In the municipal government of the free cities in Asia Minor under the Roman Empire, the city recorder (Gr., gram·ma·teusʹ) was the most important public officer. He was apparently elected to office by the people and functioned as the leading member of the municipal government. We might compare him in some respects to a modern-day mayor, as some translations render the term. Consequently, he was very influential in city affairs, and his dignified office was held in esteem by the people to a greater degree than is implied by the word “clerk” or “town clerk,” as used in several Bible translations at Acts 19:35, where gram·ma·teusʹ appears in a setting and connotation differing from its usual usage as applied to the Jewish scribes. The influence the city recorder wielded is shown by the manner in which this official in Ephesus quieted the mob that gathered against Paul and his companions.—Ac 19:35-41.
The city recorder had direct access to the proconsul of the province and served as the liaison between the city government and Rome’s provincial administration of which Ephesus was one of the centers. This enabled the recorder to act as a buffer between the power of the Roman authorities and the people of the city. In the Asian cities, the city recorder was held accountable by the Roman authority for maintaining law and order within his jurisdiction. This accounts, in part at least, for the concern expressed by the city recorder when the people of Ephesus had been stirred up by the Ephesian silversmiths over the preaching done by the apostle Paul. It was a disorderly mob, an illegal assembly in the theater. There was the liability of a charge of sedition, as the city recorder pointed out to the people. He feared that the Romans would hold him personally responsible.