Town Clerk

TOWN CLERK (γραμματεύς, G1208). A city official at Ephesus, who dispersed the mob gathered at the theater to attack Paul (Acts 19:35).

The town clerk, or grammateus, occupied a position of considerable importance in city administration. His initial duties consisted of keeping the records of the city, taking the minutes of the council and assembly, caring for official correspondence, receiving the edicts of emperors and governors, plus a great mass of miscellaneous documents, then filing and publishing these, as required. He publicly read decrees, put up temporary notices for the people to read, and those of permanent importance were inscribed on stone. This clerk of the Gr. towns served a number of boards, and was the normal officer of the council; and, as indicated, was charged with many details of the administration of the city, in addition to supervising its archives. His work load was therefore heavy; hence he normally had a staff of assistants.

By the Antonine age, the grammateus had attained considerable importance in city leadership, and became a dominant political figure, who filled the highest magistracy the Rom. colony had to offer. He enrolled new citizens in some towns, and occasionally the priesthood was combined with his office. Since his work necessitated such broad and specialized knowledge, the office was sometimes held for a long period of time, and exercised great influence in city affairs. He might also on occasion be a member of the Asiarchs, who seem to have been elected officers of importance, and who were drawn from the ranks of the wealthy and influential.

At Ephesus the town clerk was president of the assembly and prob. of Rom. aristocracy. He was frequently named on the coins and inscrs. of the city. Roman records show that he annually distributed money from the public treasury (evidently to the poor and needy), on the occasion of Antoninus’ birthday. This was authorized by both the council and the assembly (the town clerk had charge of the endowment for doles to be given to the citizens). Another record shows his distribution to the councilors of money presented by Vibius Salutaris.

Barbara Levick summarizes the importance of the town clerk:

In creating the positions of gymnasiarch, grammateus, and irenarch, the colonies were trying to have the best of two worlds, to enjoy the prestige of possessing both the highest city status in the Roman world, and the most up-to-date Greek magistrates.


A. Jones, The Greek City (1967), 238, 239; B. Levick, Roman Colonies in Southern Asia Minor (1967), 72-89; D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950), 60, 645.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

klurk, klark (grammateus): The word "clerk," "writer," "town clerk," "scribe," is found in this meaning only in Ac 19:35, "when the townclerk had quieted the multitude." Cremer defines the word as signifying a "public servant among the Greeks and the reader of the legal and state-papers" (Lexicon of the New Testament). There was considerable difference between the authority of these "clerks" in the cities of Asia Minor and of Greece. Among the Greeks the grammateis were usually slaves, or at least persons belonging to the lower classes of society, and their office was a nominal, almost a mechanical, one. In Asia, on the contrary, they were officers of considerable consequence, as the passage quoted indicates (Thucidydes vii.19, "the scribe of the city") and the grammateus is not infrequently mentioned in the inscriptions and on the coins of Ephesus (e.g. British Museum Inscriptions, III, 2, 482, 528). They had the supervision of the city archives, all official decrees were drawn up by them, and it was their prerogative to read such decrees to the assembled citizens. Their social position was thus one of eminence, and a Greek scribe would have been much amazed at the deference shown to his colleagues in Asia and at the power they wielded in the administration of affairs. See, further, Hermann, Staats Altertum, 127, 20; and EPHESUS.

Henry E. Dosker

See also

  • Occupations and Professions