March 25th, 2002
Received by H.
Hello, my brother. You are already getting tired of these "political
themes of the first century." But I want to deliver a clarification
on the reigning conditions in the Roman Empire during Jesus' public
life. Today we will speak of Pilate.
I believe that the easiest way of writing this message will be
if you write down what you know about Pilate, since you have studied
this character, and I will add my comments. Is this OK with you?
[H.R.: Its OK.
Well, Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judea, when
Jesus was condemned to death. The "Pontii" were a Samnitan
clan, that is to say, they came from a region southeast of Rome,
integrated very early into the Roman state. The Samnitans were Roman
citizens. But the Pontii were even more, they were members of the
equestrian rank, that is to say, noblemen from low nobility, knights.]
Here a slight correction. Not all Pontii were knights, that is
to say, there were families in this clan that even occupied senatorial
honors, which they had achieved through their excellent services
in the army, ascending in the social scale of nobility. But you
are right, Pilate's family had not reached these "superior
[H.R.: As to the province of Judea, it was
formally a third category imperial province. There were few provinces
of this kind, that is, those of little importance. Often they were
territories, where the native population caused problems. The governors
of these provinces came from the lines of the knights, and they
only commanded auxiliary troops, not regular Roman legionaries.
In the case of Judea, there were stationed five infantry cohorts
and one cavalry regiment. A cohort was stationed permanently in
Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem.]
That is only partially correct. Reading the Bible you should know
that Cornelius was a centurion of the Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum,
of the second Italian cohort of Roman citizens, also known as the
"Italian Band." It consisted, consequently, of regular
troops, stationed in Judea, at Caesarea. Later we will also speak
of this character, but for the time being, you will see that Judea
constituted an exception: there were regular, well trained troops,
under Pilate's direct command, courtesy of Sejanus, who did not
spare any effort in assuring that Pilate could maintain absolute
control of the situation in the province, that was vital for him.
We will also see how Pilate's troops took their insignia to Jerusalem,
causing the people's rage. They were regular troops.
[H.R.: The province was technically independent, but
in reality it was under the supervision of the administration of
the powerful neighboring province, Syria. The governor of Syria,
a man of consular rank, that is to say, from high nobility, commanded
3 legions, and after the year 18, up to 4 legions. In the event
of a crisis, the prefect of Judea could call on him for help.]
This is correct. And it would happen so in the future. I want to
add that the administrator of Judea had the title prefect, not procurator.
Prefect was a military title, thus expressing an effective military
administration, due to the tensions in the territory. But,
what more can you tell me of Pilate?
[H.R.: Almost nothing is known about him. Historians
suppose that he enjoyed an education characteristic of the high
strata of society, and that he had some military experience.]
This is correct. He participated in several wars, also in the Pannonian
campaign at Sejanus side, who was his friend.
[H.R.: Usually, the position of provincial administrator
was much desired by the Romans, because it meant revenues, huge
revenues, depending on the kind of province. Syria and Egypt surely
figured amongst the most solicited. Evil tongues said that an administrator
used to occupy his position during three years: Stealing and diverting
as much as he could during one year, in order to recover all the
money he had spent in bribes to obtain the position. They had to
pay back the money to their "friends and relatives" who
had lent it to them, at a "good interest", of course.
Then they stole during the next year, in order to bribe the judges
later on in all the trials for the cruelties and robberies committed
during their administration. And during the third year, they stole
in order to accumulate sufficient funds for retiring from the public
life, and to enjoy some luxury.]
So it was. It is true. Pilate was not an exception. He diverted
money for Sejanus vaults, but he retained enough in his sticky
hands for his own purposes.
[H.R.: There were two very important factors
that characterized Pilate's administration: First, the position
of the governor of Syria was vacant during Pilate's first six years.
Tiberius had named a legate for this country, but he kept him back
in Rome. This meant that Pilate could not count on quick help from
Syria in case of problems. He had to act with much caution.]
This is wrong. Of course, the position of the governor of Syria
was vacant, but not so the military commander. Pilate could obtain
help quickly from Syria in case of emergency. Secondly, he had,
apart from his auxiliary troops, his own regular troops that Sejanus
had provided him. So, his situation was quite safe.
[H.R.: The other characteristic feature of
Pilate's administration was that he never changed the Jewish high
priest. His predecessor, Valerius Gratus, had changed them four
times, but Pilate did not.]
Yes, that is important. Gratus last choice, Yosef Cayafa,
called Caiaphas in the Bible, the same one, who condemned Jesus,
would continue as the high priest during Pilate's period. That means
that both had come to a financial agreement benefiting
This message is already very long; I woul like to continue with it
tomorrow. I will talk about Pilate's activity in Judea. Then, I
promise you, we will come back to the story of Jesus' life.
Have a nice day, full with blessings,