Accessible general histories of the early Roman empire can be found in C. M. Wells, The Roman Empire, 2nd edn. (London, 1992); M. Goodman, The Roman World, 44 BC–AD 180 (London and New York, 1997); G. Woolf (ed.), Cambridge Illustrated History of the Roman World (Cambridge, 2003); M. T. Boatwright, D. Gargola and R. J. A. Talbert, The Romans: From Village to Empire (Oxford, 2005). On Jews and Judaism in the first centuries CE, see S. J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 2nd edn. (Louisville, Ky., 2006); E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE—66 CE (London, 1992). On early Christianity, the best introduction remains H. Chad-wick,The Early Church, 2nd edn. (London, 1993); more detailed surveys can be found in P. F. Esler (ed.), The Early Christian World, 2 vols. (London and New York, 2000), and H. Chadwick, The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great (Oxford, 2001).


Martin Goodman has divided his intellectual life between the Roman and Jewish worlds. He has edited both the Journal of Roman Studies and the Journal of Jewish Studies. He has taught Roman History at Birmingham and Oxford Universities, and is currently Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford. He is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2002 he edited the Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies, which was awarded a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship. He lives with his family in Birmingham.


The text of this book was set in Bembo, a facsimile of a typeface cut by Francesco Griffo for Aldus Manutius, the celebrated Venetian printer, in 1495. The face was named for Pietro Cardinal Bembo, the author of the small treatise entitled De Aetna in which it first appeared. Through the research of Stanley Morison, it is now generally acknowledged that all old style type designs up to the time of William Caslon can be traced to the Bembo cut. The present-day version of Bembo was introduced by the Monotype Corporation of London in 1929. Sturdy, well-balanced, and finely proportioned, Bembo is a face of rare beauty and great legibility in all of its sizes.


A typical brick-faced apartment block from Ostia, the port of Rome. The ground floor was used for shops opening on to the street, with the apartments in domestic use above. In Rome itself three-story blocks were common, and remains have been discovered of buildings constructed in the second century CE which rose to five or six stories by using the steep hillsides for support.

The Colosseum, the first monumental amphitheatre, was built in Rome. Dedicated by Titus in June 80 CE for performances of a variety of sports, it could hold an audience of around fifty thousand.

Columned courtyard of the House of the Silver Wedding in Pompeii. Excavation of such houses in Pompeii has revealed much about the private tastes of rich Romans in the first century CE.

Interior of a fine house in the Upper City of Jerusalem destroyed in 70 CE. The use of stone vessels by the inhabitants reflects their concern about purity.

Augustus began work on his monumental mausoleum {above) on the Campus Martius soon after his victory at Actium in 31 BCE. Herod's tomb at Herodium (below), constructed soon afterwards near Bethlehem, has the same circular structure.

The southern edge of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, looking east towards the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. Excavation has uncovered remains of the impressive flight of steps which led up, through great gates and broad stepped tunnels built underneath Herod's royal portico, to the platform on which the Temple stood.

Remains of the western wall of the Temple enclosure built by Herod. The Dome of the Rock, built in the seventh century CE, now stands in the center of the Temple Mount.

Inscribed reliefs on pedestals from the Sebasteion in Aphrodisias (in modern Turkey). The “nation of Jews” (top left) was just one of fifty peoples and places personified in relief, along with Dacians (top right) and the islands of Crete (bottom left) and Cyprus (bottom right). The personification of the nation of the Jews does not survive.

Hadrian celebrated the distinctive characteristics of the provinces of the empire in a series of coins. Egypt (top left) reclines on the ground against a large basket filled with grain, facing an ibis. Britannia (top right) sits in an attitude of vigilance, wearing native dress and holding a spear and a large shield. The coins celebrating the visits of the emperor to Mauretania (bottom left) and Judaea (bottom right) belong to a standard type issued to commemorate his arrival in each province. In both coins the emperor raises his right hand in greeting while the personification of the province stands facing him, holding a libation bowl above an altar. Mauretania wears military dress and holds a standard, probably in recognition of the military reputation of soldiers from the area. Judaea is depicted as a veiled woman in normal Graeco-Roman clothing. None of her attributes is noticeably Jewish, and the imagery may well have alluded to the benefits brought to the province by the establishment of the new Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina.

