This word signified in a general sense a steward or bailiff of a private estate, or a financial agent with power of attorney, and the development of the special usage of the word to denote an imperial functionary or official is characteristic of the origin of many departments of administration under the Roman Empire which sprang from the emperor's household. At the time of Augustus, when the domestic quality of these offices had not been entirely lost, the procurators were mostly imperial freedmen. But after the systematic organization of the administration in the 2nd century, the title of procurator was reserved for functionaries of the equestrian class. In fact, the term is so intimately connected with the sphere of official activity of the Roman knights that the expressions "procuratorial career" and "equestrian career" are used synonymously (compare Hirschfeld, Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten bib auf Diocletian, 410-65).
During the last century of the Republic, the class of knights (equites) embraced in general all citizens of wealth who were not magistrates or members of the senate. The Roscian Law (67 BC) established 400,000 sesterces (about ,000 (in 1915), or 3,600 British pounds (in 1915)) as the minimum census rating for membership in this class. The gold ring, tunic with narrow purple border, and privilege of sitting in the first 14 rows at theater were the tokens of knighthood. Augustus added to these the public horse which was conferred henceforth by the emperor and recalled the original military significance of the order. From the time of Augustus the first three decuriae of jurors (judices), each containing 1,000 persons, were filled with knights.
Under the Republic the influence of the equestrian class was chiefly exerted in the financial transactions of the companies which farmed the variable revenues. The importance of the publicani was greatly reduced under the Empire, but the emperors recompensed the knights for this loss of opportunity by entrusting them with a great variety of administrative functions. Military service as prefect or tribune was the preliminary step in the official equestrian career. The highest positions held by members of the equestrian class were called prefectures, and included the prefecture of the guard, of Egypt, of the grain-supply, of the watchmen in Rome, and of the fleet. But between these extremes the title procurator was applied generally to the functionaries whose positions were of imperial origin.
The administration of the fiscus or imperial treasury at Rome and of the finances in the imperial provinces, as well as the collection of fiscal revenues in the senatorial provinces, was in the hands of procurators. They occupied many positions which, on account of their intimate relationship with the person of the monarch, could be safely entrusted only to those whose limited prestige precluded inordinate ambition (Friedlaender, Sittengeschichte Roms 7th edition, Part I, 132-43). Finally, several provinces, where the conditions were unfavorable to the introduction of the ordinary administrative system and Roman public law, were governed as imperial domains by officials of the equestrian class as the emperor's representatives. In Egypt the title prefect (praefectus) was employed permanently as the appellation of the viceroy, and while the same term may have been used originally to denote the governors of this class generally, when their military outweighed their civil functions, yet the designation procurator became at an early date the term of common usage to designate them (Hirschfeld, 382).
Mauretania, Rhaetia, Noricum, Thrace, Cappadocia, Judea and some smaller districts were all, for a time at least, governed by procurators (Tacitus, History i.11; Dio Cassius lvii.17).
The question concerning the original title of the Roman governors of Judea has arisen because the New Testament employs the word hegemon (Matthew 27:2,11,14,15,21,27; 28:14; Luke 3:1; 20:20; Acts 23:24; 24:1; 26:30), which corresponds with the Latin term, praeses, which might be considered synonymous with either procurator or praefectus (Hirschfeld, 384). There is no inscriptional evidence to establish the nomenclature of the rulers of Palestine before the time of Vespasian, and Hirschfeld is of the opinion that a certain passage in Tacitus (Ann. xv.44) where Pilate is called procurator is not sufficient proof in view of this writer's carelessness in details of this sort. Josephus (Ant., XX, i, 2), however, employs epitropos (procurator) for the time of Claudius, and it is convenient to follow common usage and assume that this title was current from the first.
It was evidently the intention of Augustus that membership in the equestrian class should be a necessary qualification for the procurators who were appointed to govern provinces. But Claudius appointed a freedman, Antonius Felix, brother of the famous minister of finance, Pallas, as procurator of Judea (Suetonius, Claudius xxviii; Tacitus, History v.9). This remained, however, an isolated instance in the annals of Palestine (Hirschfeld, 380), and it is probable, moreover, that Felix was raised to equestrian rank before the governorship was conferred upon him.
The following list of the procurators of Judea is based on Marquardt (Romische Staatsverwaltung, I, 409, 412) and Schurer (Geschichte des judischen Volkes(4), I, 485-585):
Coponius (6 AD to circa 10 AD)
M. Ambibulus (circa 10-13)
Annius Rufus (circa 13-15)
Valerius Gratus (circa 15-26)
Pontius Pilatus (26-35)
Marcellus (probably 35-38)
C. Cuspins Fadus (44-46)
Tiberius Alexander (46-48)
Ventidius Cumanus (48-52) M. Antonius Felix (52-60 or 61)
NOTE.--Marquardt gives his name as Claudius Felix, supposing that he was a freedman of Claudius and therefore took his nomen (Suetonius, Claudius xxviii; Victor, epitome iv, 8); but there is stronger evidence in support of the belief that Felix was a freedman of Antonia, Claudius' mother, like his brother Pallas (Tacitus, Annals xii.54; Josephus, Ant, XVII1, vi, 4; XX, vii, 1, 2; XX, viii, 9; BJ, II, xii, 8), and accordingly had received the praenomen and nomen of Antonia's father (Josephus, Ant, XVIII, vi, 6).
Portius Festus (61)
Gessius Florus (65-66)
See, further, GOVERNOR.
George H. Allen