Rome – the vibrant city of millions and the political epicenter of the Roman Empire. Due to its economic power and its cultural, religious, and philosophical impact, it attracted people from all directions and various ethnic and social backgrounds. Besides merchants, scholars, advocates, travelers, and soldiers of fortune, many came here more or less involuntarily as slaves or migrants. Along with a host of other religious groups, cults, and deities from the East (e.g., Serapis, Isis, Cybele, Mithras), the early Christ movement also arrived here with this permanent influx of newcomers and soon established in different districts and social strata.
Rather than focusing only on the institutional aspect and reducing 1st century Christianity in Rome to a single paradigm (association, household, synagogue, scholastic community, civic assembly), ECCLESIAE is interested in individual perceptions and subjective perspectives. What among the Roman Christ groups would have attracted the attention of an outsider? What kind of social network enabled connection with early Christians? Which meeting places could an outsider have visited? What would have made Christianity attractive to him or her? Analogous to Paul, who imagines fictional interlocutors (e.g., Rom. 2:1–29; 9:19–23) or sketches a possible scenario
(1 Cor. 14:23) in which idiotai, i.e., ignorant outsiders, rush into a Christian assembly, ECCLESIAE fleshes out exemplary and at the same time historically plausible characters or Avatars. Theoretical models drawn from network analysis will help to imagine how the early Christ movement participated and diffused within specific urban settings, and how it moved from one insula, quarter, and neighborhood in the city to another.