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Erastus, Quaestor of Corinth: The Administrative Rank of ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως (Rom 16.23) in an Achaean Colony

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2009

John K. Goodrich
Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RS, United Kingdom. email:


Erastus (Rom 16.23) has featured prominently in the ongoing debate over the social and economic make-up of the early Pauline communities, since how one renders his title (ὁ οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως) dramatically affects the range of economic stratification represented in the Corinthian church. Relying chiefly on epigraphy, including an important new inscription from the Achaean colony of Patras, this article engages the scholarly dialogue about the Latin equivalent of Erastus' title, rebutting the arguments in favour of arcarius and aedilis, and contends that he served as quaestor, a high-ranking municipal position exclusively occupied by the economic elite.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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1 This debate has been more tenacious than any other concerning Paul's Corinthian co-workers; cf. Jewett, Robert, Romans: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 981Google Scholar.

2 For the assumed ecclesiastical influence of Erastus, see, e.g., Sanday, William and Headlam, Arthur C., Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 5th ed. 1902)Google Scholar 432: ‘Erastus…is presumably mentioned as the most influential member of the community’. More recently, Chow, John K., Patronage and Power: A Study of Social Networks in Corinth (JSNTSup 75; Sheffield: JSOT, 1992)Google Scholar 93: ‘By virtue of his [Erastus’] wealth and his public connections, he could well be ranked among the powerful few in the church (1 Cor. 1.26). As such, he would be able to wield more influence than most patrons in the church'. See also the suggestive title of Thomas', W. D., ‘Erastus: The V.I.P. at Corinth’, ExpTim 95 (1984) 369–70Google Scholar.

3 The bibliography for the social and economic stratification of the Pauline communities is now quite extensive. For a sampling of the leading contributions, see: Theissen, Gerd, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (trans. John H. Schütz; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982) 69119Google Scholar; Meeks, Wayne A., The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale University, 1983) 5173Google Scholar; Meggitt, Justin J., Paul, Poverty and Survival (SNTW; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1998)Google Scholar; Jongkind, Dirk, ‘Corinth in the First Century AD: The Search for Another Class’, TynBul 52 (2001) 139–48Google Scholar; Friesen, Steven J., ‘Poverty in Pauline Studies: Beyond the So-Called New Consensus’, JSNT 26 (2004) 323–61Google Scholar; Longenecker, Bruce W., ‘Exposing the Economic Middle: A Revised Economy Scale for the Study of Early Urban Christianity’, JSNT 31 (2009) 243–78Google Scholar. See also the review essays and their responses in JSNT volumes 24–26 (2001–2003) as well as Todd Still and David G. Horrell, eds., After the First Urban Christians: The Socio-Historical Study of Pauline Christianity Twenty-Five Years Later (London: T. & T. Clark, 2009).

4 Gillman, F. M., ‘Erastus’, ABD (ed. Freedman, D. N.; New York: Doubleday, 1992)Google Scholar 2.571. Several bilingual inscriptions demonstrate that in private contexts οἰκονόμος was rendered vilicus (CIL 3.1.447; IG 2–3.11492), actor (CIL 9.425), and dispensator (IGRR 3.25).

5 Vulg.; Roos, A. G., ‘De Titulo Quodam Latino Corinthi Nuper Reperto’, Mnemosyne 58 (1930) 160–5Google Scholar; Cadbury, Henry J., ‘Erastus of Corinth’, JBL 50 (1931) 4258Google Scholar; Harrison, P. N., Paulines and Pastorals (London: Villiers, 1964) 100105Google Scholar; Meggitt, Justin J., ‘The Social Status of Erastus (Rom. 16:23)’, NovT 38 (1996) 218–23Google Scholar; Friesen, ‘Poverty in Pauline Studies’, 354–5.

