Greece: Roman Domination and
the Growth of Christianity
Following Alexander the Great’s death in 323 B.C., a power struggle ensued among his leading generals. Greece eventually fell under the control of Antigonus and his descendants, referred to as the Antigonids.
The malcontent Greeks countered by forming two federal states, the Aetolian League in the north and the Achaean League, led by Corinth, in the south.
Beginning in 214 B.C. the Antigonid king Philip V attempted to punish these states and to tighten his grip on Greece. In response, the Greek states sought help from an emerging power in the west: Rome.
The Romans, who had previously attempted to invade Philip’s territories, answered by dispatching a sizable military force.
In 197 B.C. the Roman general Titus Quinctius Flaminius soundly defeated Philip V’s army in Thessaly. By 196 the “liberation” of Greece was complete, and the Roman province of Achaea was born.
The Romans held Greek civilization in the highest regard and adopted many of its customs and traditions.
Rome protected the great cities and monuments of Greece, as long as Roman dominance was not challenged by the Greeks – who did test this on two occasions, both with disastrous results.
In 172 B.C. Perseus, son of Philip V, invaded Greece in an attempt to win back the lands of his father.
Many Greeks were sympathetic to Perseus, and, after his total defeat in 167, the Romans punished the Greeks by carrying a thousand noble Greek youths to Rome as hostages.
In 146 B.C. the Achaean League, led by Corinth, rose in revolt. The Romans responded by sending the general Mummius, who defeated an insignificant Achaean force and entered Corinth unopposed.
He burned the city, killed its inhabitants and took much of its valuable artwork back to Rome. This incident put an end to any realistic dreams of resurgent Greek independence.
Corinth was reestablished by Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. as a Roman colony, and the Greeks lived in relative peace within the Roman Empire from that point on.
Corinth, which had major harbors opening to the eastern and western Mediterranean, grew to be Greece’s commercial capital and most cosmopolitan city.
Athens retained its position as the cultural center of Greece, while Sparta and Thebes became insignificant. The impressive system of Roman roads brought commercial prowess to other locations in in Greece, such as Thessalonica and Philippi.
Under Rome rule Greece enjoyed something it had never experienced while free: peace. In this ideal situation, the New Testament church took root and was able to thrive.
This is the last chapter of the Book of Acts, so tomorrow we’ll begin with...
The Stopover at Melita
1 And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita.
2 And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.
“Barbarous people” – All non-Greek-speaking people were called this by Greeks. Far from being uncivilized tribesmen, they were Phoenician in ancestry and used a Phoenician dialect but were thoroughly Romanized.
3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
7 In the same quarters were possessions of the chief man of the island, whose name was Publius; who received us, and lodged us three days courteously.
“Publius” – a Roman name, but the first name and not the family name. It must have been what the islanders called him.
8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
9 So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed:
10 Who also honored us with many honors; and when we departed, they laded us with such things as were necessary.
11 And after three months we departed in a ship of Alexandria, which had wintered in the isle, whose sign was Castor and Pollux.
12 And landing at Syracuse, we tarried there three days.
“Syracue” – the leading city on the island of Sicily, situated on the east coast.
13 And from thence we fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium: and after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli:
“Rhegium” – a town on the coast of Italy, near the southwestern tip and close to the narrowest point of the strait separating that country from Sicily, opposite Messina.
Around the promontory north of the town was the whirlpool of Charybdis and the rock of Scylla. Coming from his triumph in Judea, the General Titus landed here on his way to Rome.
“Puteoli” – modern Pozzuloi, almost 200 miles from Rhegium. It was situated in the northern part of the Bay of Naples and was the chief port of Rome, though 75 miles away. The population included Jews and Christians.
14 Where we found brethren, and were desired to tarry with them seven days: and so we went toward Rome.
15 And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage.
“Appii forum” – or the market of Appius which was a small town 43 miles from Rome, noted for its wickedness. Some Roman Christians came this far to meet Paul. Beyond this they would not be certain of the way he would come.
“The Three Taverns” – or Three Inns, a town 33 miles from Rome. Other Roman believers met Paul here. The term “inn” was used to designate any kind of shop.
16 And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.
17 And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.
“Chief of the Jews” – the decree of the emperor or Claudius had been allowed to lapse, and Jews had returned to Rome with their leaders.
18 Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me.
19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of.
20 For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.
21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee.
22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against.
23 And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.
29 And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.
30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
“Two whole years” – Paul served the Lord during the full period of waiting for his accusers to press the trial in Rome. There are a number of indications that he was released form this imprisonment:
1. Acts stops abruptly at this time.
2. Paul wrote to churches expecting to visit them soon; so he must have anticipated a release.
3. A number of the details in the Pastoral Letters do not fit into the historical setting given in the book of Acts. Following the close of the book, these details indicate a return to Asia Minor, Crete and Greece.
4. Tradition indicates that Paul went to Spain.