The Berean Expositor
Volume 31 - Page 123 of 181
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The Powers That Be.
(Being a series of studies in Roman history,
and Roman laws and customs,
in so far as they throw light upon the N.T. narrative).
#17.  "Civis Romanus sum."
Paul and Roman Citizenship.
pp. 33 - 35
The Jew regarded the world as made up of "the circumcision" and "the
uncircumcision"--his own favoured nation, and the rest of the world as "Gentile dogs".
The Greek, on the other hand, divided the world up into "Greeks" and `Barbarians"
(Rom. 1: 14), while the Roman viewed it as being composed of Freemen and Slaves. A
"Freeman" in the Roman sense might either be Civis (A Roman citizen), or Peregrinus
(a foreigner, though free). A "Freeman" could either be born free or could become free.
In contrast with the position of the "Freeman" the slave was devoid of all rights of
liberty, citizenship and position in a family. Nullum habet caput. Up to A.D.61, a slave
could be ordered to fight in the arena with gladiators or wild beasts, and until the time of
Claudius, his master could punish him with death at will. There was one well-known
case of Vedius Pollio, in the reign of Augustus, who cast his slave into the ponds to feed
his lampreys. The only penalty Pollio suffered was the loss of his fish ponds.
A slave who committed murder was punished with great severity, and we read that
400 slaves were executed to avenge the murder of Pedanius Secundus. Torture by whip
or fetters was also inflicted for the slightest offences, and most of the large Roman houses
contained an ergastulum, or private prison, where the slaves worked in chains.
A slave could become free by the process of "manumission". The actual form of this
enactment has come down to us from Delphi and reads as follows:
Date. Apollo, the Pythian bought from Sositus of Amphia, for freedom, a female
slave, whose name is Nicaea, by race a Roman, with a price of three and a half minae of
silver. Former seller according to law: Eumnastus of Amphissa. The price he hath
received. The purchase, however, Nicaea hath committed unto Apollo, for freedom.
The reader will not fail to see the parallel here with the Apostle's words, "Bought with
a price", and the literal rendering of Gal. 5: 1: "For freedom did Christ set us free."
In numerous records of manumission the enfranchised person is said to be allowed
henceforth to "do the things that he will"--an obvious parallel with  Gal. 5: 17.
Moreover, many manumission orders contain the clause that the freed person shall never
"be made a slave again"--a phrase which finds an echo in such passages as Gal. 5: 1
and I Cor. 7: 23.