Funerary portrait of a young woman from Egypt (second century CE). The realistic conventions of Roman portraiture have been adapted for a traditional Egyptian purpose.

The so-called Tomb of Absalom in the Kidron valley, close to the eastern wall of the Temple enclosure in Jerusalem. The tomb, built in the first century CE, combines Greek architectural styles (Ionic columns and a Doric frieze) with an Egyptian cornice. The burial chamber is in the lower, square structure.

The slaughter of Dacians by Roman troops, depicted on Trajan's column in Rome. The barbarian enemy was often dehumanized in imperial art.

(above left) The sculpture of Antinous, the beloved of the emperor Hadrian, portrays him nude, in Greek style, and with the accoutrements of the god Bacchus: Antinous was deified by Hadrian after he drowned in the Nile in October 130 CE. (above right) A wall painting from the household shrine of the House of the Centennial in Pompeii, depicting Bacchus, adorned with grapes and accompanied by a panther, next to a mountain, which probably represents Mount Vesuvius. The painting, with its many natural features, is dated to the 70s CE.

Symbols of the revolt of 66–70 CE. The silver shekel (above) minted by the rebels in 68 CE shows on the obverse a vessel used in the Temple; the reverse has a stem with three pomegranates. The captions, written in archaic Hebrew lettering, read “YEAR 3. SHEKEL OF ISRAEL” and “JERUSALEM THE HOLY.” The relief (below) from the Arch of Titus, erected in or soon after 81 CE, depicts the triumphal procession in which the Temple utensils were carried through the streets of Rome.

(above) Bronze sestertius minted in Rome in 71 CE, with images celebrating the defeat of the Jews. On the obverse, the rugged features of Vespasian, with the inscription “Imperator Caesar Vespasian Augustus, high priest, with tribunician power, father of the nation, consul for the third time”; on the reverse, a date-palm tree and a mourning Jewess seated beneath it, with the inscription “JUDAEA CAPTA; by recommendation of the Senate.” (below) An aerial view of Masada, showing Herod's palace on the northern tip of the rock. The Roman siege ramp is to the right of the picture. The Dead Sea is to the left.

(top left) The façade of the Jerusalem Temple depicted on a tetradrachm minted by the Jewish rebels in Judaea in 132 CE. (top right) Bronze coin of Aelia Capitolina, showing Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf; the design marks the city as a Roman enclave and the caption names it, in Latin, as COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA. (bottom) An oil lamp, from the Israel Museum, depicting the wild boar, the symbol of the Tenth Legion.

(above) The destruction of the temple of Dagon depicted in a mural from the synagogue at Dura Europus (mid-third century). (below) A Jewish sarcophagus from Rome, probably from the last quarter of the third century. Where a sarcophagus of this type would usually have a portrait of the deceased, in the roundel held by the two central winged victories over the three putti treading grapes in a basin, the sculptor has depicted instead a menorah.

The sun as a god, depicted as SOL INVICTUS, “Unconquered Sun,” on coins of the pagan emperor Victorinus (who ruled briefly in a part of the western empire from 269 to 271 CE) (above left) and of the Christian emperor Constantine (above right), and in the center of a mosaic (below) showing the signs of the Zodiac on the floor of the synagogue at Hammat Tiberias in Galilee (fourth century).

Cuirassed bronze statue of Hadrian found in 1975 at Tel Shalem near the River Jordan south of ancient Scythopolis. The portrait of the emperor is one of the finest bronze imperial portraits to survive from antiquity. The relation of the head to the torso, on which nude warriors are depicted in combat, has been disputed.

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