The Remarkable Biblical Identity of the Modern Romans

The ancient saying “All roads lead to Rome” is still true! Though this city’s history is celebrated, its future as revealed in the Bible shows we haven’t seen the last of Rome yet.
Colosseum at dusk in Rome
David Iliff. LICENSE: CC-BY-SA 3.0

“What else, then, is all history, but the praise of Rome?”

Thus asked Renaissance scholar Petrarch. During his lifetime, Europe had finally emerged from the dark times instigated by the fall of the Roman Empire.

When Rome collapsed, gone was the impressive infrastructure of the great Roman civilization: its road system, its water supply network, its artistic and scholarly endeavors that filled thriving urban centers. Rome’s destruction left a continent roiled in violence, consumed by warfare, stricken with plagues and incapacitated politically.

In those Dark Ages, Europeans yearned for the cohesion and stability brought by Rome and its church. Rome’s majestic ruins were a living history, a light that beckoned Europe’s rulers to restore the city’s heritage and former glory.

When Petrarch penned his question, Europe had already seen three rebirths of the Roman Empire—three periods of perceived peace—come and pass. Since his death, three more have risen and fallen.

Its seventh and final resurgence is on the scene today.

Remarkably, among all the Roman Empire’s resurrections, none was led by Italy, its home territory. And though Italy hasn’t been prominent since the collapse of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome has always played, and continues to play, a dominant role.

Why is Rome still so prominent, even now? The capital cities of the other world-ruling empires mentioned in the Bible—the Chaldean, Persian and Greek empires—had nowhere near Rome’s global influence. Interestingly, no other world-ruling empire was ever named solely after its capital city; they have all been named after the people. The Roman Empire, however, is not the “Latin” Empire, after the Latin people who lived in central Italy. And those who established the empire are not called Latins either. They are the Romans.

It all centers on Rome! Again, why?

The answer lies in Rome’s history, which, when properly examined, traces all the way back to the beginning of man’s civilization.

War and Displacement

Rome’s history is a history of war. Its empire was built through incessant warfare. Its expansion sparked several demographic trends. The first was that the centuries of warfare exhausted the peoples of Rome and central Italy. In the beginning of its expansion, Roman military policy forbidding soldiers to marry slowed population growth even more, and children sired by soldiers weren’t granted Roman citizenship. The massive territorial size and rapid expansion of the Roman Empire made it inevitable that it would one day run out of people to govern its territory.

Rome’s solution to the lack of manpower was to import slaves and extend citizenship to loyal subjects, thereby extending the Roman name beyond the original people.

Why is Rome still so prominent, even now? The capital cities of the other world-ruling empires mentioned in the Bible—the Chaldean, Persian and Greek empires—if they still exist, have nowhere near Rome’s global influence.

The records are thin on how many slaves were imported to Italy and their specific origin, but it is believed that by the end of the Roman Empire, more than one third of the population were slaves. The flood of slaves into Rome was particularly strong after the great conquests. The Romans were known for freeing their slaves and granting their descendants citizenship. This introduced a large number of foreign-born freedmen into Roman citizenship.

In addition, slave families grew much quicker than the Roman families, whose sons were off fighting in wars and whose families experienced lower birth rates (as is generally true of advanced civilizations).

Observations of a Roman

Over the years, freedmen and their descendants became a large, powerful class of people. Roman historian Tacitus pointed out that by Emperor Nero’s time (first century A.D.), many Roman aristocrats were from families of freed slaves.

Drawing of the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus
Public Domain
This class “was a widely diffused body,” Tacitus wrote. “[F]rom it, the city tribes, the various public functionaries, the establishments of the magistrates and priests were for the most part supplied, as well as the cohorts of the city-guard; very many of the knights and several of the senators derived their origin from no other source.” Freedmen weren’t the grunts of the city; they were running Rome!