6 Philippi, Friedrich A., Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1879) 418Google Scholar; Theissen, Social Setting, 75–83; Meeks, The First Urban Christians, 59; Furnish, Victor P., ‘Corinth in Paul's Time: What Can Archaeology Tell Us?’, BAR 14 (1988) 1527Google Scholar, at 20; Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome, Paul: A Critical Life (Oxford: Clarendon, 1996) 268–70Google Scholar. For the duties of aediles and quaestores, see chs. 19 and 20 of the Lex Irnitana in Gonzalez, Julian and Crawford, Michael H., ‘The Lex Irnitana: A New Copy of the Flavian Municipal Law’, JRS 76 (1986) 147243Google Scholar, at 182 (Latin at 153); cf. Curchin, Leonard A., The Local Magistrates of Roman Spain (Phoenix Supplementary Volume 28; Toronto: University of Toronto, 1990) 61–4Google Scholar.

7 Gill, David W. J., ‘Erastus the Aedile’, TynBul 40 (1989) 293301Google Scholar; Clarke, Andrew D., ‘Another Corinthian Erastus Inscription’, TynBul 42 (1991) 146–51Google Scholar; Clarke, , Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth: A Socio-Historical and Exegetical Study of 1 Corinthians 1–6 (Leiden: Brill, 1993) 4656Google Scholar; Winter, Bruce W., Seek the Welfare of the City: Christians as Benefactors and Citizens (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994) 179–97Google Scholar.

8 Theissen, Gerd, ‘Soziale Schichtung in der korinthische Gemeinde: Ein Beitrag zur Soziologie des hellenistischen Urchristentums’, ZNW 65 (1974) 232–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar; in English at Theissen, Social Setting, 69–119.

9 Peter Landvogt, ‘Epigraphische Untersuchungen über den ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΟΣ: Ein Beitrag zum hellenistischen Beamtenwesen’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Strassburg, 1908).

10 Theissen, ‘Soziale Schichtung’, 245; Theissen, Social Setting, 83: ‘In light of the (unofficial) Greek language customs of Corinth which do not exclude variations in Greek terminology, and in light of Paul's origins in Asia Minor, it is conceivable that the office of οἰκονόμος τῆς πόλεως in Rom. 16:23 corresponded to that of quaestor’.

11 Meeks, The First Urban Christians, 59.

12 Friesen, ‘Poverty in Pauline Studies’, 355.

13 All epigraphic references conform to the format recommended by Horsley, G. H. R. and Lee, John A. L., ‘A Preliminary Checklist of Abbreviations of Greek Epigraphic Volumes’, Epigraphica 56 (1994) 129–69Google Scholar.

14 Weiß, Alexander, Sklave der Stadt: Untersuchungen zur öffentlichen Sklaverei in den Städten des Römischen Reiches (Historia Einzelschriften 173; Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2004) 58Google Scholar. Even so, Weiß (51–2) identifies Erastus from Rom 16.23 with Erastus the aedilis mentioned in IKorinthKent 232.

15 McLean, Bradley H., An Introduction to Greek Epigraphy of the Hellenistic and Roman Periods from Alexander the Great Down to the Reign of Constantine (323 B.C.–A.D. 337) (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2002) 93–4Google Scholar: ‘[I]n the imperial period, the patronymic (πατρώνυμον) was frequently used. Technically speaking, a patronymic is not the “name of the father” but a “name deriving from the name of the father.” It was formed from the genitive (or an adjectival form) of the father's name, with or without the article (e.g. Ἀλκιβιάδης ὁ Κλεινίου [Alkibiades, son of Kleinias])’.

16 Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 55: ‘Allerdings ist in diesen Fällen keine Sicherheit zu gewinnen. Die Annahme stützt sich vor allem…auf die fehlende Angabe eines Vatersnamens’.

17 For more on the nomenclature of slaves in Roman inscriptions, see Joshel, Sandra R., Work, Identity, and Legal Status at Rome: A Study of the Occupational Inscriptions (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1992) 3546Google Scholar; Weaver, P. R. C., Familia Caesaris: A Social Study of the Emperor's Freedmen and Slaves (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1972) 4286CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 McLean, Greek Epigraphy, 103.

