The ‘Tiberium’ of Caesarea Maritima. Later in the Theatre.
Actual Location (Collection/Museum):
Israel Museum. Inv. no.: IAA 1961-529
26 CE to 36 CE
Inscribed block, damaged in antiquity when it was reused in later building works, firstly as part of a possible well head, owing to the semi-circular shape cut into the right side. It was reused a second time as a step in the 4th century CE theatre of Caesarea Maritima, which was itself re-modelled in the Byzantine period. The left side of the block has been badly damaged, resulting in the loss of the left side of the inscription and almost all of its final fourth line.
Height: 82 cm
Width: 65 cm
Depth: 20 cm
Letter heights: 6 cm
Frova, Antonio, “L’inscrizione di Ponzio Pilato a Caesarea” in Rendiconti, 95 (1961), p. 419-34
This inscription was discovered during the Italian excavations of Caesarea Maritima in 1961; it had been moved from its original location (which is unknown) and reused as building material, firstly as a possible well head, and then again in the fourth century CE as a step in the theatre. This reuse has resulted in some damage to the text of the inscription, but careful reconstruction and discussion by a number of scholars has rendered it an important source for the Roman administration of Judea in the reign of Tiberius. Most significantly, it attests to the existence of Pontius Pilate as the leading Roman citizen and governor of the province, which fits with the records given in a number of literary sources (such as Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and Tacitus). The inscription also clarifies a minor point of provincial administration; Pilate is named as the praefectus (prefect) of Judaea, which indicates his equestrian rank and stresses the military nature of the post (Schürer, History of the Jewish People, p. 358). In the early principate, procurator referred only to financial officials in both imperial and senatorial provinces; although Tacitus refers to Pilate as a procurator in the Annals of Imperial Rome (XV.44.4), this title was not widely used for governors of provinces until the reign of Claudius (Schürer, History of the Jewish People, p. 358; for the difference between procurator and praefectus, see Jones, Studies in Roman Government and Law, p. 115-25).
There has been much discussion regarding the lost text of the inscription; originally four lines long, the initial letters of lines 1-3 and almost all of line 4 have been lost. Lines 2-3 were reconstructed by Antonio Frova to reflect Pilate’s official name and title, Prefect of Judea (Pontius Pilatus praefectus Iudaeae), as well as the single space at the start of line 2 for the single, abbreviated letter of his praenomen (Taylor, “Pontius Pilate”, p. 565). There has been much speculation regarding the reconstruction of line 1, however; Carl Lehmann and Kenneth Holum suggested numerous proposals – including Caesariens(ibus); Dis Augustis; Tib(erio) Caes(are) Aug(usto) – the majority of which were too long to fit the space (see Joint Expedition to Caesarea Maritima, p. 68-71 for a full list of proposals). However, if we look to line 4, a possible reconstruction emerges; the only visible letter of line 4 is an apex above a verticle line, indicating the letter “E”. Joan Taylor has suggested that this “E” may form part of dedicavit, with Tiberieum in line 1 therefore in the accusative case, giving the translation that Pontius Pilate ‘dedicated a Tiberieum’ (“Pontius Pilate”, p. 565). She further proposes that the missing letters in line 1 should be restored as divis, referring to Augustus and Rome, and possibly the living emperor, Tiberius, too (“Pontius Pilate”, p. 565). This certainly seems to provide a logical reconstruction, and one that fits with other dedications to both gods and emperors.
What, then, was the Tiberieum? If it is understood as a noun in the accusative case, it must refer to a structure built for and dedicated to Tiberius. It is generally understood as having been a small building, possibly that which stands just west of the theatre in Caesarea, which was associated with the imperial cult (for the identification of its location, see Lehmann and Huolum, Joint expeditiontoCaesarea Maritima, p. 69; for a contrary interpretation of the building’s use, see Alföldy, “Pontius Pilate”, p. 87-9 and 106-7). Although this is the only known usage of Tiberieum, Caesareum and Augustaeum are both commonly associated with the imperial cult, and a Hadrianeum was also dedicated in Caesarea in honour of Hadrian’s tour of the east in 130 CE (Lehmann and Holum, Joint expeditiontoCaesarea Maritima, p. 80-2). Tiberius was, however, known to have refused divine honours for himself, and did not permit for associations to be made between himself and other deities in the same manner that Augustus had (see Tacitus, Annals, V, 2.1; Suetonius, Tiberius XXVI, 1), which has usually been interpreted as a statement that worship of him during his lifetime was banned. Ittai Gradel has suggested, however, that this refusal of divine honours did not extend to the provinces, which can be deduced from inscriptional evidence of dedications to Livia and Tiberius from cities and individuals across the empire (Gradel, Emperor Worship, p. 65; 85). Pontius Pilate’s dedication of a Tiberieum should, then, be understood simply as a way of strengthening the imperial cult in Caesarea; it was the kind of action expected of a Roman prefect, and promoted religious rituals in the provinces in a decidedly Roman context. As Joan Taylor has stated, “If a Tiberieum was designed to honour Tiberius, the emperor, it would have been part of the imperial honours system within an Empire wide rubric,” which sought to honour the emperor in accordance with what was expected of Pilate as a provincial governor (Taylor, “Pontius Pilate”, p. 568). It was, essentially, the right thing to do: to encourage those whom one governed to honour the provincial imperial cult, and not an act directed specifically at (or indeed against the wishes of) the emperor.
There is further evidence to support this suggestion that Pilate’s dedication of a building in honour of the emperor was in accordance with his expected functions as governor and the importance of maintaining religious standards; Joan Taylor has described in detail the bronze coinage, minted in Judea and issued by Pilate, that appeared to depict the instruments used in Roman ritual use. This broke with the tradition of the prefects who came before him, whose coinage made loose references to both Hellenistic and Roman deities that could be easily syncretised with promotion of trade and agricultural production in Judea (see “Pontius Pilate”,p. 556-63). There is also plenty of literary evidence, particularly from Philo of Alexandria, that attests to Pilate’s vigorous insistence upon the application of Roman norms, even when they contravened the privileges put in place by previous Roman governors to take into account Jewish religious sensitivities in the province (see Schürer, History of the Jewish People, p. 383-88 for a summary of Pilate’s actions). The best-known instance of Pilate’s conflict with these religious sensitivities was his setting up of votive shields carrying Tiberius’s name in Herod’s former palace in Jerusalem; Philo states that this was done “not in order to honour Tiberius, but rather to annoy the [Jewish] multitude” (On the Embassy to Gaius, 299: οὐκ ἐπὶ τιμῇ Τιβερίου μᾶλλον ἢ ἕνεκα τοῦ λυπῆσαι τὸ πλῆθος), which has been interpreted as a statement of Pilate’s anti-Jewish motivations. However, as Joan Taylor has noted, Philo acknowledged the obvious purpose of Pilate’s actions (even if he does reject it): the shields were set up precisely to honour the emperor. If taken along with the dedication of the Tiberieum and the issuing of coinage that referred to Roman religious ritual, the honorific nature of the shields is clear, and highlights the extent to which Pilate attempted to maintain a certain set of rigorous religious standards that spoke to a particularly Roman context; his insistence on cultivating presence of the imperial cult is evident in his dedication of the building and inscription, which was in accordance with his duty as governor of the province. He was “purposely determined to maintain, if not advance, the Roman imperial cult in Judaea” (Taylor, “Pontius Pilate”, p. 582).