ROMAN EMPIRE (rd'man em'pir), the gov ernment of the Romans as conducted by the emperors, of whom Augustus was the first.
The term may be taken with some latitude of meaning, as representing the Roman state since the Romans came into contact with the Jews be fore the commencement of the imperial sway. We have, however, no intention to give an ac count of the rise, progress, and decline of the Roman power, but merely to set forth a few of the more essential facts, speaking a little less briefly of the relations formed and sustained be tween the Romans and the Jews.
(1) Relations with Jews. The proconsuls, proprxtors, and proprzetorial lieutenants, when about to proceed into their several provinces, re ceived instructions for their guidance from the emperor ; and in cases in which these were found insufficient they were to apply for special direc tions to the imperial head of the state. A speci men of such application may be found in Pliny's letter to Trajan, with the emperor's rescript, re garding the conduct which was to be observed towards the already numerous and rapidly grow ing sect of Christians. The administration of jus tice, so far as it did not belong to the province itself, was in the governor or lieutenants assem bled in a conventus ; an appeal lay from this court to the proconsul, and from him to Cxsar. Criminal justice was wholly in the hands of the local governor, and extended not only over the provincials, but the Roman citizens as well; in important cases the governers applied for a deci sion to the emperor. As the Romans carefully abstained from making any changes in religious matters, so in Palestine the judging of crimes against religion was left by them to the high priest and the Sanhedrim, even so far as condem nation to death ; but the execution of the sentence depended on the procurator ( Joseph. Antiq. xx, 9, t ; Mark xiv :53, 55, 62-65; John xviii :31). The Jews, at least during the time covered by the Gospels, enjoyed the free exercise of their re ligion. They had their synagogues or temples of public worship, where they served God without molestation, streaming thither at their great fes tivals from all parts of the land, and making what offerings or contributions they pleased.
They had their high-priests, council or senate, and inflicted lesser punishments ; they could ap prehend men and bring them before the council ; and if a guard of soldiers was needful could be assisted by them upon asking the governor for them ; they could bind men and keep them in cus tody; the council could summon witnesses, take examinations, and, when they had any capital offenders carry them before the governor. This
governor usually paid a regard to what they of fered, and, if they brought evidence of the fact, pronounced sentence according to their laws. He was the proper judge in all capital causes.
In the second period, the Scriptures do not make it clear that there was any Roman officer in Judma. In the main the condition of the prov ince was not dissimilar to what it was in the first period. The case of Stephen, who was stoned to death, may seem to be an exception but it may be considered as the result of offended bigotry and of the outbreak of popular fury.
The facts connected with the third period offer no difficulty, and may he found in Acts xii. Every order and act of Herod. here mentioned— his killing James with the sword. imprisoning Peter with intent to bring him forth to the peo ple, commanding the keepers to be put to death arc undeniable proofs of his sovereign authority at this time in Judea.
In the fourth period the main thing is the treat ment of Paul in Judtea, so far as there is any appearance of legal procedure. The case was this: A man was in danger of being killed in a popular tumult in Jerusalem; a Roman officer rescues him, takes him into his own hands, and lodges him in a castle; afterwards, that his pris oner might be safer, he removes him to Cesarea, the residence of the governor, before whom there are divers hearings. There was, therefore, at the time a Roman governor in Judea. A Jewish council also appears—one not void of authority. The charge was of a religious nature, yet it is heard before Felix and Festus, whose authority is acknowledged on all sides. Paul appealed to the Roman emperor. The general conclusion is, that if causes of a religious nature did not ex clusively belong to the Romans, they had supreme power over the Jews in civil matters. These de ductions, made from the Evangelists themselves, Lardner corroborates by an appeal to independent authorities, namely, the opinions of Roman law yers concerning the power of the governors of provinces; the statements of historians relating to the condition of Judea in particular, and simi lar information touching the state of the people in other provinces. Before. however, we speak of the connection in this period between Rome and Judtra, we must go back a little in order to show under what preliminary circumstances Judaea be came a part of the great Roman empire.