International Standard Bible EncyclopediaASIARCH
a'-shi-ark (Asiarches; the English Revised Version "the chief officers of Asia," the King James Version "the chief of Asia"): The title given to certain men of high honorary rank in the Roman province of Asia. What their exact functions were is not altogether clear. They derived their appellation from the name of the province over which they presided (compare BITHYNIARCH; CARIARCH; SYRIARCH).
Brandis has shown that they were not "high priests of Asia," as some have thought, but delegates of individual cities to the provincial Council (Commune Asioe; see ASIA MINOR) which regulated the worship of Rome and of the emperor. They were probably assembled at Ephesus, among other places, to preside over the public games and the religious rites at the festival, in honor of the gods and the emperor, when they sent word to Paul and gave him a bit of friendly advice, not to present himself at theater (me dounai heauton eis to theatron, Acts 19:31). The title could be held along with any civil office and with the high-priesthood of a particular city. They served for one year, but re-election was possible (the tenure of office, according to Ramsay, was four years). The municipalities must have shown the Asiarchs high honor, as we find the names of many perpetuated on coins and inscriptions. The office could only be held by men of wealth, as the expenses of the provincial games were for the greater part defrayed by the Asiarchs.
CI, 2511, 2912; CIL, 296, 297; Brandis, Pauly-Wissowa's Real-Encyclopedia, articles "Archiereus" and "Asiarches"; Strabo, XIV, 649; Eusebius, HE, IV, 15; Hicks, Ancient Greek Inscrs in the British Museum; Ramsay, Classical Review, III, 174; Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, I, 55-58, and II, chapter xi; Guiraud, Les assemblees provinciales de l'Empire Romain; Lightfoot, Ignatius and Polycarp, II, 987.
M. O. Evans
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
) One of the chiefs or pontiffs of the Roman province of Asia, who had the superintendence of the public games and religious rites.