According to Acts, Chapter 28, the Centurion Julius gave custody of Paul to the “chief of the soldiers” who was probably the commander of the Praetorian Guard. This is consistent with what is known from Roman history, since the Praetorian Guard was in charge of prisoners sent to Rome from the outside provinces.
Because Paul was put under the watch of the Praetorian Guard, his rented quarters were probably near their fortress and barracks. The barracks, or Castra Praetoria, were constructed in 23 AD, allowing the guard to be centralized in one location. It was a massive fortress on the edge of the city, and some of the ruins are still visible here today.
To be under guard by the Praetorians meant that Paul must have been considered an important prisoner, since these soldiers were the personal, elite guards of the Emperor himself. Augustus established the Praetorians and Tiberius stationed them here in Rome at their own fortress. In the time of Claudius and Nero, the Guard was expanded to about 10,000 soldiers.
Because of their important position as the guard of the Emperor, the Praetorians were the military elites, given double pay and special privileges. At the time of Paul, they served for 16 years, instead of the 20 for a regular legionary, and upon their discharge were given a retirement bonus equaling about seven years’ wages.
The Book of Acts continues:
When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him. (Acts 28:16)
Paul was probably taken to an apartment, located in one of the many multi-story housing bocks — or insulae — of Rome. According to data from the late Roman period, there were around 45,000 of these insulae housing blocks in the city, ranging from 2 to 5 stories high and often having shops on the ground floor. Many of these structures were known to be dangerous, with collapses, floods, and fires a constant threat. This is where Paul would live under house arrest as he waited for his hearing before the emperor.
Because he was under house arrest, Paul could not venture to the synagogues to preach in Rome, as was his normal custom in other cities. However, the leaders gathered at his apartment and heard the story of his arrest, and then he shared the Gospel of Jesus, reasoning from the Scriptures. Similar to what happened in other cities, some of the Jews were persuaded, while others disagreed, and a dispute arose among the leaders. However, since Paul was already under arrest, and guarded by a Roman soldier at all times, he couldn’t be run out of town this time.
While under house arrest in Rome, Paul not only taught, but he also wrote letters, including the four New Testament epistles, of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul mentioned that his imprisonment for the cause of Christ had become known throughout the whole Praetorian. This is more evidence that Paul was under house arrest with a Praetorian Guard while in Rome, and it indicates that Paul was living near their barracks. Also in his letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions a number of new believers from the “household of Caesar.” This reference shows that the people living and working in the Imperial Palace were very familiar with Paul, suggesting that Paul had interaction with those in the household of the Emperor.
Although Paul was given the freedom to write, send letters, have visitors, preach and teach, he was also under constant guard and chained to the soldier on duty. Roman sources demonstrate that renting quarters and being chained to a soldier were typical protocol for a prisoner under house arrest. This meant, however, that the soldiers guarding Paul and anyone in the “household of Caesar” that interacted with Paul heard the Gospel. As a result, Paul’s letters tell us that some became followers of Jesus and joined the first century church in Rome.
The Book of Acts ends in Rome, with Paul still awaiting trial.
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28:30-31)