Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

A ring that once belonged to Pontius Pilate has been discovered at Herodium in southern Judaea. We know it belonged to him because it has his name inscribed on it. The Greek letters read “ΠΙΛΑΤΟ”, “Pilate.” The first two letters are on the right, the last four are on the left, bottom to top (meant to be read around the frame). This find is interesting for several reasons. One is that, outside of the Bible, very little is known of Pilate. He is mentioned several times by the contemporary historian Josephus, and briefly by Philo, but he is otherwise obscure.

Another reason this ring is interesting is that the name Pilate was not common. The combination of this name with the fact that it was discovered in Judaea on a bronze ring of the first century AD virtually guarantees that it belonged to the biblical Pilate. The fact that this ring is made of bronze appears to confirm that Pilate was a member of the Roman Equites (cavalry) class. Common soldiers were only allowed to wear iron rings.

This ring is matched by one other inscription that mentions Pilate. This one was recovered from Caesarea in 1961, and is in Latin. The first line includes a reference to the emperor Tiberius. The second line includes most of Pilate’s name, [PON]TIVS PILATVS. 

A final reason this ring is interesting is that it was discovered almost 50 years ago, but was stored away without being recognized for what it was. Only recently was it taken out of storage again to be studied, and special photography was required to read the poorly preserved inscription. One never knows what will come from the dirt next, or from an old storage room!

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