Pontius Pilate was a character in the Lew Wallace Ben-Hur and the subsequent movies.

1959 Film

Pilate was a good friend of the Junior Counsel Quintus Arrius. He would often sponsor a chariot in the races at the Circus Maximus, and was noted for having his teams frequently win.

A short time after his friend Arrius returned to Rome, Pilate attended a party at his friend's estate. Arrius introduced Pilate to his newly adopted son, Judah Ben-Hur. Pilate noted how his teams often won, which wasn't the case now that Hur was driving Arrius's chariots. He inquired of Hur how the weather was in Judea, and revealed to his disgust that he had been named Governor of Judea, replacing Valerius Gratus.

Pilate arrived in Judea some time after Hur himself had returned to Judea, and took his post as Governor.

At the circus in Jerusalem Pilate held a chariot race, which had participants from all over the Empire. Included was the Judean Hur and the Roman Messala. Messala attempted to sabotage Hur's chariot with his own Pict chariot, an attempt that ultimately cost him his life. Hur won the race and to the adulation of the Jewish populace was crowned the victor by Pilate. Pilate asked Hur to come see him, that he had a message for him from Arrius.

Hur came to see him after learning that his mother and sister still lived, and had contracted leprosy during their time in prison. Hur had also come to grant Messala a measure of forgiveness, believing that Messala had been a good man corrupted by the Empire. Pilate passed on the message that Hur had been named a citizen of Rome. Hur however did not want anything further to do with the Empire.

Pilate remarked that he spoke to Hur in open friendship, as he would to Arrius, but when he took his seat as Governor he had the duty to crush all of Caesar, including Young Arrius. When Hur responded that his name was Judah Ben-Hur, Pilate said that even for the sake of Arrius he couldn't keep disaster from befalling Hur, and warned him that he should probably leave Judea as soon as possible. Hur gave him the ring that Arrius had given him earlier, and asked him to return it to Arrius, saying he honored Arrius too much to continue wearing the ring.

A short time later Pilate presided over the case of a young preacher from Nazareth. At the trial Pilate reluctantly condemned the Nazaraen to die on the cross after washing his hands of the matter.


In the novel Pilate is not named to succeed Gratus until some time after Hur had returned to Judea. Pilate was named Governor due to the influence Hur's servant Simonides had with the Praetorian Prefect Sejanus. After Gratus is relieved of his duties the Romans in Jerusalem learn the full scope of his malfeasance in running Judea.