Iudaea province

map of the Roman Iudaea province.

Judaea {"Iudaea") was a Roman province that extended over Judaea (Palestine).

During the 1st century BC Judea lost its autonomy to the Roman Empire by becoming first a client kingdom, then a province of the empire.

Client kingdomEdit

The first interference 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 Gn. Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) remained back, to secure the area. Judea at the time was not a peaceful place. Queen Alexandra had recently died and her sons, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, were scourging the country in a power struggle. In 63 BC, Aristobulus was besieged in Jerusalem by his brother's armies. He sent an envoy to Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, 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, as the first Roman Procurator. In 57-55 BC, Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, split the former Hasmonean Kingdom into Galilee, Samaria & Judea with 5 districts of sanhedrin (councils of law) Both Caesar and Antipater were killed in 44 BC, and the Idumean Herod the Great, Antipater's son, was elected "King of the Jews" by the Roman Senate in 40 BC. 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 AD 6 by the Roman emperor Augustus, after an appeal from his own population. Another, Herod Antipas, ruled as tetrarch of Galilee & Perea from 4 BC to AD 39.


In AD 6 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. This province was one of the few 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. Caiaphas was one of the appointed high priests of Herod's Temple, being appointed by the Prefect Valerius Gratus in 18 and deposed by the Syrian Legate Vitellius in 36.

Between 41 and 44 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 also the stage of three major rebellions against the Romans. They were (see Jewish-Roman wars for the full account):

  • 66-70 - first rebellion, followed by the destruction of Herod's Temple and the siege of Jerusalem (see Great Jewish Revolt, Josephus)
  • 115-117 - second rebellion, called Kitos War, due to excessive taxation
  • 132-135 - 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 (term originally coined by Herodotus) 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.

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