“If freed men were to be a separate class, the small quantity of the freeborn would be conspicuously apparent,” observed Tacitus. By the first century A.D. the prominence of freed slaves and their families was broadly apparent—not just politically but also religiously.

This demographic trend became so alarming that several emperors, starting with Augustus, enacted legislation to promote ethnic Roman population growth. Their attempts at social engineering failed. The Romans built an enormous empire, but it then cost them their homeland.

As the center of the Mediterranean world, Rome was a cosmopolitan city attracting diverse multitudes of people from all parts of the empire. Slaves weren’t the only foreigners; trade attracted many foreign merchants to this all-important city as well.

Where did these aliens who slowly replaced the original Roman population come from?

Roman Experts Weigh In

While traders and slaves, and therefore freedmen, came from all over the empire, research conducted by Prof. Tenney Frank of Johns Hopkins University demonstrates that the majority came from the eastern part of the empire.

He noticed that many of the names left behind in inscriptions in Rome were not Latin. To get a clearer picture of the demographics in Rome, he and his colleagues studied the various tombs and monuments in Rome. After looking through 13,900 inscriptions, he found that 83 percent of the names were of foreign derivation, with the majority being Greek.

When taking various scenarios into consideration in his research, Frank estimated that up to 90 percent of the Romans were of mixed descent from eastern races. This proves that Tacitus’s observations were not exaggerated.

At first glance, because of the majority of the Greek names on the inscriptions, one might think Greeks repopulated Rome, but this was not the case. Before the Romans created their empire in Asia Minor and the Middle East, that part of the world was ruled by the Greeks. After the death of Alexander the Great, his generals split his empire into several Greek kingdoms. During this time, known as the Hellenistic period, the Greeks introduced their culture into the conquered lands.

While the Roman population dwindled, Rome and wider Italy were repopulated by slaves imported primarily from the Syrian region. These slaves, possessing Greek names, then became freedmen and even developed into Rome’s new aristocracy.

Many of the easterners, especially in the upper and middle classes, took on new Greek names. These skilled foreigners had the knowledge and skills to fill the vacant ranks as slaves or freedmen in Rome’s upper echelons, as Tacitus described.

Frank found that 70 percent of urban inscriptions of freedmen bore Greek names, strongly indicating that most of the slaves in Rome and Italy were from the east. They weren’t actually Greek people, but rather Hellenized people of the Middle East.

Italy’s Replacement Population

The Romans themselves could see what was happening to their population. The Roman satirist Juvenal wrote in the late first century, “These dregs call themselves Greeks but how small a portion is from Greece; the Orontes River has long flowed into the Tiber” (III, 62).

The Orontes River flows in Syria. Juvenal was saying that most of the slaves with Greek names who ended up in Italy actually came from Syria and the Levant area. His observation is confirmed by modern research. “The parts of the empire outside of Italy which furnished the greatest number of slaves whose places of origins can be strictly determined were Syria and the provinces of Asia Minor,” wrote William Westermann in The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity.

So modern historians, and the Roman historians who were alive as this great demographic shift was happening, all agree: While the Roman population dwindled, Rome and wider Italy were repopulated by slaves imported primarily from the Syrian region. These slaves, possessing Greek names, then became freedmen and even developed into Rome’s new aristocracy.

So if most of the population was being replaced by Hellenized Syrians who took on Greek names, who were these people that now formed a substantial part of Rome and the rest of Italy’s population?

This question can be answered by the Bible.

Who Were These Syrians?

The Roman province of Syria stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River in the east, and from Asia Minor to Palestine in the south. By Roman times, there were many different peoples dwelling in Syria. This was a result of numerous invasions and population movements starting with Assyrian conquests half a century before the Romans came.

When the Assyrians conquered a territory, they typically deported the inhabitants to the extreme part of their empire and repopulated the land with other peoples.

