Category Archives: Places in Italy

Rome — Temple of Peace and a Map of Ancient Rome

My last blog post raised a few questions about the “Temple of Peace” where the implements from the Jerusalem Temple were placed.  The pictures that I posted in that blog are (I think) the best of what is currently visible of the Temple.

The Temple, whatever remains of it, is apparently burried under the street—the Via dei Fori Imperiali.  Is there anything else of it that is visible?  Well yes.

Actually, the north wall of the Basilica of Saints Cosma and Dimiano (below), that is located on the south side of the Via Dei Fori Imperiali, preserves the wall of a side room of the Temple of Peace.

View looking south across the Via dei Fori Imperiali at the north side of the Basilica of Saints Cosma and Damiano. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

The brick wall, left of the main entrance—in white marble—is the only remaining wall of a room that was attached to the actual Temple of Peace.  The actual Temple of Peace—if remains still exist—is probably burried under the Via dei Fori Imperiali that is in the foreground.  Actually, I may have been standing just above the sanctuary as I took this picture.

The brick wall, left of the main entrance—in white marble—is the only remaining wall of a room that was attached to the actual Temple of Peace.

On this brick wall were affixed 150 marble blocks—note the holes in the wall where they were attached to this wall.  This marble rectangle measured 59 ft. by 42 ft. and on it was inscribed a MAP of the city of Rome in the early third century A.D.!  The map is called the Forma Urbis Romae and was executed during the rule of Septimius Severus, between 205 and 208.  Only small fragments of it have been found to–date.

Note the excavations underway just this side of the brick wall—where the Temple of Peace was located.

Next post, back to the Temple Treasures.


By the way, Leen Ritmeyer has published an illustrated article about the Golden Gate of the Temple Mount — Here.

 

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A.D. 70 The Destruction of the Temple — Where Did the Temple Treasure Go? Part 1

The Arch of Titus (Roman Emperor A.D. 79–81) is located in Rome on the east end of the ancient Roman Forum not too far from the Colosseum.  The emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) built it soon after the death of Titus in A.D. 81.

View looking west at the Arch of Titus from the east. Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

The arch commemorates the victories of Vespasian (A.D. 69–79) and his son Titus—particularly their putting down the Jewish revolt in Judea and the capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

It is well to remember that this commemorative arch was built by Domitian, to commemorate a triumphal parade of the previous emperor Vespasian and his son Titus who was the actual conquer of Jerusalem.  On the south inner side of the arch, Roman soldiers carry the booty from the Jerusalem Temple in triumph into Rome—see end of blog for quote from Josephus.

View looking southwest at the relief carved on the southern pier of the Arch of Titus in Rome that depicts the procession of booty taken from Titus’ capture of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

From right to left note the representation of a Triumphal Gate with two chariot groups on top of it (enlarge the image to view details).  To the left of this are two crossed (silver) trumpets taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.  Faintly visible (enlarge image) is a representation of one of the tables that held the “show bread” in the Holy Place of the Temple.

On the left side of the image one of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!  Also visible are several rectangular placards on poles.  These probably were painted with inscriptions naming either cities or peoples conquered—or identifying the objects that were being displayed in triumph.

One of the seven-branched candlesticks (menorah) from the Jerusalem Temple.  Note the figures on its base!  This is one of the earliest representations of a menorah in existence!

Josephus, who was probably an eye-witness to this Triumphal Procession describes it as follows:

(148) and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of: (149) for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; (150) and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews. [= Torah scroll(s)?] (151) After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. (152) After which Vespasian [Emperor at the time] marched in the first place, and Titus [son of Vespasian] followed him; Domitian [son of Vespasian] also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.  (Josephus War 7.148-152 [7.5.4])

Evidently, all this booty, along with other treasures from Judea, were deposited in Vespasian’s “Temple of Peace!”

What is the “Temple of Peace” you ask?  We will take a look at that in my next blog.


Click Here to view additional images of the Arch of Titus.

Rome: The Basilica Julia — Is this where Paul was condemned to death?

All visitors to Rome will visit the ancient heart of Rome—the Roman Forum.

View looking southeast at the west end of the Roman Forum. The Basilica of Julia is just to the right of the center of the image—to the left of the multiple columns on the right side of the image.

