Pilate and Christ; Rossano Gospel (sixth century) (©!!!)
Pilate was the Roman governor
of Judaea from
26 CE to 36 CE; in this capacity, he was responsible for the execution
of Nazareth. This was not the only incident
during his tenure of office, however. In this article, all these incidents
are discussed. An attempt is made to show that Pilate was sincerely interested
in Jewish culture and did his best to prevent unnecessary violence.
Tasks of a governor
The governor of any Roman province
had four tasks.
Tasks of a governor
The iconic standards
The aqueduct riot
Tiberius (British Museum)
These were the governor's normal tasks. Pilate's tenure of office was not
typical, however, because the Syrian governor Lucius Aelius Lamia was absent.
This lively old man -a personal friend of the famous poet Horace- belonged
to the highest nobility of the Empire: he had been consul
in 3 CE and governor of the prestigious province of Africa in 15/16. For
reasons that will forever remain unclear, the emperor Tiberius
requested the popular senator
to stay in Rome, and when he died in 33, he ordered a state funeral. To
Pilate, this meant that for the first six years of his term of office,
he could not fall back on the Syrian governor and his troops. In case of
an emergency, he and his auxiliaries were alone.
He was responsible for the taxes. As the emperor's personal financial agent,
he had to supervise the local authorities and the private tax collectors
(the notorious publicans). To facilitate things, a governor could mint
coins and negotiate with wealthy institutions (like the Temple in Jerusalem)
that could advance the money.
He was an accountant: he inspected the books and supervised large scale
The governor was the province's supreme judge. Appeal was not impossible,
but the voyage to Rome was expensive. The Judaean governor was supposed
to travel through the three main districts -Samaria,
Judaea and Idumea- to administer justice in the assize towns.
He commanded an army. In the more important provinces, this could consist
of legions; but the Judaean governor commanded only auxiliary troops. Two
cohorts had their barracks in Jerusalem (at the old palace and at the fortress
Antonia); a third cohort guarded the Judaean capital, Caesarea; and two
cohorts of infantry and one cavalry regiment were on duty throughout the
province. Taken together, the prefect
commanded 6×500 men: a force to be reckoned with, but not enough
when things went seriously wrong. In that case, his superior, the governor
of Syria, would have to send a legion, a heavy infantry unit of 5300 men.