19 Cadbury, ‘Erastus of Corinth’, 52–3.

20 For the career of Gnaeus Babbius Philinus, see Engels, Donald, Roman Corinth: An Alternative Model for the Classical City (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1990) 68–9Google Scholar. On the role and wealth of freedmen in Corinth, see Spawforth, A. J. S., ‘Roman Corinth: The Formation of a Colonial Elite’, Roman Onomastics in the Greek East: Social and Political Aspects (ed. Rizakis, A. D.; Meletemata 21; Athens: Research Centre for Greek and Roman Antiquity/National Hellenic Research Foundation, 1996) 167–82Google Scholar, at 169: ‘[T]he numismatic sample produces a significant number—19%—of wealthy and politically-successful individuals classified as probably or certainly of freedman stock. Although freedmen were not normally eligible for magistracies in Roman colonies, in Caesar's colonies an exception was made’.

21 Landvogt, ‘ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΟΣ’, 44; cf. Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 51.

22 Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 51.

23 Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 55: ‘In fünf Städten ist dieser unbestreitbar ein Bürger. Diese sind Aphrodisias, Arkades, Iulia Gordus, Smyrna und Stratonikeia. In Aphrodisias gehört das Amt zu den hochangesehenen. Die χρυσοφόροι νεωποιοί setzen einem Euphron, dessen Abstammung über drei Generationen aufgeführt wird, eine Ehreninschrift und feiern ihn als πιστότατον οἰκονόμον. Der von diesem zu unterscheidende οἰκονόμος τῆς βουλῆς bekleidete gleichfalls einen hohen Rang. In Stratonikeia vertritt der οἰκονόμος die Stadt vor dem Orakel des Zeus Panamaros. Auch dort nahm er also unter den Beamten eine führende Position ein. Ebenso gehört er im Smyrna der Kaiserzeit zu den oberen Beamten’.

24 Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, 191.

25 Mason, Hugh J., Greek Terms for Roman Institutions: A Lexicon and Analysis (American Studies in Papyrology 13; Toronto: Hakkert, 1974) 71Google Scholar.

26 It is beyond the scope of this study to draw any conclusions about the identification of the two Erasti, especially due to the difficulties of restoring the cognomen of the Corinthian aedilis (cf. Meggitt, ‘The Social Status of Erastus’, 222–3).

27 Each of these inscriptions mentions οἰκονόμοι, but gives no evidence for equivalence with aedilis. Moreover, it is significant that while Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, 50, and Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, 187, both cite Mason's three examples from IGRR, neither document any interaction with the inscriptions in an effort to demonstrate how the texts support the correlation between οἰκονόμος and aedilis.

28 Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, 185 (emphasis mine).

29 See, e.g., Henry, Alan S., ‘Provisions for the Payment of Athenian Decrees: A Study in Formulaic Language’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 78 (1989) 247–93Google Scholar, esp. 259–60. For the titular variety used in the Athenian treasury, see also Henry, , ‘Polis/Acropolis, Paymasters and the Ten Talent Fund’, Chiron 12 (1982) 91118Google Scholar; Henry, , ‘Athenian Financial Officials after 303 B.C.’, Chiron 14 (1984) 4991Google Scholar.

30 See, e.g., IMagnMai 98; translation in Price, S. R. F., Religions of the Ancient Greeks (Key Themes in Ancient History; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1999) 174–5Google Scholar (§3). See also IEph 1448. For comments on both inscriptions, see Reumann, John, ‘“Stewards of God”: Pre-Christian Religious Application of Oikonomos in Greek’, JBL 77 (1958) 339–49Google Scholar, at 342–3. Notice how in both of these exceptional cases the οἰκονόμοι were required to fulfill treasury responsibilities alongside their cultic duties. Landvogt, ‘ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΟΣ’, 28, suggests, ‘Er fungiert als Staatsbeamter…und zwar als Finanzbeamter, dessen oberste Instanz der Rat bildet. An dem Opfer scheint er nur als Mittelbeamter zwischen der obersten Staatsbehörde und den Priestern, also etwa nur indirekt als sakraler Beamter teilzunehmen’.

31 Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 56.

32 For the pre-eminence of οἰκονόμοι in Priene and Magnesia, see Migeotte, Léopold, ‘La haute administration des finances publiques et sacrées dans les cités hellénistiques’, Chiron 36 (2006) 379–94Google Scholar, at 387–9.

33 Landvogt, ‘ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΟΣ’, 17. While Landvogt ultimately rejects a formal equivalence between οἰκονόμοι and ταμίαι (19–21), he observes that their responsibilities overlapped considerably.

