Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

Roman Empire City Travel |
Cities without street names, streets without addresses

Roman Empire City Travel is drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 157, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit Books.TheChristians.com.

Finding anyone’s house in Paul’s day could be a bewildering job

Roman Empire City Travel - Cities without street names, streets without addresses

Roman Empire City Travel – Cities without street names, streets without addresses

In the seemingly constant travel of first-century Christians between cities and within them, some of the difficulties of finding places and people then may escape modern readers–street names in ancient cities were often merely a matter of local usage. There was no such thing as an official or legal name, and the same street might have several different ones.

Streets simply grew, without surveys, without property lines, and without house numbers. Worst of all, they did not necessarily run in straight lines or meet at right angles.

The following dialogue is taken from The Brothers by playwright Terence, a former slave who adapted Greek comedies for a Roman, Latin-speaking audience. The scene is Athens, early in the second century B.C. Two hundred years later, city life was little changed, making the play a big hit with Roman audiences. The translation is by John Sargeaunt.

Demea Tell me the place then.

Syrus Do you know the colonnade by the meat market down

the way?

Demea Of course, I do.

Syrus Go that way straight up the street. When you get there the slope is right there in front of you; down it you go. At the end there is a chapel on this side. Just by the side of it there’s an alley.

Demea Which?

Syrus The one where the great wild fig-tree is.

Demea I know it.

Syrus Take that way.

Demea That’s a blind alley.

Syrus So it is, by Jove. Tut, tut, you must think me a fool. I made a mistake. Come back to the colonnade. Yes, yes, there’s a much nearer way, and much less chance of missing it. Do you know Cratinus’s house, the millionaire man there?

Demea Yes.

Syrus When you are past it, turn to your left, go straight along the street, and when you come to the Temple of Diana turn to the right. Before you come to the town-gate, close by the pool, there’s a baker’s shop and opposite is a workshop. That’s where he is.

This is the end of the Roman Empire City Travel category article drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 157, of Volume One, The Veil is Torn. To continue reading more about Roman Empire City Travel from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at Books.TheChristians.com