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January 13, 2011

How did Pontius Pilate die?

Arguably, Pilate is the is the best-known governor in all of history.  Pilate was made “praefectus” – the Roman equivalent of governor – of Judea from 26-36 AD.  The governorship of Judea was a relatively non-prestigious post, especially if compared to a parallel position in much wealthier Egypt.   The extent of Pilate’s responsibilities during his remarkably long term as governor included keeping order, collecting taxes for Rome, and serving as the Emperor’s local representative.  Recorded letters of complaint from the Jewish philosopher Philo to the emperor suggest that Pilate was not well liked by residents of Judea.

His political career ended in 36 AD following his dismissal by Emperor Vitellius.  According to Eusebius ("Hist. Eccl." ii. 7), Pilate was banished to southeastern France. It is there, as the tradition goes, that Pontius Pilate committed suicide relatively soon after following a series of misfortunate events.

References: A New History of Early Christianity by Charles Freeman



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