Ethnarch (Εθνάρχης) refers generally to political leadership over a common ethnic group or heterogeneous kingdom. The word is derived from the Greek words for "nation" and "leader" ("έθνος" and "άρχων").


The generic title (not a formal style) of ethnarch was used in the Roman East to refer to rulers of vassal kingdoms who did not rise to the level of kings. The Romans used the terms "natio" and "gens" for a people as a genetic and cultural entity, regardless of political statehood.

The best-known is probably Herod Archelaus, son of Herod the Great, who was ethnarch of the chief part, Samaria, Judea and Idumea, from the death of his father in 4 BC to AD 6. His brother Philip received the north-east of the realm and was styled Tetrarch (circa 'ruler of a quarter'); and Galilee was given to Herod Antipas, who bore the same title, so Archelaus' title singled him out as the senior ruler, higher in rank than the tetrarchs, so the chief of the Jewish nation; these three sovereignties were reunited under Herod Agrippa from A.D. 41 to 44.

Previously, Hyrcanus II, one of the later Hasmonean rulers of Judea, had also held the title of Ethnarch, as well as that of High Priest.


Ethnarches was the military title of a commander of foreign troops that were serving the Greek Emperor; recruiting mercenaries by nationality was not uncommon in Classical Antiquity, nor in the feudal age.


Rather different was the case of minority community ethnarchs, especially within the Islamic Ottoman Empire (political successor to Byzantium) that were recognized as legitimate entities (millet) and thus allowed to be heard by the government through an officially acknowledged representative, though without political persona.

When the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II decided to give such dialogue a more formal nature, the logical choice for the major Christian communities was the (Greek Orthodox) Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. For the far smaller, but also influential Jewish diaspora, a similar position was granted to the Hakham Bashi, i.e. Chief rabbi.

ources and references

*Flavius Josephus
*The New Testament

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  • ETHNARCH — (Gr. ὲθνάρχος), title given to john hyrcanus ii and his sons by official decree of Julius Caesar in 47 B.C.E. in addition to the office of high priest (Jos., Ant., 14:192ff.). The meaning of ethnarch – head of the people – excluded the title or… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Ethnarch — war ein Herrschertitel in der Antike. Der Begriff leitet sich ab von den griechischen Wörtern ethnós = Volk und archós = Fürst, zusammengesetzt heißt es Volksfürst. Ein Volksfürst war so etwas wie ein Großherzog. Bekanntester Ethnarch war Herodes …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Ethnarch — Eth narch, n. [Gr. ?; ? nation + ? leader, commander. See { arch}.] (Gr. Antiq.) The governor of a province or people. Lew Wallace. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ethnarch — (v. gr.), 1) Beherrscher des Volkes; bes. 2) der von den Römern über die Juden gesetzte Regent, aus den Juden gewählt, z.B. Herodes, Hyrkanos; daher Ethnarchie, Würde u. Gebiet eines Ethnarchos …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Ethnarch — (griech.), Volksherrscher, Titel eines Landesfürsten, der eine fremde Oberhoheit anerkennt, wie der Makkabäer Simon und andre jüdische Regenten; dann auch ein orientalischer Provinzialstatthalter. Ethnarchie, Provinz eines Ethnarchen …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Ethnárch — (grch., d.h. Volksherrscher), Statthalter, Landpfleger; Ethnarchīe, Bezirk eines E., Statthalterschaft …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Ethnarch — Ethnarch, griech., d.h. Volksherrscher, Titel einiger syr. Fürsten, z.B. des jüdischen Archelaus, die unter röm. Oberhoheit standen …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Ethnarch — Ethnạrch   [griechisch »Stammesführer«] der, en/ en, Titel von Stammesfürsten in Gebieten unter römischer Oberhoheit; seit dem 2. Jahrhundert v. Chr. auch Titel des Hohen Priesters in Jerusalem. Unter osmanischer Herrschaft griff die… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • ethnarch — noun the ruler of a province (as in the Roman Empire and Byzantine Empire) or certain religious rulers with secular authority the election of Makarios III to archbishop gave him the status of the ethnarch of Cyprus • Hypernyms: ↑ruler, ↑swayer •… …   Useful english dictionary

  • ethnarch — /eth nahrk/, n. the ruler of a people, tribe, or nation. [1635 45; < Gk ethnárches. See ETHNO , ARCH] * * * …   Universalium

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