What is a Publican? Overview & 9 Facts

A publican is a person who owns or manages a pub (bar). If you want to start your own pub, then you need to learn the basics and then apply what you learn to your own business. This blog provides you with all the knowledge you need to get started.

What is a Publican?

In contemporary English, a publican is the proprietor of a pub, public house, or similar establishment.

What is a Publican?

However, the name originally referred to a tax collector in the Roman Empire; if you’ve ever puzzled about the repeated references to “publicans” in the Bible, those publicans were really involved in the Roman tax system and not jovial bar proprietors. Both terms share the same Latin origin, publicus, which means “public.”

Publicans In the Roman Era

As part of a contract tax system, publicans collected taxes, tolls, and other public income throughout the Roman era. Instead of collecting taxes itself, the Roman government gave contracts to individuals who would collect public income in exchange for a portion of the earnings.

Under this arrangement, some publicans became exceedingly wealthy, and by the first century CE, many people criticized the function of publicans, who were frequently corrupt and selfish.

In favor of alternative institutions, these publicans had mostly disappeared by the second century CE.

Publican Archaic

In certain regions of Europe, the name “publican” remained to apply to tax collectors until the 18th century, when it came to refer to the proprietor of a public house, or “pub” for short.

What is a Publican?

In addition to running a tavern, a publican may also provide lodging and other services, such as paid female companionship through a network of prostitutes. In its present usage, the phrase refers only to the proprietor of a bar, typically in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The Publican In Ireland and Great Britain

The publican is an important figure in the pub culture of Ireland and Great Britain. Most individuals have a local pub that they patronize on a regular basis, and bartenders often become acquainted with regulars.

A good publican, like a bartender in the United States, maintains note of patrons’ favored beverages and life events. In addition to a variety of beers, publicans may also provide non-alcoholic drinks and spirits, as well as simple foods.


Jesus delivered this story to those who were self-righteous and looked down on others: “Two men went to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a Publican.

What is a Publican?

The Pharisee, standing alone, said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—thieves, rogues, adulterers—or even this Publican. I fast twice a week and offer ten percent of my earnings as tithes.'” However, the Publican stood out.

He didn’t even glance to heaven, but he pounded his chest in grief and prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” “As opposed to the other man, this man walked home justified.” For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Context and interpretation

In the New Testament, Pharisees are frequently portrayed as demonstrating a strict commitment to Jewish law.

The Pharisee portrayed in this tale went above and above his peers, fasting more frequently than was needed and offering a tenth on everything he got, even when the religious laws did not require him to do so. Confident in his piety, the Pharisee makes no requests of God and so obtains nothing.

What is a Publican?

Publicans, however, were hated Jews who collaborated with the Roman Empire. They are usually referred to as tax collectors due to their reputation for collecting tolls and taxes (see tax farming).

However, the parable does not criticize the publican’s occupation (cf. Luke 3:12–13), but rather characterizes the publican as one who “acknowledges his position of unworthiness before God and admits his need for reconciliation.” The publican obtains the mercy and reconciliation he seeks after humbly approaching God.


The tale is read in the Eastern Orthodox Church as part of the preparing time leading up to Great Lent. It serves as an illustration of the modesty that should be practiced throughout Lent.

The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee marks the beginning of the three-week pre-Lenten season and the first usage of the liturgical Triodion (although the week following this Sunday is fast-free). This Sunday, a hymn inspired by the narrative will be sung:

  • Let us avoid the arrogance of the Pharisees!
  • And be humbled by the weeping of the Publican!
  • Let us cry out to our Redeemer, Have compassion on us, You who alone are merciful!

John Bunyan, an English author and minister, produced a book on parables in 1685.


Friedrich Justus Knecht provides commentary on the element of pride in this narrative.

What is a Publican?

The Pharisee sinned due to pride: 1. He had an inflated sense of self-importance. He did not give God the honor due him. He disdained his fellow man. Therefore, his prayer was not a prayer; it was nothing more than a self-congratulatory speech.

With the utmost arrogance and self-righteousness, he recounted to God all the wonderful deeds he had committed (albeit he could only name two) and inferred that Almighty God must be delighted to have such a valuable servant as himself!

Similar insights are made by Roger Baxter in his writings on mediation.

“Think about the arrogance of a Pharisee. Because he believes himself to be faultless, he asks God neither for the forgiveness of his sins nor for an increase in his grace.

Under the guise of expressing gratitude to God, he praises himself for his own excellent works and arrogantly favors himself over others.

Unsatisfied with this, he insults the publican, whom he hastily labels a sinner. Thus, all arrogant men are blind and believe they are affluent, but alas, haughty spirit, “thou knowest not” that you are wretched, sad, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:19)

Depiction in art

The tale has been represented in a number of religious works of art, with Eastern Orthodox iconography giving it particular prominence.

What is a Publican?

Numerous painters, including James Tissot, John Everett Millais, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Gustave Doré, have depicted the fable in their works.


The publican is often the owner or manager of a pub or tavern, but staff members may be known by several other names. A good pub is a cozy, hospitable establishment where the publican makes the experience pleasurable for all patrons.

In addition to being a source of local news and a location to watch sporting events and consume a favorite sort of beer, it may also serve as a source of local information.

5/5 - (1 vote)
Pat Moriarty
Follow me

Leave a Comment