What Normal Life Was Like In Ancient Rome: Meet The Romans - Timeline

Updated: Apr 5

Video from Timeline - World History Documentaries

"This Rome is not the marble Rome we know, but a vast, messy metropolis with little urban planning, where most Romans lived in high-rise apartment blocks with little space, light, or even sanitation." from video introduction.

We in our modern times often have a skewed vision and understanding of ancient civilizations and Rome is no exception. We often romanticize these cultures when in reality life was cruel, harsh and short.

This excellent documentary and the following article give us a realistic representation of life in ancient Rome. - Andy


"The Roman Empire cast a vast shadow over the world of the New Testament. In the past couple of decades, biblical scholars and theologians have rediscovered this fact. The ripple effects in the twenty-first century of this fresh focus on how imperialism shaped the writings of the New Testament cannot be overstated.

Something is emerging in American Christianity. Many in the church were brought up to believe that the United States was given to us by divine right. We are not only “proud to be American,” but we will sing out “God bless America, land that I love.” Sitting in certain churches on Independence Day could leave one wondering if it is a worship service honoring the Christian God or the American flag.

On the surface there is nothing wrong with liking a particular heritage or location, but what happens when you realize that the consumption of your so-called blessed nation may be fueling the oppression of many across the globe? What happens when the things that you grew up taking for granted are now the very things that perpetuate suffering?

Our world is one in which over a billion people lack access to clean water, where every seven seconds a child dies of hunger, where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, where one hundred million children are denied basic education, where forty percent of people in our world lack basic sanitation, and where Americans spend more annually on trash bags than nearly half of the world does on all goods.[1]

This is the reality of empire. The empire creates the façade of peace and security, all the while perpetuating suffering for other parts of the world...

In Christians and Roman Rule in the New Testament: New Perspectives, Richard J. Cassidy describes the political and economic conditions of Augustus’ rule in detail. The senate and equestrian classes (including Augustus) enjoyed great wealth from the purse of conquered peoples and the trade that increased as the borders moved outward.

Not only so, but many slaves were acquired during the military conquests that were to the benefit of the wealthy people of Rome. Augustus appeased the general population of Rome’s citizens by instituting a free monthly distribution of grain to each local family. These portions were distributed in conjunction with the monthly games for the populace to enjoy (often referred to as “bread and circus”).

For those who served in the Roman military, one that by the end of Augustus’ rule included about twenty-five legions, there were also great benefits that were granted by the emperor on their behalf. Compensation for soldiers included monthly salaries, discharge payments, opportunity for full Roman citizenship, and land grants for many who served twenty-five years or more...


During the first century, Rome had dominion over Israel. In 63 BCE, after much turmoil and civil war within Israel, the Romans invaded and conquered Jerusalem.[31] In order to keep control over the Galilean and Judean peoples, Julius Caesar and the Senate installed Herod as king. It would take Herod three years to finally gain all control over the still hostile Jews, but he would in due course keep a firm rule over the whole region. He eventually became one of Augustus’ favorite military leaders, and was admired by the new emperor because of his immense development program.

Not only did Herod expand the Temple in Jerusalem to be more grandiose and Hellenistic-Roman in style, but he also imposed a sacrifice that the priests would give on behalf of Rome and the emperor. Additionally, Herod had whole cities named to give reverence to Caesar as well as imperial temples and fortresses to reinforce Roman control. The great building campaigns were not possible without taxing the peoples of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea greatly; leaving the majority in poverty.

Not only were they required to pay taxes to the Empire, but they continued to function as a “temple-state” and were also required to pay the tithes and sacrifices of the Jewish religion. The offensiveness of being forced into what could be labeled idolatry along as the difficult economic reality must not be understated.[32] Horsley states: The demand for tribute to Rome and taxes to Herod in addition to the tithes and offerings to the Temple and priesthood dramatically escalated the economic pressures on peasant producers, whose livelihood was perennially marginal at best. After decades of multiple demands from multiple layers of rulers many village families fell increasingly into debt and were faced with loss of their family inheritance of land. The impoverishment of families led to the disintegration of village communities, the fundamental social form of such an agrarian society. These are precisely the deteriorating conditions that Jesus addresses in the Gospels: impoverishment, hunger, and debt.[33].." from the article: THE ROMAN EMPIRE DURING THE TIME OF JESUS (BACKGROUND OF LUKE’S GOSPEL)


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