The Roman Forum was the central civil, commercial, and religious center of Ancient Rome.  Originally, it was a marshy swamp located below the Palatine and Capitoline Hills.  This stagnant area was drained by the Etruscan king Servius Tulius (6th century B.C.) when he constructed the Cloacae Maximus, a large drain system that diverted water into the Tiber river—it still is functioning today!

The Roman Forum grew during the Regnal, Republican, and Imperial Periods—expanding from the Capitoline Hill in the northwest toward the southeast.  Eventually, it was used for political and religious purposes—commercial enterprises were moved to a variety of fora to the north of the Roma Forum.

It fell out of use during the Medieval Period and was used for grazing animals, and as a source of building materials—some of the precious marbles were burned in kilns for lime (sigh).

View looking east over the west end of the Forum. The Basilica of Julia is on the right (south) side of the image.  The Basilica of Julia may well have been the place where Paul was tried and condemned to death—see below.

Only rows of column stubs, flooring, and steps of the large Julia Basilica have been preserved. The central nave is the large rectangular area with green grass—at the far end are three columns from the Temple of Castor and Pollux. To the left (north) of the nave, two long aisles are visible—the view of the southern aisles is blocked by the three arches in the lower right of the image.

The basilica was begun by Julius Caesar in 54 B.C. and completed by Augustus. All totaled, there were 5 versions of a basilica on this site over the centuries!

The Basilica Julia was known as a great center of Roman law, and it contained four law courts.  It is very likely that it was here that the apostle Paul eventually heard the sentence of death pronounced upon himself. (Finegan, p. 223)

The book of Acts ends with Paul under arrest, guarded by a soldier (Acts 28:26) in chains (v. 20) staying in his own “rented quarters” (v. 30) for two years.  Although it is not possible to know if he was tried and released, or merely released, much modern scholarhip believes that he was released (say from A.D. 62—67) and that he was rearrested and tried at the end of Nero’s reign (ca. 67/68).

Was The Basilica Julia
the Place of Paul’s Trials?

Although the final trial, condemnation, and execution of Paul are not mentioned in scripture, tradition and modern scholarship place the execution of Paul near the end of Nero’s reign—ca. A.D. 67/68.  No matter the date, being a Roman Citizen, Paul would have had a right to a trial in the courts of Rome, if not in front of the Emperor himself.  Since the Julia Basilica was the place where trials took place, it is very possible that the Apostle Paul, being a Roman Citizen, was tried and condemned to death by a Roman Court meeting in this structure!

On the other hand, tradition also places the martyrdom of Peter in Rome.  But Peter was not a Roman Citizen and thus his “legal rights,” if any, were very different than those of Paul.


Finegan, Jack. The Archeology of the New Testament: The Mediterranean World of the Early Christian Apostles. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981.

Syracuse, Sicily — Acts 28:12

Syracuse was a Greek and Roman city on the southern portion of the east coast of Sicily. Paul spent three days here when the ship that carried him from Malta to Puteoli docked here. (Acts 28:12).

Acts 28:11    After three months [on Malta] we put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island. It was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. 12 We put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. 13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day we reached Puteoli.

This probably happened in the spring of A.D. 60.  All of the structures shown below were over 100 years old by the time that the Apostle Paul passed through Syracuse—as a prisoner—on his way to Rome.

The Theater of Syracuse originally built in the fifth century BC. The blue in the distance is part of the harbor of ancient Syracuse—where Paul’s ship probably landed.

Syracuse was founded in 734 B.C. and reached its zenith in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. The Athenians laid siege to it (415–413 B.C.) but were seriously defeated and this defeat helped lead to the decline of the Golden Age of Athens. Syracuse, along with the whole of Sicily, was fought over by the Romans and the Carthaginians.

View of the huge altar that was constructed by Hieron II, ruler of Syracuse, in the third century B.C. It is the largest known altar from antiquity.

In 212 B.C. Rome conquered the city. It carried off many Greek captives and many pieces of Greek artwork to Rome. This influx led to the Romans turning their cultural “tastes” towards things Greek. Unfortunately, the great mathematician and inventor, Archimedes, was killed by a Roman soldier, in spite of the order that he was to be spared.

