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First century palestine

Iudaea Province in the 1st century

Iudaea (Hebrew: יהודה, Standard Hebrew Yehuda Tiberian Yehûḏāh, "praise God"; Greek: Ιουδαία; Latin: Iudaea) was a Roman province that extended over the region of Judea, later "Palestine." It was named in reference to the ancient Kingdom of Judah of the 6th Century BC, which had subsequently been conquered by Babylonia, the Persian Empire, and contested by the Seleucid and Ptolemaic Empires in the six Syrian Wars of the 2nd Century BC. After each conquest, the Jewish people reestablished their reign, religion, and hegemony over the land.

Rome's involvement in the area dated from 63 BC, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when Rome made a province of Syria. After the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus, general Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) remained there to secure the area. Subsequently, during the 1st century BC, Judea's Hasmonean Kingdom became a client kingdom and then a province of the Roman Empire.

Iudaea Province was the stage of three major rebellions (see Jewish-Roman wars), including the Great Jewish Revolt (66-70 AD) the Kitos War (115-117 AD), and Bar Kokhba's revolt (132-135 AD), after which Hadrian changed the name of the province to Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina in an attempt to erase the historical ties of the Jewish people to the region.

The client kingdom of Judea[]

The first intervention of Rome in the region dates from 63 BC, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when Rome made a province of Syria. After the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus, general Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) remained there to secure the area.

Judea at the time was not a peaceful place. Queen Salome Alexandra had recently died and her sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, divided against each other in a civil war. In 63 BC, Aristobulus was besieged in Jerusalem by his brother's armies. He sent an envoy to Marcus Aemilius Scaurus 56 AD, Pompey's representative in the area. Aristobulus offered a massive bribe to be rescued, which Pompey promptly accepted. Afterwards, Aristobulus accused Scaurus of extortion. Since Scaurus was Pompey's brother in law and protégée, the general retaliated by putting Hyrcanus in charge of the kingdom as Prince and High Priest.

When Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar, Hyrcanus was succeeded by his courtier Antipater the Idumaean, also known as Antipas, as the first Roman Procurator. In 57-55 BC, Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, split the former Hasmonean Kingdom into Galilee, Samaria & Judea with five districts of sanhedrin (councils of law).[1]

Both Caesar and Antipater were killed in 44 BC, and the Idumean Herod the Great, Antipater's son, was designated "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate in 40 BC[2]. He didn't gain military control of Judea till 37 BC. During his reign the last representatives of the Maccabees were eliminated, and the great port of Caesarea Maritima was built. He died in 4 BC, and his kingdom was divided among his sons, who became tetrarchs ("rulers of fourth parts"). One, Herod Archelaus, ruled Judea so badly that he was dismissed in 6 CE by the Roman emperor Augustus, after an appeal from his own population. Another, Herod Antipas, ruled as tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD.


In 6 AD Judea became part of a larger Roman province, called Iudaea, which was formed by combining Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. It did not include Galilee, Gaulanitis (the Golan), nor Peraea or the Decapolis. The capital was at Caesarea. Quirinius became Legate (Governor) of Syria and conducted the first Roman tax census of Iudaea, which was opposed by the Zealots.[3] This province was one of the few [[List of Kings of Judea#Roman Prefects and Procurators of Iudaea Province.2C 6-132 AD|governed]] by a knight of the equestrian order, not a former consul or praetor of senatorial rank; even though its revenue was of little importance to the Roman treasury, it controlled the land routes to the bread basket Egypt and was a border province against Parthia. Pontius Pilate was one of these prefects, from 26 to 36 AD. Caiaphas was one of the appointed High Priests of Herod's Temple, being appointed by the Prefect Valerius Gratus in 18. Both were deposed by the Syrian Legate Lucius Vitellius in 36 AD.

Between 41 and 44 AD, Iudaea regained its nominal autonomy, when Herod Agrippa was made King of the Jews by the emperor Claudius. Following Agrippa's death, the province returned to direct Roman control for a short period. Iudaea was returned to Agrippa's son Marcus Julius Agrippa in 48. He was the seventh and last of the Herodians. There was, however, an imperial procurator in the area, responsible for keeping peace and tax raising. When Agrippa II died, about 100, the area returned to direct Roman Empire control.

Iudaea was the stage of three major rebellions against the Romans. They were (see Jewish-Roman wars for the full account):

  • 66-70 AD - first rebellion, followed by the destruction of Herod's Temple and the siege of Jerusalem (see Great Jewish Revolt, Josephus)
  • 115-117 AD - second rebellion, called Kitos War, due to excessive taxation
  • 132-135 AD - third rebellion, Bar Kokhba's revolt

Following the suppression of Bar Kokhba's revolt, the emperor Hadrian changed the name of the province to Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem became Aelia Capitolina in order to humiliate the Jewish population by attempting to erase their historical ties to the region. The other portions became the provinces of Galilee, Samaria, and Peraea.


  1. Antiquities of the Jews 14.5.4: "And when he had ordained five councils (συνέδρια), he distributed the nation into the same number of parts. So these councils governed the people; the first was at Jerusalem, the second at Gadara, the third at Amathus, the fourth at Jericho, and the fifth at Sepphoris in Galilee." Jewish Encyclopedia: Sanhedrin: "Josephus uses συνέδριον for the first time in connection with the decree of the Roman governor of Syria, Gabinius (57 BC), who abolished the constitution and the then existing form of government of Palestine and divided the country into five provinces, at the head of each of which a sanhedrin was placed ("Ant." xiv. 5, § 4)."
  2. Jewish War 1.14.4: Mark Antony " ...then resolved to get him made king of the Jews ... told them that it was for their advantage in the Parthian war that Herod should be king; so they all gave their votes for it. And when the senate was separated, Antony and Caesar went out, with Herod between them; while the consul and the rest of the magistrates went before them, in order to offer sacrifices [to the Roman gods], and to lay the decree in the Capitol. Antony also made a feast for Herod on the first day of his reign."
  3. Josephus' Antiquities 18

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