34 Weiß, Sklave der Stadt, 56; John Reumann, ‘The Use of “Oikonomia” and Related Terms in Greek Sources to About A.D. 100, as a Background for Patristic Applications’ (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1957) 234–5: ‘Normally in the Greek polis [of Asia Minor], control of finances was a function of the council, but often some special official was named with the public revenues as his special care. These officials might be titled tamiai, as traditionally they were from Homer on, or anataktai, the term in Miletus, or oikonomoi, as in an increasing number of places’; cf. Theissen, Social Setting, 83.

35 Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, 52; cf. Theissen, Social Setting, 78.

36 Rizakis, A. D., Achaïe II. La cité de Patras: épigraphie et histoire (Meletemata 25; Athens: Research Centre for Greek and Roman Antiquity/National Hellenic Research Foundation, 1998) 24–8Google Scholar; Rizakis, , ‘Roman Colonies in the Province of Achaia: Territories, Land and Population’, The Early Roman Empire in the East (ed. Alcock, Susan E.; Oxbow Monograph 95; Oxford: Oxbow, 1997) 1536Google Scholar, at 19–21.

37 For the similarities between Rome and its colonies, see Aulus Gellius Noct. att. 16.13.8–9a, who described them as ‘miniatures’ and ‘copies’ of the capital, and Lintott, A. W., Imperium Romanum: Politics and Administration (London: Routledge, 1993) 130Google Scholar, who likened them to ‘Roman islands in a more or less foreign sea’. For Patras' resemblance to its Achaean neighbors, including Corinth, see Rizakis, A. D., ‘La colonie romaine de Petras en Achaie: le temoignage épigraphique’, The Greek Renaissance in the Roman Empire: Papers from the Tenth British Museum Classical Colloquium (ed. Walker, Susan and Cameron, Averil; BICS Supplement 55; London: University of London/Institute of Classical Studies, 1989) 180–6Google Scholar, at 185.

38 Rizakis, Achaïe II, 29–30.

39 Nikolitsa Kokkotake, ‘ΣΤ’ ΕΦΟΡΕΙΑ ΠΡΟ· Ι· ΣΤΟΡΙΚΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΚΛΑΣΙΚΩΝ ΑΡΧΑΙΟΤΗΤΩΝ: Οδός Ηφαίστου 13 και Ηλία Μηνιάτη’, ADelt 47, no. B'1 (1992) 129–57, at 130. While the editors of SEG 45.418 have dated the inscription to the Roman period generally, through personal email correspondence Joyce Reynolds has suggested to me that the lettering indicates a date perhaps no earlier than the late second century ce. Nevertheless, there is no reason to believe that Roman municipal titles and their functions would have fundamentally changed during the first four centuries ce. In fact, regarding the consistency of Patras' political structure, Rizakis, Achaïe II, 34, maintains, ‘Les institutions de Patras, comme le montrent les inscriptions, sont tout au long de l’époque impériale de type romain. Elles ont gardé—comparées à celle des autres colonies en Grèce—une plus grande pureté de forme, une fidélité au modèle romain et une plus grande durée dans le temps'.

40 Rizakis, ‘La colonie romaine de Petras’, 184: ‘Grâce à l’épigraphie nous connaissons, aujourd'hui, l'existence des concours patréens; des textes, provenant des cités voisines de Corinthe et de Delphes mais aussi de Laodicée de Syrie, mentionnent des concours à Patras, sans toutefois préciser leur nom exacte; il en est de même d'une longue liste agonistique en latin, trouvée à Patras et qui présente un intérèt particulier en ce qui concerne l'origine ethnique des concurrents et les noms des différentes épreuves'.

41 Rizakis, Achaïe II, 30.

42 Lendon, J. E., Empire of Honour: The Art of Government in the Roman World (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997) 86Google Scholar.

43 Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, 185–7: ἀγορανόμος (IGRR 1.769); ἀστυνόμος (Epictetus Diatr. 3.1.34). Cf. Mason, Greek Terms, 175.

44 Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, 189; cf. 191.

