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.
The aqueduct riot
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish War 2.175-177
On a later occasion he provoked a fresh uproar by expending upon the construction
of an aqueduct the sacred treasure known as Corbonas; the water was brought
from a distance of seventy kilometers. Indignant at this proceeding, the
populace formed a ring round the tribunal of Pilate, then on a visit to
Jerusalem, and besieged him with angry clamor.
He, foreseeing the tumult, had interspersed among
the crowd a troop of his soldiers, armed but disguised in civilian dress,
with orders not to use their swords, but to beat any rioters with cudgels.
He now from his tribunal gave the agreed signal.
Large numbers of the Jews perished, some from the
blows which they received, others trodden to death by their companions
in the ensuing flight. Cowed by the fate of the victims, the multitude
was reduced to silence.
Tasks of a governor
The iconic standards
The aqueduct riot
Judaea and its neigbors
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.60-62
He spent money from the sacred treasury in the construction of an aqueduct
to bring water into Jerusalem, intercepting the source of the stream at
a distance of thirty-five kilometers. The Jews did not acquiesce in the
operations that this involved; and tens of thousands of men assembled and
cried out against him, bidding him relinquish his promotion of such designs.
Some too even hurled insults and abuse of the sort that a throng will commonly
He thereupon ordered a large number of soldiers
to be dressed in Jewish garments, under which they carried clubs, and he
sent them off this way and that, thus surrounding the Jews, whom he ordered
to withdraw. When the Jews were in full torrent of abuse he gave his soldiers
the prearranged signal.
They, however, inflicted much harder blows than
Pilate had ordered, punishing alike both those who were rioting and those
who were not. But the Jews showed no faint-heartedness; and so, caught
unarmed, as they were, by men delivering a prepared attack, many of them
actually were slain on the spot, while some withdrew disabled by blows.
Thus ended the uprising.
Korbanas: among the Jews the holy treasury.
Pilate spent the holy treasury on an aqueduct and stirred up a riot. It
brought in water from a distance of seventy-two kilometers. Bringing in
his army, he killed many.
[NB: The Suda is a Byzantine dictionary
from the tenth century.]
The construction of the aquaduct -its length was twenty kilometers- had
been ordered by king Herod
the Great. Pilate could not finish the building; it was inaugurated
by king Herod
Agrippa, who reigned in Jerusalem from 41 tot 44.
The treasury Flavius Josephus describes as Corbonas is known
from Jewish sources as Qorban, and Jewish law permitted the use
of money from this treasures for social welfare and public works (Mishna
4.2). Of course the Temple authorities, whose duty it was to
administer the money, had to cooperate, but their consent is implied in
the story. Had they refused, Flavius Josephus would have told us that Pilate
stole the money. It is unclear what Pilate did wrong, especially since
the construction of an aqueduct was surely an undertaking that would have
improved the inhabitants' standard of living enormously. Maybe his mistake
was that he took the initiative, instead of allowing Caiaphas
to take the credits?
The demonstration seems to have taken place at a feast, because Pilate
was staying in Jerusalem. It may have been during this festival that the
Roman soldiers 'mingled the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices'
The fact that Pilate's soldiers could be hidden among the populace,
suggests that they were not Italians, but belonged to a locally recruited,
unit (Ala I Sebastenorum or Cohors I Sebastenorum).