CITY AUTHORITIES (πολιτάρχαι; city rulers, civic magistrates; KJV: rulers of the city). The civic magistrates of Thessalonica before whom Jason and some of the Christians were dragged by the mob following on the preaching of the Gospel there by Paul and Silas.
The word is used only in Acts 17:6, 8. It does not occur in classical Gr. lit. but has been found in some nineteen inscrs. dating from 2 b.c. to a.d. 3. In most cases the word is used for magistrates in Macedonian cities and five of its usages refer to Thessalonica itself. The city had five politarchs under Augustus and six under the Antonines.
Thessalonica was both a free city and the capital of Macedonia. After the Rom. conquest of Macedonia in 168 b.c., Thessalonica was made capital of the second of the four districts. When all of Macedonia was reduced to a single province in 146 b.c. Thessalonica then served as its capital. It was then made a free city being almost entirely self-governed though after a.d. 44 the head of the Rom. administration in Macedonia had a seat in Thessalonica. Thus the politarchs in Thessalonica carried great responsibility and, though the city was technically free, this freedom did not include the right to recognize any but Caesar as king. Thus, the charge of treason brought against Paul (Acts 17:7) compelled action on the part of the politarchs for otherwise they too would have been charged with treason.
E. D. Burton, “The Politarchs,” AJT, II (1898), 598-632.