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Friday, 6 February 2009

Pontius Pilate Perthshire Scotland

It is hard to tell with Pontius Pilate. A history of Perthshire, published in 1880, tells of when his father was in the Roman legions, and got to Scotland: Pilate's birthplace was at Fortingall, his mother the daughter of a Menzies or a MacLaren. The people of Fortingall have preserved this traditional story over the centuries. It could be true. Nearly anything could be true. Pilate would never have been heard of again if he hadn't been given the job of Roman prefect of Judaea and Samaria by Emperor Tiberius in the year 26.

Judaea and Samaria was a troubled part of the Roman empire. The natives were very restless and Pilate wasn't very good at handling them. They objected to his attempt to set up a monument to the emperor in their temple. They disliked his minting coins with pagan religious symbols. In 36, he slaughtered a number of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. That was the last straw for his superiors.

Pilate was summoned back to Rome by Tiberius to answer charges of corruption and cruelty. By the time Pilate arrived, however, Tiberius was dead, and the late emperor's nephew Gaius (better known as Caligula) was wearing the purple.

The history of that time is obscure, by our standards. Pilate vanishes from the
records, and becomes the subject of several stories. One is that he committed suicide shortly after returning to Rome. Another is that he was sent to Vienne in France, where he drowned in a river. Another is that, under the rule of Nero, he was beheaded. The Swiss claim he is buried in their country, under Mount Pilatus.

The only real claim to fame by this Scotsman relates to his washing his hands. When Jesus Christ was among a little group due for crucifixion, and one of the group could be excused and set free, Pilate left the choice to the mob, which chose Barabbas, and he washed his hands of the whole thing. So Jesus was crucified, and Pilate had the good luck to pass into history. Fortingall is proud of him. He is certainly much better known today than such emperors as Commodus, Elagabalus and Maximinus Thrax.

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