View of the Amphitheater of Syracuse. It was constructed in the late first century BC—and was about 100 years old when Paul passed through Syracuse.

Archaeological remains of the Roman city include an altar, theater, an amphitheater, etc.

Additional images can be viewed Here.

Would YOU like to follow Paul from Shipwreck on Malta to Martyrdom in Rome?  We are doing just that in June, 2019!  Check out the link above or see Here.

Puteoli Italy — Paul stayed here for a week on his way to Rome

Puteoli is where Paul, as a prisoner,  landed on his way to Rome.  He spent a week here with “brothers” before beginning his land journey to Rome (Acts 28:13–14). The modern name for ancient Puteoli is Pozzuoli and it is located west of Naples. It was a very important harbor in Roman Times.

The small boat harbor at Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli). Click on Images to Enlarge and/or Download.

Most of the ancient travelers to Rome would land at Puteoli and then follow the Via Appia into the city—as Paul did. The large Roman grain ships, bringing grain from Alexandria Egypt, also docked here.  Because in Paul’s day (ca. A.D. 60) Ostia, the main port of Rome, could not yet handle the very large Alexandrian grain ships, these ships often would dock at Puteoli and offload their grain on to smaller vessels that in turn would carry the grain to Ostia.  Later, the port of Ostia was enlarged and could accommodate the large Alexandrian grain ships.

View looking north at the Market Place of ancient Puteoli (= macellum).

Shops outline the square market.  In the center of the market is a round structure called a tholos.  At the far end is a temple for the Imperial Cult (aka Emperor worship).  A statue of the Egyptian deity Serapis was found here and thus this area is sometimes called the Temple of Serapis.  The market dates to the first and second centuries A.D. and was restored in the third century.

Because Pozzuoli sits on top of the caldera of a volcano, the market has risen and sunk through the ages.  At times 19.5 feet of the columns were under water—due to sinking!  Between 1982 and 1994 the land rose 5.6 feet!  In 2017, when the above picture was taken, very little of the Macellum was under water.

View of the Bay of Puteoli looking east northeast—with the Island of Nisida in the distance.

Puteoli was a Roman Colony and many elite Romans had villas here—and at nearby Baia. The Roman naval base was at nearby Misenum. The city was/is located directly over the caldera of a volcano and thus there were/are many thermal baths here as well.

View of the underground excavations of Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli).

Note the detail of the Roman brickwork. The structures date to the Roman Period.

Map of Puteoli and nearby Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii.

To view additional images of Puteoli Click Here.

Household gods and Christian Converts

One of the places that we like to visit on our In the Footsteps of Paul: Turkey and Greece trips are the “Terrace Houses” at Ephesus.  In studying these well–preserved houses (domus) it is possible to get an idea of how the “elite” lived in the late Roman Period.

Ephesus: This aedicula/Lararium is the small structure in the center of the image embedded in the wall with two columns in front of it. Evidently here, the household gods were worshiped.

One of the features of these types of houses are small shrines (aedicule) called Lares domestici (see Hurtado pp. 46, 56 below).   It is well–known that the Romans worshiped many “high” deities such as Jupiter/Zeus, Baccus/Dionysus, etc. . . .  but not as much attention is given to the worship of the “lesser” deities such as lares.

. . . Lares functioned as guardians over various settings.  The most common were domestic Lares of each household (Latin: Lares domestici), which represented spirits of family dead who had been elevated to a special kind of spiritual existence on account of their goodness and/or importance.  These spirits protected the family, and all members of the household were expected to reverence them daily in offerings and prayers at the Lararium, a small altar typically placed in the Roman house. . . . In comparison to the more well–known gods, the Lares . . . figured much more frequently in the day–to–day ritual life of people.

. . . . members of Roman households, the family and their slaves too, gathered daily to reverence the household Lares.  (Hurtado pp. 46–47).

Question: is this common practice of worshiping the Lares reflected in the New Testament?

One of the well–preserved Lararium at Pompeii—including the “household deities” that were worshiped here.

Because of the sudden destruction of Pompeii in August A.D. 79 when the volcano Vesuvius erupted a good number of Lararium have been preserved there.

