Roman roads stretched from Jerusalem, Northern Africa, modern Spain, France, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, Syria and places in between. There roads were a sort of paved road, covered in rock, made wide enough for the soldiers to march in a column six wide. Along these roads the Roman civilization spread and commerce was set up along these ancient highways.
Paul and the early apostles would travel by these roads often times as they would go from place to place. When travelling on these roads the way was generally safe, a security afforded by the easy and frequent travel that Roman officials carried out on these roads.
The danger was found on the secondary roads more readily. The network of secondary roads were not paved, and not as wide. They did not have bridges and often would wash out in storms and the change of seasons. Robbers and gangs of bandits also lay in wait on these roads too.
The poet and philosopher Apuleius, who lived about 100 years after Paul, wrote, “When we reached the small village, the inhabitants very naturally mistook us for a brigade of bandits.They were in such alarm that they unchained a pack of large mastiffs, which they kept as watch dogs, very savage beast, worse than any wolf or bear, and set them at us with shouts, halloos and discordant cries.” Bandits watched for travellers to attack, and villagers watched for bandits to defend against, and traveller got caught very clearly in the cross fire.
It was in these sorts of conditions that people had to travel. This does not ever begin to cover the wild animals that also travelled the area. Again Apuleius wrote about traveling on a road in Greece and getting the following warning, “We were told that the road we wished to take was strewn with half eaten corpses, and clean picked skeletons, and that we ought to proceed with all possible caution – the higher the sun, the milder the wolves – and in a compact body with no stragglers.” Bandits and zealous villagers were not the only thing the fear in travelling.
When Jesus tells the story of a man who “fell among thieves” in the parable of the Good Samaritan, nobody is recorded as having doubted the credibility of the story. And when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about the hazard of travel – “in perils of waters, in perils of robbers … in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea … in weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst … in cold and nakedness,”nobody accused him of exaggeration. People knew of these dangers, and yet the Gospel travel great distances, at great speed.
Sort of puts that simple conversation with a neighbour, co-worker or friend, and the difficulty we call it, into perspective doesn’t it?