Rome was the political, economic and military center of the Roman Empire in the first century A.D. Since its 753 B.C. founding in Italy, it had grew to a wealthy major metropolis with an estimated population of 1.2 million (half of which were slaves).
The New Testament church began on the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. Among the crowds of people who heard the gospel, through one of Jesus' disciples, were "strangers of Rome" (Acts 2:10). They were among the many, on this unique day, to repent of their sins and receive God's Holy Spirit.
The life of Jesus and the early New Testament church spanned several of Rome's emperors. Augustus ruled the empire in 5 B.C. when Christ was born into the world and his successor, Tiberius, reigned when Jesus was crucified in 30 A.D. Caligula ruled when a Centurion named Cornelius became the first recorded non-Jew to become a Christian (Acts 10).
Claudius was Emperor when, in 44 A.D., the Apostle Paul began the first of what would become five missionary journeys. He was also the ruler who expelled Priscilla, Aquila and other Jews from the city of Rome (Acts 18:1 - 2). Emperor Nero, in 67 A.D., began the first of the Empire's persecutions against believers. He approved the killing of a large number of saints, including Paul and Peter.
Rome's Emperor Domitian exiled the last living original apostle, John, to the island of Patmos around 95 A.D. It took his successor, Nerva, to release John from the island and allow him to spend his remaining days in Ephesus.
The New Testament delineates no less than six Roman homes used as gathering places for Christians in Italy to meet, eat and worship the Eternal.
Aquila and Priscilla who, like the apostle Paul, were tentmakers (Acts 18:3), hosted a fellowship in their home (Romans 16:3 - 5). Additionally, believers named Aristobulus, Narcissus, Asyncritus and Philogus maintained a house church (Romans 16:10 - 15). Paul himself, in his first imprisonment in Rome, was allowed the liberty of being guarded in a house that doubled as a place for believers to meet (Acts 28:16, 23, 29 - 31).
Amazingly, in spite of the circumstances under which he was held, Paul wrote at least five of his fourteen epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon and 2Timothy) which held as a prisoner in Rome.