The arrival ceremony (adventus) provides important insights into the social imaginary of late antique Rome. On the one hand, the adventus visibly highlighted the power of those arriving. On the other hand, the city presented a version of itself in the form of the welcoming committee. How, for whom, and by whom these arrivals were staged reveals the changing ways that Rome was imagined. Though the ceremony remained deeply traditional for a very long time – emperors greeted by the senate and Roman people – over centuries, the ritual was slowly adapted to suit a Christianizing city. Bishops not only joined the welcoming committee, but they themselves were welcomed back into Rome in grand style.
Keywords:adventus (arrival ceremony), Christianization, late antique Rome, performance, processions, triumph
And so we came to Rome. Brothers from that place, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius [65 km] and Three Taverns [50 km] to meet us.Acts 28:14–15
In a way, Paul's arrival may be the first Christian adventus (arrival ceremony) at Rome. As Paul and his entourage (a centurion named Julius, other prisoners, and the narrator of Acts) approached the city, two different groups of brothers, and possibly also sisters (adelphoi), greeted him at great distances from the city. At Rome, Paul was allowed to live in rented rooms with the soldier who had accompanied him on his journey. Then, on the third day after his arrival, Paul assembled and spoke to the leaders of the Jewish community. Whatever may have really happened, the author of Acts certainly described how a figure like Paul should have been greeted, following, more or less, the standard pattern for a ritualized arrival at Rome: a joyous greeting outside the city by some representative group, an address to (some of) the citizens and/or an offering of thanks for a safe arrival, and the assumption of his or her residence.
This pattern had been set by the late Republic, when Cicero returned from exile in 57 BCE. According to Cicero himself, ‘the Roman people honored me with their large and joyful escort from the gate to the Capitol and from there to my house.’