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Ethnarch, the anglicized form of ethnarches ( ) refers generally to political leadership over a common ethnic group or heterogeneous kingdom. The word is derived from the Greek words (ethnos, "tribe/nation") and (archon, "leader/ruler").

Antiquity

The title first appears in the Hellenistic Middle East, possibly in Judeamarker. It was used in the region even after it fell under the dominion of Rome, and until the early Roman Empire, 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 of Palestine, Samariamarker, Judeamarker 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. Consequently, Archelaus' title singled him out as the senior ruler, higher in rank than the tetrarchs and the chief of the Jewish nation; these three sovereignties were reunited under Herod Agrippa from AD 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.

Byzantine Empire

The Byzantines used the term generically to refer to the rulers of barbarian tribes or realms outside the boundaries of their empire. In a Christian context, were ethnikos meant "pagan", some Church Fathers used the term ethnarches to designate pagan national gods. In the 10th century, the term acquired a more technical sense, when it was given to several high-ranking commanders. Although the specific nature of the title is not attested, it is generally accepted that in the 10th-11th centuries, it signified the commanders of the contingent of foreign mercenaries serving in the Byzantine army.

Ottoman Empire

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.

Modern Greece

In modern Greek usage, the term has the connotation of "father of the nation", and is widely used as an epithet applied to the most influential political leaders of modern Hellenism: Eleftherios Venizelos, Archbishop Makarios (for Cyprusmarker), and sometimes Konstantinos Karamanlis.

References

  1. Kazhdan (1991), p. 734


Sources




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