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In several ancient Semitic-speaking cultures and associated historical regions, the shopheṭ or shofeṭ (plural shophṭim or shofeṭim; he, שׁוֹפֵט ''šōfēṭ'', phn, 𐤔𐤐𐤈 ''šāfēṭ'', xpu, 𐤔𐤐𐤈 ''šūfeṭ'', uga, 𐎘𐎔𐎉 ''ṯāpīṭ'') was a community leader of significant civic stature, often functioning as a chief
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In ancient Rome, a '' magistratus'' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both judici ...
with authority roughly equivalent to Roman consular powers.


Etymology

In
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...
and several other
Semitic languages The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family Afroasiatic (Afro-Asiatic), also known as Afrasian or Hamito-Semitic or Semito-Hamitic, is a large language family A language is a structured system of communication us ...

Semitic languages
, shopheṭ literally means "Judge", from the
Semitic root The root (linguistics), roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "wikt:radical, radicals" (hence the term consonantal root). Such abstract consonantal roots are used in the formation of ...
"ṮPṬ", "to pass judgment". Cognate titles exist in other Semitic cultures, notably
Phoenicia Phoenicia (; from grc, Φοινίκη, ') was an ancient Semitic-speaking thalassocratic civilization that originated in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily modern Syria and Lebanon Lebanon (), officially known ...
.


Hebrew

In the
Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; Hebrew: , or ), is the Biblical canon, canonical collection of Hebrew language, Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi'im, and the Ketuvim. These texts are almost exclusively in Biblical Hebrew, with a fe ...

Hebrew Bible
, the shofṭim were
chieftain A tribal chief or chieftain is the leader of a tribe, tribal society or chiefdom. Tribe The concept of tribe is a broadly applied concept, based on tribal concepts of societies of western Afroeurasia. Tribal societies are sometimes categor ...
s who united various
Israelite The Israelites (; he, בני ישראל ''Bnei Yisra'el'') were a confederation of Iron Age ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, Semitic-speaking tribes of the ancient Near East, who inhabited a part of Canaan during the history of ancient Israe ...
tribes in time of mutual danger to defeat foreign enemies.


Phoenician

In the various independent Phoenician city-states—on the coasts of present-day
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue Line ...

Lebanon
and western
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a country in ...

Syria
, the
Punic The Punics, Carthaginians or Western Phoenicians, were a group of peoples in the Western Mediterranean who traced their origins to the Phoenicians. In modern scholarship, the term 'Punic' – the Latin equivalent of the Greek-derived term 'Phoen ...
colonies on the
Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the ...
, and in
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient Ancient Carthage, Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what is now Tunisia. Carthage was one of the most important trading hubs of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of ...

Carthage
itself—a shofeṭ (
Punic The Punics, Carthaginians or Western Phoenicians, were a group of peoples in the Western Mediterranean who traced their origins to the Phoenicians. In modern scholarship, the term 'Punic' – the Latin equivalent of the Greek-derived term 'Phoen ...
: ''šūfeṭ'') was a non-royal magistrate granted control over a city-state, sometimes functioning much in the same way as a
Roman consul A consul held the highest elected political office The incumbent is the current holder of an official, office or position, usually in relation to an election. For example, in an election for president, the incumbent is the person holding or a ...
; for example, both offices served a one-year term in pairs of two. The officeholder's role as a diplomatic executive, representative of a collective citizenry, is evidenced by an inscription written by the ''sufet'' Diomitus at
Sidon Sidon, known locally as Sayda or Saida ( ar, صيدا), is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate, of which it is the capital, on the Mediterranean The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlanti ...

Sidon
in the late third century BC. He boasts of his chariot race victory at the
Nemean Games The Nemean Games ( grc-gre, Νέμεα or Νέμεια) were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the ...
in Greece, perpetuating political favor as "the first of the citizens" to do so.


Punic

By the time of the
Punic Wars The Punic Wars were a series of three wars between 264 and 146BC fought by the states of Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune ...
, the government of
Ancient Carthage Carthage (; xpu, 𐤒𐤓𐤕𐤟𐤇𐤃𐤔𐤕, translit=Qart-ḥadašt, lit=New City; la, Carthāgō) was an ancient Ancient history is the aggregate of past events
was headed by a pair of annually elected ''sufetes''.
Livy Titus Livius (; 59 BC – AD 17), known in English as Livy ( ), was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ...
's account of the Punic Wars affords a list of the procedural responsibilities of the Carthaginian ''sufet'', including the convocation and presidency of the senate, the submission of business to the People's Assembly, and service as trial judges. Their number, term, and powers are therefore similar to those of the
Roman consul A consul held the highest elected political office The incumbent is the current holder of an official, office or position, usually in relation to an election. For example, in an election for president, the incumbent is the person holding or a ...
s, with the notable difference that Roman consuls were also commanders-in-chief of the Roman military, a power apparently denied to the ''sufetes''. The term ''sufet'' was not, however, reserved for the heads of the Carthaginian state. Towards the end of their Western Mediterranean dominance, political coordination between local and colonial Carthaginians was likely expressed through a regional hierarchy of ''sufetes.'' For example, some epigraphic evidence from Punic-era
Sardinia Sardinia ( ; it, Sardegna ; sc, Sardigna or ) is the Mediterranean islands#By area, second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, and one of the Regions of Italy, 20 regions of Italy. It is located west of the Italian Penins ...

