Judea or Judaea is the ancient name of the area of today's modern Israel and Palestinian Authority. It included the lands of Syria, to south of it as far as Egypt and the ancient Kingdom of Judah. Judea lost its autonomy to the Romans in the 1st century BC, by becoming first a client kingdom, then a province, of the Roman Empire. It is also used in modern times as a geographical reference for the Southern half of the West Bank of the Jordan River, in Israel.
The first interference of Rome in the region dates from 63 BCE, following the end of the Third Mithridatic war. After the defeat of Mithridates VI of Pontus, general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great) remained back, to secure the area. Judea at the time was not a peaceful place. Queen Alexandra had recently died and her sons were scourging the country with a civil war for power. They were Hyrcanus and Aristobulus. In 63 BCE, Aristobulus was besieged in Jerusalem by his brother's armies and the situation was desperate. He sent and envoy to Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, Pompey's representative in the area. Aristobulus offered a massive bribe to be rescued that Pompey promptly accepted, but afterwards, he try to accuse Scaurus of extortion. This caused his downfall, because Scaurus was Pompey's brother in law and protégée. The general disliked Aristobulus behaviour and put prince and high priest Hyrcanus in charge of the kingdom. Judea and Galilee became client kingdoms of Rome, which meant that, although independent, they had a subservient position towards the Republic.
When Pompey was defeated by Julius Caesar, Hyrcanus was succeeded by his courtier Antipater. Caesar and Antipater were killed in 44 BCE, and Herod (Antipater's son) was appointed as governor (tetrarch) by Rome 41 BCE. He became the outright ruler (basileus) of Judea in 37 BCE and was later known as King Herod the Great. During his reign the great port of Caesarea Maritima was built. He died in 4 BCE, and his kingdom was divided among his sons. Among these was Herod Archelaus, who ruled Judea so badly that he was dismissed in 6 CE by the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar, after an appeal from his own population.
The kingdom of Judea now became part of a larger Roman province, also called Judea. This was one of the few governed by an Knight of the equestrian order, not a former consul or praetor of senatorial rank, because its revenue was of little importance to the Roman treasury and the region was pacified. Pontius Pilate was one of these procurators.
Between 41 and 44 CE Judea regained its relative autonomy, when Herod Agrippa was made king by the emperor Claudius. Following Agrippa's death, the province returned to Roman control for a short period. Judea was returned piecemeal to Agrippa's son Marcus Julius Agrippa in 48. There was, however, an imperial procurator in the area, responsible for keeping peace and tax raising. When he died, about 100, the area returned to exclusive Roman Empire control.
Judea was also the stage of three major rebellions against the Romans. They were (see Judea rebellions for the full account):
- 66-70 - first rebellion, followed by the destruction of the Temple and the siege of Jerusalem (see Great Jewish Revolt, Josephus)
- 115-117 - second rebellion, due to excessive taxation
- 132-135 - third rebellion, led by Simon Bar Kokhba