The biblical book of Ezra describes the various peoples settling in the Syrian area after the Assyrian repopulation policy:

Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper [King Ashurbanipal] brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river [west of the Euphrates], and at such a time. (4:9-10)

The people dwelling in Samaria and in the other land west of the Euphrates, meaning Syria, were a mixed group coming from Mesopotamia and Persia, with nine peoples specifically mentioned out of a whole multitude resettled by the Assyrians. 2 Kings 16 records how the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser carried away the Syrians into captivity. Many of the original inhabitants of Syria, called Arameans, were deported to a land south of the Caucasus, now known as Armenia (Amos 1:3-5).

This is exactly what the Assyrians did to the kingdom of Israel, deporting the Israelites toward the Caucasus region and replacing them with essentially the same people used to repopulate Syria: “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof” (2 Kings 17:24).

One group of people here is common in both cases: the Babylonians.

Based on the order listed, the Babylonians were the dominant people resettled in Samaria, and prominent among the people resettled in Syria.

Babylonian migration to Rome
Watch Jerusalem
Descendants of Babylon Moved to Syria

Babylon itself was sacked in 689 B.C. by the Assyrian King Sennacherib because of continuous revolt by the people of southern Mesopotamia. Much of the city was destroyed. But instead of silencing the local population, this act provoked fiercer resistance against Assyrian rule.

Sennacherib’s son rebuilt Babylon in an effort to strengthen relations with the Babylonians and those in southern Mesopotamia who saw its destruction as an act of sacrilege. (Babylon was a powerful religious center from antiquity with much prestige at that time, much like Rome today.)

The Babylonians in lower Mesopotamia—also called the Chaldeans in ancient records, including the Bible—continued the rebellion. Eventually, with support from tribes nearby, they overthrew the Assyrians. They then established a Mesopotamian Empire that reached all the way into Egypt, and included Syria, to where their kinfolk had been deported.

When the Chaldean Empire, also referred to as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, was established in 625 B.C., it was the last time Babylon would have such an important political role. Only a few generations later, the Persians conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

When Alexander the Great conquered the Persians and took control of Babylon in 331 B.C., he intended Babylon to be the capital of his new empire. But he abruptly died, leaving his empire to be divided by his generals. The Seleucids gained control of much of the Middle East, including the land once ruled by the Babylonians.

The Seleucids abandoned Babylon, creating a new capital called Seleucia on the Tigris. This now became Mesopotamia’s leading city, and many Babylonians moved to the new capital. Greek geographer Strabo even says that the people in Seleucia on the Tigris and living around the city were called Babylonians, even though they had left Babylon: “As we call the country Babylonia, so we call the people Babylonians, not from the name of the city, but of the country” (16.1.16).

The capital was later moved to another city built by the Greeks: Antioch. Its location off the Orontes River near the Mediterranean coast put it right on important trade routes, which made it a natural capital and a prime destination for migration for the Mesopotamian people. When the Romans conquered it in 64 B.C., it was the third-largest city in the entire Roman Empire!

By the time of the Roman Empire, the population of the area was so mixed that the people were ethnically indistinguishable from each other. The Babylonians were now labeled Syrian. Even the Greek rulers and settlers ethnically disappeared, as Livy, Roman historian of the first century, records: “The Macedonians who settled in Alexandria in Egypt, or in Seleucia, or in Babylonia, or in any of their other colonies scattered over the world, have degenerated into Syrians, Parthians, or Egyptians” (xxxviii, 17).

The Greek language did live on for a time, but the Greek culture was really a veneer over an ethnically mixed society primarily based on the Babylonian religious system.

Babylon Lives On

So the descendants of the ancient Babylonians migrated to Rome through Syria, primarily as slaves. Over time, these slaves and their descendants, as well as other people from the east, became such a substantial portion of the Roman population that it is estimated that 90 percent of the people had mixed descent from them! Many of these slaves were taken as the rest of Syria and Mesopotamia was conquered by Rome in the late 100s A.D. Roman records show one emperor taking 100,000 captives from the area to sell into slavery!