45 Mason, Greek Terms, 19, equates ἀγορανομέω with aedilis esse in a municipal context.

46 Rizakis, Achaïe II, 29.

47 For the irregularity of the placement of quaestor in the cursus honorum, see Curchin, The Local Magistrates of Roman Spain, 29; contra Nicola Mackie, Local Administration in Roman Spain: A.D. 14–212 (BAR International; Oxford: BAR, 1983) 60.

48 Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, 17.

49 For the relevance of Spanish charters in the reconstruction of city constitutions across the empire, see, e.g., Curchin, The Local Magistrates of Roman Spain, 14; for their relevance to Greek cities, see Clarke, Andrew D., Serve the Community of the Church: Christians as Leaders and Ministers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 40Google Scholar.

50 Gonzalez and Crawford, ‘Lex Irnitana’, 182 (Latin at 153); Lebek, W. D., ‘Domitians Lex Lati und die Duumvirn, Aedilen und Quaestoren in Tab. Irn. Paragraph 18–20’, ZPE 103 (1994) 253–92Google Scholar, at 264–9.

51 Rizakis, Achaïe II, 29.

52 For more on the powers of municipal quaestores during the empire, see Liebenam, Wilhelm, Städteverwaltung im römischen Kaiserreiche (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1967) 265–6Google Scholar; for quaestores in Republican Rome, Lintott, Andrew W., The Constitution of the Roman Republic (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999) 136–7Google Scholar.

53 Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, 27. In most Roman cities, magistrates were also required to be freeborn (cf. ch. 54, Lex Malacitana). Exceptions were made, however, in certain colonies (see n. 20).

54 The primary administrative concern of the senate was the embezzlement of public funds by those magistrates who had access to them. Therefore, instructions were provided mandating the provision of praedes by certain magisterial candidates prior to election. These deposits were paid for by the candidates directly, or by bondsmen if the expense was too great, and functioned as collateral on behalf of the candidates, ensuring that those magistrates who handled public funds would not steal from the treasury or flee from their responsibilities; cf. Abbott, F. F. and Johnson, A. C., Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University, 1926) 86Google Scholar.

55 Epictetus' list of Corinthian municipal offices (Diatr. 3.1.34), although not exhaustive, includes ἀστυνόμος, ἐφήβαρχος, στρατηγός, and ἀγωνοθέτης, yet conspicuously omits an equivalent for quaestor.

56 For a helpful prosopographical display of Corinthian magistrates, see Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, 135–57 (Appendix A), which considers both epigraphic and numismatic attestations.

57 Curchin, The Local Magistrates of Roman Spain, 41 (Table 1).

58 Curchin, The Local Magistrates of Roman Spain, 29; Rizakis, Achaïe II, 30. Whereas honores/ἀρχαί were considered formal magistracies, according to Millar, Fergus, ‘Empire and City, Augustus to Julian: Obligations, Excuses and Status’, JRS 73 (1983) 7696Google Scholar, at 78, munera/λειτουργίαι were ‘personal or financial obligations imposed on individuals, without being actual offices, and performed either for the city or (directly or indirectly) for the Roman state’. There is, however, some difficulty in finding consistent definitions for honor and munus; cf. Abbott and Johnson, Municipal Administration, 84. The classification of the quaestorship as a munus may be supported by its absence from the earliest imperial city charters. Neither the Lex Iulia Municipalis (ILS 6085) nor Lex Coloniae Genetivae Iuliae—which date to 44 bce, the very year of Corinth's colonisation—prescribe the duties of quaestores, as they do with duoviri and aediles. Although quite late, the fourth-century jurist Arcadius Charisius also affirmed: Et quaestura in aliqua civitate inter honores non habetur, sed personale munus est (Dig. It should be noted, however, that quaestores appear in the late first-century Spanish municipium charters and were appointed in colonies much further east within the lifetimes of their original settlers; see, e.g., Levick, Barbara, Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967)Google Scholar 82 n. 3.

59 Mackie, Local Administration in Roman Spain, 60.

60 Mackie, Local Administration in Roman Spain, 60.

61 Martin, Dale B., ‘Review Essay: Justin J. Meggitt, Paul, Poverty and Survival’, JSNT 84 (2001) 5164Google Scholar, at 62 (emphasis his).

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