 Ezra 3:1-2……192 B. Gittin 56B……88 NEW TESTAMENT Matthew 4:23……32
Index of Ancient Sources | 255
9:35……32 10:37-38……160 11:5……32 16:26……241 17:24-27……37 20:25-27……27, 91 21:12-13……35 22:15-22……11, 51 22:41-46……52 24:15-18……61 27:11-26……117 27:45-46……38 27:54……38 27:57-61……38 Mark 6:40……199 8:36……241 10:29-30……32, 160 10:42-44……27, 91 11:15-17……35 12:13-17……11, 51 12:35-37……52 13:14-17……61 15:2-15……117 15:33-34……38 15:39……38 15:42-46……38 Luke 1:46-55, 68-79……31 2:1-19……98 2:1-14……31, 206 2:1……11 3:1……11 14:25-33……160 19:45-46……35 20:20-26……11, 51 22:24-27……27, 91 22:25……57 23:1-25……117 23:44-46……38 23:47……38 23:50-55……38
John 2:14-16……35 8:1-11……72 13:13-17……27, 91 18:28—19:16……117 19:12……11 19:38-42……38 20:41-44……52 21:18-19……241 Acts 2:5-41……206 4:23-31……111 9:4-5, 16……110 11:19-30……126 12:20-23……124 14:8-18……206 16:19-24……117 16:37-38……105 17:22-31……206 18:2……118 19:1—20:1, 17-35……134 19:8-10……130 19:23-40……117, 132, 150, 206 20:31……130 21:23-26……124 21:27-36……117 21:39……107 22:25-29……105 23:27……105 25:8-12……11 25:23—26:29……26 Romans 1:5……23 1:13……3 1:16……138 2:10……138 2:22……23 5:12-21……30–31 6:22……168 8:18-25……31 8:35……180
256 | Roman Imperial Texts
9:1-3……3 9:13……179–80 12:3-8……108, 110 12:13……141 12:16……141, 149 12:19-20……21 13:1-7……117 13:4……21, 180 13:7……195 13:13……140 14:7-9……141 15:1……141 15:5……149 15:18……23 15:19……25 16:1……153 16:3-5, 10-11……4 16:11……222 16:20……68 16:23……139 16:26……23 1 Corinthians 1:26-27……138 5:1-13……140, 210 5:3-5……111 6:9-10……140 6:12-20……144, 164 6:20……169 7:21-24, 35……169 8–10……144, 204 8:7-13……143 9:25……204 10:23-33……143 11:17-22, 33-34……163 11:21……144 12:12-30……110 12:14-26……171 14:26-33……111 2 Corinthians 2:5-8……3 5:14-21……31 11:12-15……3
13:11……149 Galatians 1:21……125 2:10……141 3:1……129 3:28……138 4:9……4 5:1, 13……169 6:16-17……129 Ephesians 2:4, 7……134 4:8……22, 134 5:18-20……111 5:21—6:9……155 5:21, 28……156 5:23……110 Philippians 1:12-13……135 1:13……40 2:2……149 2:9-11……136 3:20……136 4:2……149 4:7, 9……136 4:22……41, 135 Colossians 1:18……110 1:24……110 2:15……4 2:16-19……137 3:11……138 3:16……111 3:18—4:1……155 4:16……4 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10……127–28 2:9-10……127, 141 2:12, 19……128 3:11-12……128
Index of Ancient Sources | 257
4:1-8……140 4:11……141 4:15-16……128 5:1-8……78 5:3……3 5:14……141 5:23……128, 212 2 Thessalonians 1:5-8……240 2:3-4……61 3:7-9……127 3:6-13……141 1 Timothy 1:19-20……111 2:2……11 2:9-15……133 5:9-12……141 Titus 3:4……40, 86 Philemon 15-21……168 16……169 18-19……167 21……3 Hebrews 3:2-6……234 5:8……234 10:23-25……111 11:10, 13-16……119 12:1-11……234 12:3-11……110 12:22……119 12:26-29……240 13:10……111
13:14……119 1 Peter 2:13……11 5:13……175 2 Peter 2:7……95 3:12……240 Jude 7……95 Revelation 1:18……240 2:13……207 5:1-5……39 5:6, 9……240 6:4……186 6:9-11……241 13:3, 12……216, 237, 240 13:10……187 13:14……216 13:18……235 17:7-18……175 17:8, 11……216, 237, 240 17:9-14……11, 236 17:9……199 17:16……241 18:3, 9-17……190 18:11-13……193–95 18:13……201 19:13……240 19:16……241 19:19-21……187 20:2……69 20:9……240 21–22……171 21:24……191
Imperial texts in papyrus and stone— In recent years the New Testament writings have increasingly been read in the cultural and political context of the early Roman Empire. In Roman Imperial Texts, students and scholars now have a ready handbook of the most important sources for this context. Here are public speeches, official inscriptions, annals, essays, poems—and documents of veiled protest from the Empire’s subject peoples—all freshly translated and introduced by Mark Reasoner.
Praise for Roman Imperial Texts
“There is currently a great deal of debate about the ways in which the New Testament writers responded to the Roman Empire. To understand and assess the debate it is vital for students (and scholars!) to encounter at first hand the texts and artefacts that inform us about that imperial context. With extensive quotation of primary sources and well-informed commentary and explanation, Mark Reasoner has provided an excellent sourcebook to enable us to do just that. This is a very welcome resource.” David G. Horrell University of Exeter “The book is an especially welcome enhancement of the Roman sources collected in more general New Testament ‘backgrounds’ anthologies and will be as useful in the classroom as in the study.” Alexandra Brown Washington and Lee University
Mark Reasoner is associate professor of theology at Marion University in Indianapolis. He is the author of Romans in Full Circle: A History of Interpretation (2005) and The Strong and the Weak: Romans 14.1–15.13 in Context (2004) and, with Neil Elliott, Documents and Images for the Study of Paul (Fortress Press, 2010).
Religion / New Testament
Roman Imperial Texts
“From Matthew to Revelation, the New Testament presents good news that can be adequately interpreted only in view of its setting in the Roman Empire. Scholars, students, and all readers of the New Testament are therefore in Mark Reasoner’s debt for preparing this first-rate collection of relevant Roman imperial sources, presented fairly with minimal interpretation. I trust it will receive wide circulation and use.” Michael J. Gorman St. Mary’s Seminary & University