Judea, Samaria and Idumea became part of the Roman Empire as a province ruled by a governor known as Procurator or Prefect, from the dismissal of Herod Archelaus (6 AD) until the return of the monarchy (41 AD) headed by Herod Agrippa II.
The governors of Judea were the following: Coponius, Marcus Ambivulus, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, Pontius Pilate, Marcellus and Marullus. Troops that occupied Judea were not legions but auxiliary troops formed by people from far provinces. The troops took the names of those provinces. The majority of this army were in the capital Caesarea, while a permanent garrison would be in Jerusalem.
Auxiliary soldiers were equipped like Roman legionaries but there were some differences. They sometimes used defensive elements such as LEATHER OR METAL BREASTPLATE (lorica segmentata) or COAT OF MAIL (lorica hamata), metal strips hung from a belt (balteus) and metal helmet. They wore a square woollen tunic with slits for the arms and the head, and leather sandals which covered their legs (greaves). They also carried a big rectangular flat shield, a sword (spatha or gladius) hung from belts on the right side and a dagger (pugio) on the left side. They could also carry spear (lancea or pilum).
Pontius Pilate was the prefect or procurator of the Roman province of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD. He was in charge of maintaining the order in the province and he also had to run justice and economy. He went down in history as the person who commanded the execution of Jesus of Nazareth. According to the historians Philo of Alexandria and Titus Flavius Josephus, the relationship between Pontius Pilate and the Jewish people were not good enough. This fact is also referred by St Luke (13, 1). It was a turbulent period in Palestine and the governor was characterised by his corruption, violence and abusive behaviour. Executions of prisoners were frequent in those days.
Lucius Vitellius, who was governor of Syria, removed Pontius Pilate from his charge and sent him to Rome in order to give reasons for the violent repression against Samarian people in the Mount Gerizim in 35 AD. But Pilate arrived to Rome after the death of Tiberius. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Pontius Pilate fell out of favour under the reign of Caligula and he finally committed suicide.
Roman cohorts in Judea (1st century):
Trajan’s Column (Rome) 114 AD
Roman centurion tombstone from Colchester (England)
(Pilate’s stone. Israel Antique Collection, Museum of Israel, Jerusalem). Latin stone inscription found in Caesarea, which was a Roman city founded by Herod the Great in the first century in the Emperor Augustus’s honour.
Pilate washing his hands. Luca Giordano – 1660. Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid)
Prutah (26-36 AD). PONTIUS PILATE. – JUDEA. Head: three ears and legend. Reverse: prow of ship.