Sardinia
is dated with four names: the years' magistrates not only on the island, but also at home in North Africa. Further inscriptional evidence of ''sufetes'' found in the major settlements of
Roman Sardinia The Province of Sardinia and Corsica ( la, Provincia Sardinia et Corsica, Ancient Greek Έπαρχία Σαρδηνίας και Κορσικής) was an ancient Roman province including the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. Pre-Roman times Imag ...
indicates that the office, having endured there for three centuries under Carthaginian sovereignty, was utilized by the descendants of Punic settlers to refuse both cultural and political assimilation with their mainland Italian conquerors. Punic-style magistracies appear epigraphically unattested only by the end of the first century BC, although two ''sufetes'' wielded power in Bithia as late as the mid-second century AD.


Later use

Official state terminology of the late Republic and
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
repurposed the word ''sufet'' to refer to Roman-style local magistrates serving in
Africa Proconsularis Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are co ...
, although a ''sufet'' appears as far-flung as
Volubilis Volubilis (; ar, وليلي, walīlī; ber, ⵡⵍⵉⵍⵉ, wlili) is a partly excavated Berber-Roman city in Morocco situated near the city of Meknes, and may have been the capital of the Mauretania, kingdom of Mauretania, at least from the ...

Volubilis
in modern-day
Morocco ) , image_map = Morocco (orthographic projection, WS claimed).svg , map_caption = Location of Morocco in northwest Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A con ...

Morocco
. The institution is attested in more than forty post-Carthaginian cities, ranging from the
Third Punic War The Third Punic War (149–146 BC) was the third and last of the Punic Wars fought between Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient Ancient Carthage, Carthaginian civilization, on the eastern side of the Lake of Tunis in what i ...
to the second century AD reign of
Commodus Commodus (; 31 August 161 – 31 December 192) was Roman emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles ...
. Settlements governed by ''sufetes'' included
Althiburos Althiburos ( xpu, 𐤏𐤋𐤕𐤁𐤓𐤔, ʿ) was an ancient Berber, Carthaginian, and Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman p ...

Althiburos
, Calama, Capsa,
Cirta Cirta, also known by various other names in antiquity, was the ancient Berber and Roman settlement which later became Constantine, Algeria ) , image_map = Algeria (centered orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , image_map2 ...
, Gadiaufala, Gales, Limisa,
Mactar Maktar or Makthar ( ar, مكثر), also known by other names during antiquity, is a town and archaeological site in Siliana Governorate, Tunisia. Maktar was founded by the Berber Numidians as a defense post against Carthaginian expansion. At ...
, Thugga and Volubilis. Unlike the continuity of Punic inhabitance in Sardinia, the ''sufets prevalence in interior regions of Roman Africa, which were previously unsettled by Carthage, suggests that settlers and Punic refugees endeared themselves to Roman authorities by adopting a readily intelligible government. Three ''sufetes'' serving simultaneously appear in first century AD records at Althiburos, Mactar, and Thugga, reflecting a choice to adopt Punic nomenclature for Romanized institutions without the actual, traditionally balanced magistracy. In those cases, a third, non-annual position of tribal or communal chieftain marked an inflection point in the assimilation of external African groups into the Roman political fold. The Roman approximation of the term, ''sufes'', appears in at least six works of Latin literature. Erroneous references to Carthaginian "kings" with the Latin term ''rex'' betray the translations of Roman authors from Greek sources, who equated the ''sufet'' with the more monarchical
basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title is one or more words used before or after a person's name, in certain contexts. It may signify either generation, an official position, or a professional or academic qualif ...
( el, βασιλεύς).


See also

*
Hakham ''The Hakham of Moinești'' (''Hahamul din Moineşti''), Ștefan Luchian, 1909.">Ștefan_Luchian.html" ;"title="Moinești'' (''Hahamul din Moineşti''), Ștefan Luchian">Moinești'' (''Hahamul din Moineşti''), Ștefan Luchian, 1909. ''Hakham'' ...
*
Zemene Mesafint The Zemene Mesafint ( gez, ዘመነ መሳፍንት ''zamana masāfint'', modern ''zemene mesāfint'', variously translated "Era of Judges," "Era of the Princes," "Age of Princes," etc.; named after the Book of Judges The Book of Judges (, ...


References

*{{Catholic, title=Judges}
Judges
Carthage Heads of government Heads of state Government of Phoenicia Titles of national or ethnic leadership