Chapter 2

Pontius Pilate

[Pontii Pilat]

Bulgakov assumes that his readers know the Bible well. The Gospel versions of Christ and Pilate form the basis for Bulgakov's Jerusalem chapters. If you do not have them at your fingertips, it's a good idea to read them before you read this part of the novel.

For the most part, the names Bulgakov uses in these chapters, Yershalaim instead of Jerusalem [Ierusalim], Yeshua instead of Jesus [Iisus] are meant to be more historically accurate or appropriate to the time and language. Bulgakov did a lot of research and took notes from various sources such as the works of Farrar, Strauss, and Renan, as well as historians and the Brokgauz-Efron encyclopedia.

Always keep in mind the possible relations between the Jerusalem chapters, or the Gospel according to Woland, and the Moscow chapters of the novel. How many parallels are there between Chapters 1 and 2, for example?


Pontius Pilate

Palace of Herod the Great

Herod the Great

O gods, gods...





Roman Military Structure

Mark Ratkiller

Pilate, Mark, and Yeshua

Yeshua Ha-Notsri



tattered sandals

Dismas and Gestas


Strato's Caesarea on the Mediterranean

Tiberius (bald head, crown)

lit the lamps



Solomon's pool, shields

Lightning Legion at the city wall

Levi Matvei

Judas of Kerioth

Joseph Kaifa

Bald Mountain


Nisan--A spring month in the Jewish lunar calendar. According to the Brokgauz-Efron encyclopedia, Christ was crucified on the 14th day of Nisan. This is also the date given in Renan's Life of Christ.

hemicrania [gemikraniia]--"Hemicrania" in Greek means "half the skull." This word was transformed through French into "migraine."

chiton-- According to Greek Costume through the Centuries, "Forms of male dress throughout the Archaic and Classical periods were very similar to women's. The two basic garments, the chiton and the himation, were adopted by both sexes. The full-length chiton was worn by all Greek men until the fifth century B.C. when, except for the elderly, it was abandoned in favor of a shorter version, which was knee-length. It was sometimes pinned on the left shoulder only, leaving the right shoulder and arm free. Soldiers worn a chiton on which both shoulders and arms of the garment were sewn, leaving a wide slit for the head. It was generally tied at the waist and a certain amount of material was gathered above the belt to draw the hem-line to mid-thigh level." Christ's chiton is mentioned in the Greek New Testament: Mark 6:9, Luke 3:11.

hippodrome--Bulgakov made a note from Brokgauz-Efron about the possibility that there might have been a hippodrome in ancient Jerusalem. It would have been a site for horse races and other competitions, as well as a public meeting place. According to Josephus, the hippodrome was located to the south of the Temple, i. e., in the Lower City. See Antiquities 17.10.2. Bellum 2.3.1 places the hippodrome to the south of the Temple.

lit the lamps--According to Renan, Jewish law required that hidden witnesses be able to see the accused clearly. Two candles were lit to establish that the witnesses could see him.

caligae [kaligi]--Roman military footwear, a kind of half-boot.

entire Lightning Legion at the city walls--Pilate is here effectively predicting the results of the Jewish War. In 66-70 Judea revolted against the Romans, provoked by misgovernment by procurators like Pilate. Jerusalem was besieged by four legions, including the 12th Fulminata (lightning) and many Arabs. The city fell in 70, the temple was destroyed, and the sanhedrin (sinedrion) and office of high priest abolished. The details of Pilate's threat come from Ernest Renan's Antichrist (1866), which tells of the destruction of Jerusalem by the future Roman Emperor Titus in 70 AD. Bulgakov's archive contains his notes on the legions that took part in the siege: "the 5th Macedonica, the 10th Fretensis, the 12th Fulminata, the 15th Apollinaris, as well as Syrian troops and many arabs who came for the pillage." (S 224)

Bald Mountain [Lysaia Gora]--The Brokgauz-Efron encyclopedia translates Golgotha as "skull, place of execution." There was a hill to the northwest of Jerusalem named Golgotha which was used as a place of execution in this period. The name "Bald Mountain" also refers to a hill near Kiev that was according to legend the place of witches' sabbaths.