PROCURATOR, title of the governors (first over Judea, later over most of Palestine) appointed by Rome during the years 6–41 and 44–66 C.E. From a recently discovered inscription in which *Pontius Pilate is mentioned, it appears that the title of the governors of Judea was also praefectus. Procuratorial rule came into force with the banishment of *Herod 's son *Archelaus in the year 6 and was interrupted for three years during the reign of *Agrippa I (41–44). The Judean-Palestinian procurator held the power of jurisdiction with regard to capital punishment (jus gladii). Roman citizens had the privilege of provocatio, i.e., the right to transfer the trial from the provincial governor to the emperor (cf. the case of *Paul , Acts 25:10–12; cf. 22:25ff.). The procurator was subject to the Roman legate in Syria, an illustration of this being the deportation of Pontius Pilate (26–36 C.E.) by Vitellius. Josephus also states (Wars, 2:280–1) that formal charges would have been preferred by the Jews against the last procurator Gessius *Florus (64–66 C.E.; see below) but that they refrained from taking their case to *Gallus in Syria from fear of reprisals. The Sanhedrin was allowed to exercise jurisdiction in civil matters, although the procurators could exercise control in this sphere as well. As a rule, the procurators maintained supervision over the country from their official residence at Caesarea. On Jewish festivals, their seat was temporarily transferred to Jerusalem in order to control the thousands who flocked to the Temple and on these occasions they sometimes gave physical expression to their hatred of Rome.
It is fair to assert that the procurators were either openly hostile or, at best, indifferent to the needs of the Jewish populace. They were notorious for their rapacity. Their relatively short tenure, coupled with hostility toward Jews as a whole, may have impelled them to amass quick profits. Whatever the case, the last two procurators before the Jewish War (66 C.E.), *Albinus and Gessius Florus, as a consequence of their monetary extortions and generally provocative acts, were indubitably instrumental in hastening the outbreak of hostilities. The only exception appears to have been Porcius *Festus
(60–62 C.E.) who made vain attempts to improve conditions. The procuratorial administration made an unfortunate beginning when the very first procurator, *Coponius , was dispatched to govern Judea, while the Syrian legate *Quirinius carried out a census (Jos., Ant., 18:1). The political consequences of this act were not delayed, as it led to the establishment of the Fourth Philosophy ( *Sicarii ) by *Judah the Galilean and the Pharisee Zadok. *Valerius Gratus (15–26) went so far as to depose high priests at will, an outrage on popular feeling hitherto perpetrated only by Herod. The outraged feelings of the populace were not calmed with the appointment of Gratus' successor, Pontius Pilate, during whose term of office Jesus was crucified. Pilate's decision to introduce into the city military standards bearing the emperor's likeness may have been inspired by Rome. Incontrovertible, however, are his own acts of cruelty and his miscarriages of justice, such as the execution of Galilean patriots without trial and his violence toward the Samaritans (35 C.E.). The latter act caused his recall to Rome and deposition by Vitellius in the spring of 36. So serious were the possible consequences of his misrule in the eyes of Rome that Vitellius was specially charged with the task of regaining Jewish favor by granting minor concessions.
While the "second series" of procurators, after the interlude of semi-independence under Herod Agrippa I, were deprived of the power of appointing the high priest, the very first of them, Cuspius *Fadus , gained custody of the priestly vestments. Although appointed by Claudius to counteract the Syrian legate's antipathy toward the Jews, Fadus adopted violent means in suppressing the followers of the pseudo-Messiah *Theudas . Tiberius *Alexander ordered the execution of Jacob and Simeon, sons of Judah the Galilean. Ventidius *Cumanus , next in office, not only let his troops cause a panic in the overcrowded Temple area on Passover, resulting in the death of 20,000 Jews (Jos., Ant., 20:105–12) but in addition armed the Samaritans against them. Whether the measure was actually considered necessary in order to maintain order is unclear. Cumanus was, however, subsequently removed by the Syrian legate. The last of the Judean procurators, Gessius Florus (see above), is reported by Josephus to have sparked off the Jewish War with his demand for 17 talents from the Temple funds, which caused rioting leading up to the outbreak of hostilities on a large scale. After 70 C.E. the office of procurator sometimes alternated with that of legate and was subordinate to the governor of the region, eventually being disbanded altogether.
list of procurators
Coponius 6–9 C.E.
Marcus Ambibulus 9–12 C.E.
Rufus Tineus 12–15 C.E.
Valerius Gratus 15–26 C.E.
Pontius Pilate 26–36 C.E.
Marcellus 36–37 C.E.
Marullus 37–41 C.E.
Cuspius Fadus 44–46 C.E.
Tiberius Julius Alexander 46–48 C.E.
Ventidius Cumanus 48–52 C.E.
Antonius Felix 52–60 C.E.
Porcius Festus 60–62 C.E.
Albinus 62–64 C.E.
Gessius Florus 64–66 C.E.
T. Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire, 2 (1909), 188–206; A. Schalit, Ha-Mishtar ha-Roma'i be-Ereẓ Yisrael (1937); H.G. Pflaum, Les Procurateurs Equestres… (1950), 146ff.; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 4 (19502), 196ff., and passim; Schuerer, Hist, index; Smallwood, in: History Today, 15 (1965), 232–9, 313–9; S. Krauss, in: REJ, 46 (1903), 219–36; A. Reitenberg, Israel's History in Coins (1953), 12–13 (with illustrations); A.H.M. Jones, Herods of Judea (1938).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.