Pilate promoted the Imperial Cult by setting up shields in Jerusalem

In addition to the use of coins, Pilate used other means to promote the Imperial (Emperor) Cult in Roman Palestine.

In the previous post we called attention to the article by Prof. Joan E. Taylor who said that the coinage of Pilate and the Pilate inscription from Caesarea,

“indicate a prefect determined to promote a form of Roman religion in Judaea.”

The residence of the governor of Judea was at Caesarea Maritima, but he came to Jerusalem for special events. Pilate would likely stay at Herod’s place. This is where he would have set up shields in honor of the Emperor Tiberius. Both Josephus (JW 2:169ff.) and Philo of Alexandria (Legatio ad Gaium) record this episode.

What were these shields? This coin that was minted later by Felix, prefect of Judea about AD 52-59 (Acts 23-24) might give us an idea. The obverse of the coin shows two oblong shields and two spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing shields and spears.

Coin of the Prefect Felix showing two oblong shields and two crossed spears.

The actors involved in the RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, show us what the shields of the 6th Roman Legion might have looked like.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Enactment of soldiers of the 6th Roman Legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A denarius bearing the image of Augustus was struck in Lyon between 2 BC and AD 4. The reverse shows Gaius and Lucius standing, facing, holding shields and spears. In this case the shields are round, and are shown in association with the lituus and simpulum, symbols of the Imperial Cult. (I think you can easily find larger images of this coin on the Internet.)

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Coin of Augustus showing shields, lituus, and simpulum.

Our point in all of this is to show that when Pilate erected the shields in Jerusalem it was in fact a symbol of the Imperial cult.

Next we plan to discuss the tiberium built by Pilate at Caesarea.

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