These people brought with them their acceptance of Eastern religion. That is why Eastern philosophies and traditions were so readily accepted in the Roman Empire—and why they are so evident and integral in Roman Catholicism.

Though Babylon was abandoned, it continued to live on through the migration of its people into Italy and the acceptance of its religious system by the Roman Empire.

Rome with its seven hills is even described as such in the Bible, as a great city on “seven mountains,” ruling over many nations—a city that will once again powerfully influence world affairs!

All Roads Lead to Babylon!

Biblical prophecies describe the Babylonian “system” of government that has been perpetually continued throughout the ages. Daniel 2 describes the progression from the Babylonian Empire to the Persian to the Greek to the Roman—different names, yet a continuation of the same system of mankind’s governments. Prophecy gets very specific about what would happen to each of these empires—particularly the Roman Empire, also described in detail in Daniel 7 as a “beast” with “ten horns” (read our booklet Who or What is the Prophetic Beast?). These prophecies describe a constantly reviving Roman Empire throughout the ages right up until now. The legacy of Rome—and by extension, Babylon—has not died.

What is incredible is that this was prophesied in such detail. Many scholars try to give the book of Daniel a later date of writing, because surely it could not have predicted the events it describes in such detail. The earliest copies of Daniel thus far discovered can be dated to around 150 B.C.; this is the date scholars typically go with, in order to explain away the accurate prophecies of the Babylonian, Persian and Greek empires. Yet this still doesn’t take into account the accurate prophecies of the Roman Empire—the events of which occurred much later!

The biblical details—not just in the book of Daniel—are incredibly specific about the Roman Empire. The Bible even describes a leading, false church headquartered in Rome. It declares that this church spreads a religion that stems from ancient Babylon! This, of course, is the Catholic Church!

The same Babylonian religious system—established at the Tower of Babel by Nimrod to rule man’s civilization—still exists today in the Catholic Church, with the misappropriated name of Christ attached to it! For a full detailed account of the dozens of biblical passages describing this religious system (and the Roman Empire in general), read online or request our free book The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.

Borsippa Ziggurat, a possible location of the Tower of Babel
Yves GELLIE/Gamma-Rapho/ Getty Images
This religious system, now based in Rome, has powerfully involved itself in the affairs of many nations and peoples. Rome is Europe’s most powerful symbol of power and prestige; all those who have striven to resurrect the Roman Empire have sought backing from Rome. Only with the Roman church’s approval can the ruler be considered a legitimate successor to the Roman Empire.

The same was true of Babylon. The kings of Assyria, Persia and Greece all took the title of king of Babylon to give themselves prestige and legitimacy in the Western world. The symbolism between the two runs deep!

In God’s perspective, the Holy Roman Empire is a mere continuation of the Babylonian system established so long ago. Thus we can place the modern fulfillment of end-time biblical verses relating to Babylon.

One Final Resurgence, And Then …

This Roman-Babylonian system is prophesied to rise one last time and wreak havoc on the world, conquering many nations, including the modern-day Israelites. (To prove who the Israelites are, request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.) The modern-day Babylon—the last political-religious system based in Rome to ever come to power again—is now called the European Union, originally established under the Treaty of Rome! We have been prophesying about the formation and specific makeup of this union for over 80 years.

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Request our free book The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy and our booklet Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. They explain the history of the Holy Roman Empire and prove that a conglomeration of European states will be the last resurrection of this empire. They also explain the riveting conclusion to this last resurrection of Rome: God personally will crush it! The Bible tells us to come out of this false religious system or face her punishment. The Messiah is prophesied to come and set up His own Kingdom, to replace the Roman Empire and the Babylonian system that came before (Daniel 2:44-45)!

If you understand the history behind this modern-day Babylon, populated in large part by the descendants of the ancient Babylonians, then you will have the knowledge necessary to act on and “come out” of this Babylonian system and religion! And you will know, based on the prophecies explained in the abovementioned literature, that what is happening in modern Babylon is a sign that the coming of the Messiah is incredibly close!