Detail of the above Lararium at Pompeii.

From the New Testament, we realize that believers in Jesus included people from all social classes, ethnic backgrounds, occupations, males and females, etc.

The most significant feature of the Roman household (familia) was that its power was concentrated in the hands of the male head, the paterfamilias.  The members of the household were those persons over whom the paterfamilias had power.  . . .The Roman household normally was composed of husband, wife, unmarried children, slaves, freedmen, and clients . . . . (Jeffers p. 238)

Given that the worship at the Lararium occurred daily, and that all in the household were expected to participate, how would individual converts to Christianity deal with this?

If the paterfamilias—to whom all in the household owed their allegience—converted to Christianity, would he abandon the worship of the Lares?  If so, how would his non-Christian wife, sons, daughters, spouses, even slaves have reacted to this abandonment of such a well-entrenched custom?  Would he even be shunned by his “non–Christian clients” who had owed their allegiance to him?  Would the paterfamilias “force” (because of his status) his household to follow his new found faith?

What if the wife of the paterfamilias converted, but her husband did not?  Would she disrespect her husband and his ancestors by refusing to participate in this daily ritual?  What would be the consequences of such an action?  What about individual children who converted but now would not participate in this worship?

And what about the servants or slaves that were part of the household who worshiped only Jesus?  I would guess that they would be severely punished because of showing disrespect to the paterfamilias.

Another Lararium from Pompeii.  Notice the snake and altar below the shrine.

“The snake, associated with the land’s fertility and thus prosperity, approaches a low laden altar.” (Wikipedia “Lares”)

I am surprised that this “problem” does not seem to be addressed in the pages of the New Testament.


Hurtado, Larry W.  Destroyer of the gods — Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World.   Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2016.

Jeffers, James S.  The Greco–Roman World of the New Testament — Exploring the Background of Early Christianity.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Paul in the Cities — Where Did They Eat?

The Apostle Paul resided in many cities of the Roman Empire including Tarsus, Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Rome.  As I lead tours to these ancient cities, we often wonder what life was like in them in the first century A.D.  One of the interesting “institutions” are the thermopolia—”fast food establishments” that were found in every large city.  For example, eighty–three thermopolia have been discovered at Pompeii, and more have been discovered at nearby Herculaneum and at Ostia—the port of Rome.  (be sure and see the final two paragraphs of this blog)

itpocb01

View of a Fast Food establishment (thermopolium, popina, taberna) at Pompeii. Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download.

This is the Thermopolium of Vetutius Placidus (aka T. of Asellina) that is located on the lower floor of his house in Pompeii (Italy).  It is situated on the main street of Pompeii, the via dell’ Abbondanza.  Food and drink were sold and consumed here.  Note the large storage jars that are built into the masonry and marble counters.

On the back wall is a well–preserved lararium—a shrine dedicated to the household gods.   Among others Mercury, the god of trade, and Dionysus, the god of wine are depicted (maybe assisted sales?!).  A hoard of 6.6 lbs. of worthless coins were found in one of the jars.  It was evidently left behind when the owner fled Pompeii as ash rained down from the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius (picture below).  In the back of the shop, not visible, was a slightly more private eating area.  A staircase led to guest rooms on the second floor—a brothel?  These thermopolia were situated street side on the ground floor of apartment buildings and even elite houses.

The thermopolia were visited primarily by the lower classes as the upper classes would dine in the luxurious surroundings of their own homes.  The houses of lower classes of people rarely had kitchens, thus they would eat at an establishment such as this, or they would “carry out” the food to take back home.

Since many (most?) of the early Christians were from the lower classes, they probably frequented places like the local thermopolium.  And, it is very probable that Paul and other leaders of the Early Church did so as well in the cities that they resided in!  Is it not possible that in establishments like this that the Early Christians shared their belief in “Jesus is Lord”—rather than “Caesar is Lord?”

herculaniumthemopolium01

A Thermopolium from nearby Herculaneum—also destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.

itpogn02

Mount Vesuvius that erupted in August of A.D. 79 covering Pompeii with ash and Herculaneum with a pyroclastic flow.

For use or publication of any of these images please see this link.