of the Roman Empire, center of early western Christianity, eventually
the primatial see of the Roman Catholic Church.
Colosseum at Rome,
late 1st century A.D.
Christianity in Rome
seems to have emerged from the community of Greek-speaking Jews in the
city. The Christian congregation in the imperial capital appears to have
been well established by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Christians
of the city in the late 50s. Paul visited Rome between 59 and 61,
and tradition holds that both Paul and Peter were martyred in the city.
1 Peter along with certain of Paulís letters and perhaps other books of
the New Testament were written in Rome. The Emperor Nero sponsored the
first official persecutions
of Christians in Rome in 64. The theological traditions of the early Christian
community in Rome reflect classical Roman interests in law and polity.
Early theological traditions in the city reflect both these traditional
Roman interests and the Jewish antecedents of the first community in Rome.
As these traditions developed, they emphasized moral rigor and a concern
for an ordered polity under the rule of bishops. Clement
of Rome and Shepherd
of Hermas illustrate these early traditions. The episcopal
see of Rome eventually claimed primacy over the whole of the Christian
church. By the sixth century the bishops of Rome claimed the title of
and by the eighth were increasingly successful in asserting their primacy
over the West without the support of the Roman emperors resident in the
East. Disputes over claims to primacy on the part of the bishop of Rome
and the Patriarch of Constantinople were
one cause of division between the eastern and western churches. Rome
was sacked by Arian Goths in 410 and again by Vandals in 455.
Although the Roman
Empire itself collapsed in 476, ushering in the middle ages
in the West, the city of Rome continued to be an important center of Christianity
in the West and later became the capital of the independent Papal States.
The tiny and independent Vatican State, located within the modern city
of Rome, remains the seat of the popes to the present.