ETHNARCH (ἐθυάρχης = "chieftain"):
In the Greco-Roman world, one that stood at the head of any community, though not an independent ruler. The Hebrew word "rosh" (), especially in the Biblical works of the post-exilic time, had perhaps a meaning related to "ethnarch" (Nestle, in Stade's "Zeitschrift," xv. 288; Schrader, "K. A. T." 3d ed., p. 310). The obscure Σαραμέλ (I Macc. xiv. 28) is probably merely the Hebrew title of Simeon ( = "prince of the people of God"), who bore this title in addition to that of high priest. He was called both "strategos" and "ethnarch" (ib. xiv. 47). The title Σαρβὴθ Σαβαυ,αιέλ given by Origen to the Book of the Maccabees, would then mean (= "scepter of the prince of the people of God"), referring to Judas Maccabeus, the chief hero of the book. It would follow from this that there were two ethnarchs even in this period: Judas Maccabeus and Simeon. Josephus calls the latter "ethnarch," probably following the Book of Maccabees ("Ant." xiii. 6, § 7). Yet Willrich, not without reason, considers this statement to be erroneous ("Judaica," p. 83).
The title "ethnarch" was officially given to Hyrcanus II., though Pompey refused him the crown ("Ant." xx. 10, § 4). Hyrcanus' title, as given in a document of Cæsar, was "high priest and ethnarch," and his children were to be designated in the same way (xiv. 10, § 2; xiv. 8, § 5). Herod the Great also is called ἐθυάρχης on a coin (Eckhel, "DoctrinaNummorum," i., iii. 484), although Saulcy, Levy, and others, ascribe this coin to Archelaus. Herod's son Archelaus was deemed unworthy of the title of "king," and received simply that of "ethnarch" ("Ant." xvii. 11, § 4; "B. J." ii. 6, § 3).
The head of the Jewish community of Alexandria had the title of "ethnarch" (Strabo, in "Ant." xiv. 7, § 2), and was probably identical with the Alabarch. This may be gathered from a decree of Claudius permitting the succession of ethnarchs (ib. xix. 5, § 2). But Philo says expressly that at the time of Augustus the gerusia took over the functions of the "genarch" ("In Flaccum," § 10), and γευάρχης here is doubtless equivalent to ἐθυάρχης. Philo must refer to some interval during which, the permission of Augustus not having been obtained, no ethnarch could be appointed. At Damascus the Nabatæan king Aretas IV. had an ethnarch at the time of the apostle Paul (II Cor. xi. 32); yet there is no reason for regarding this dignitary as at the head of the Jews of that city, as does Grätz ("Gesch." 4th ed., iii. 371), following earlier scholars, for the chieftain or sheik of some tribe of nomads is meant (Schürer, "Gesch." 3d ed., ii. 83).
In an epitaph at Smyrna the Jewish community is called "people" (ἔϑυος) of the Jews (Reinach, in "R. E. J." vii. 161-166); hence the head of this community must have had the title of "ethnarch" (comp. Suidas, s. v. ἔϑυος). Origen ("Epist. ad Africanum," § 14) calls the patriarch of the Jews of Palestine "ethnarch," ascribing to him great power; but this seems merely an alternative for "patriarch."
- Grätz, Gesch. 4th ed., iii. 30, comp. note 4;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 344, ii. 82;
- J. Weiss, in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. 3d ed., v. 558;
- Büchler, Das Synhedrion in Jerusalem, pp. 46, 207, Vienna, 1902.