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The most celebrated city in the world at the time of Christ. It is said to have been founded B.C. 753. When the New Testament was written, Rome was enriched and adorned with the spoils of the world, and contained a population estimated at 1,200,000, of which the half were slaves, and including representatives of nearly every nation then known. It was distinguished for its wealth and luxury and profligacy. The empire of which it was the capital had then reached its greatest prosperity.
On the day of Pentecost there were in Jerusalem “strangers from Rome,” who doubtless carried with them back to Rome tidings of that great day, and were instrumental in founding the church there. Paul was brought to this city a prisoner, where he remained for two years (Acts 28:30-31) “in his own hired house.” While here, Paul wrote his epistles to the Philippians, to the Ephesians, to the Colossians, to Philemon, and probably also to the Hebrews. He had during these years for companions Luke and Aristarchus (Acts 27:2), Timothy (Philippians 1:1; Col. 1:1), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18), and John Mark (Col. 4:10). (See PAUL.)
Beneath this city are extensive galleries, called “catacombs,” which were used from about the time of the apostles (one of the inscriptions found in them bears the date A.D. 71) for some three hundred years as places of refuge in the time of persecution, and also of worship and burial. About four thousand inscriptions have been found in the catacombs. These give an interesting insight into the history of the church at Rome down to the time of Constantine.