Acts 28:11-12 When spring heralds the start of the new sailing season, they set off again for Rome on another Alexandrian grain ship that has spent the winter at Malta (see 7 on Map 26). The Roman ship’s prow is adorned with a figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux (the remains of whose temple can still be visited at the Forum in Rome).
Temple of Castor and Pollux, Rome (on right) (Acts 28:11)
They soon reach Sicily where they anchor at Syracuse (modern-day Siracusa) for three days. During his brief stay, Paul no doubt sees the ancient Greek theatre, newly adapted by the Romans for gladiatorial festivals and the Temple to Athena on Ortygia Island, built in the 5th century BC, whose Doric columns now form part of the cathedral.
Acts 28:13-14 They then move on to Rhegium (Reggio di Calabria) and sail through the Straits of Messina en route to Puteoli (Pozzuoli) in the Bay of Naples, where Paul and his companions disembark and stay with fellow believers for a week. The grain ship on which Paul arrives probably sails north and completes its voyage at Ostia, Rome’s port at the mouth of the River Tiber.
Acts 28:15 From Puteoli (see 7 on Map 26), Paul travels by foot along the Via Domitiana to Formia and along the Via Appia (the ‘Appian Way’) through Terracina to Rome. He is met en route by believers from Rome at Appi Forum (a 'mansio' or official stopping place for Roman officials, near Faiti) and at Three Taverns (modern-day Cisterna) on the Appian Way.
The Forum at Rome (Acts 28:16)
Acts 28:16-30 Paul reaches Rome in the spring of 60AD and is kept under house arrest awaiting trial by the emperor Nero. Three days after his arrival he meets with the Jewish community in Rome and shares the Good News about Jesus with them. Some believe, but others are unconvinced.
Paul rents a house in Rome for two years (60-62AD) and has considerable freedom to preach and teach about the Lord Jesus Christ.
While under house arrest, Paul writes letters to the churches in Ephesus and Philippi that he established on his earlier journeys, and he also writes to the church planted by Epaphrus at Colossae.
Temple of Concord (left) and Arch of Septimius Severus (centre) (Acts 28:16)
Paul's companions in Rome
In addition to Luke (who wrote Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles while staying with Paul in 60-62AD), Paul’s companions in Rome include Timothy (see Colossians 1:1, Philippians 1:1 & 2:19-23), Aristarchus (see Acts 20:4 & 27:2), Epaphrus (see Colossians 1:7), Joshua Justus, Demas and John Mark.
Paul has been reconciled with John Mark since he refused to take him on his Second Missionary Journey in 50AD (see Acts 15:37-38, Colossians 4:10-14 7 Philemon 1:23). Mark probably wrote his gospel in Rome around the same time as Luke was writing his, so it is hardly surprising that parts of their accounts are almost identical.
Rome - the capital of the Roman Empire – was, according to tradition, founded in 753BC by Romulus, the first of seven kings (see Map 26). In 509BC, the establishment of the Roman Republic marked the start of vigorous expansion, marked by the defeat of Greece in 168BC and the destruction of Carthage (Tripoli in modern-day Libya) in 146BC and the conquest of Gaul (France) in 51BC. By Paul’s day, Rome was a huge city with a population of about one million, and at the centre of a vast empire.
Twenty-first century visitors can still wander through the Roman Forum that would have been familiar to Paul and his companions – including Luke (the author of Luke’s Gospel) and John Mark (the author of Mark’s Gospel). The Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Concord and the Basilica Julia would already have been erected below the Tabularium on the Capitoline Hill when Paul was imprisoned in 67AD in the Mamertine Prison – which can still be visited beneath the church of San Pietro in Carcare. Titus’s Arch – celebrating the overthrow of Jerusalem in 70AD – together with the Temple of Venus and Rome would be built later.
The Senate House (left) and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina (right) (Acts 28:23)
Elsewhere in Rome, the Pantheon (a temple to all the gods) and the Mausoleum of Augustus had already been constructed in Paul’s day. Building on the Colosseum, however, only commenced in 72AD, and the impressive Mausoleum of Hadrian would not dominate the north bank of the River Tiber until 135AD.
If you would like to know more about Rome in the 1st century AD, click on this link to tour the city with the British Museum Historical Travel Guide to Rome.