Festus, or Porcius Festus, was appointed by the Emperor Nero (see also New Testament Roman Emperors and Ancient Empires - Rome) about 60 AD to succeed Felix as procurator (governor) of Judea (Acts 24:27).
Although not a great amount is known about him, Festus does seem to have been of a little more noble character than many Roman rulers of the time. Not long after he took office, the apostle Paul (see On The Road To Damascus), who had been arrested for preaching the Gospel (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey and Paul's Third Missionary Journey), was brought to his attention. It was Festus that granted Paul's request to appeal his case to Caesar (a strategy by Paul which very likely saved his life, since if he had been sent back to Jerusalem he would almost certainly have been killed by the Sanhedrin), a decision that resulted in Paul's fateful voyage to Rome. Festus ruled only about 2 years; he died while in office, and was succeeded by Albinus.
Paul Before King Agrippa and Governor Festus
Like many others who had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on whether they were for or against him) to encounter the apostle Paul, Festus very soon realized that the man before him was someone very special. Even as a "helpless" prisoner in chains, with an appearance that, according to some accounts, would not have won any "beauty contests," Paul exuded power - the power of the Holy Spirit. Their entire meeting is found in the 25th and 26 chapters of Acts; a few excerpts:
"Now when Festus had come into his province, after three days he went up to Jerusalem from Caesarea. And the chief priests and the principal men of the Jews informed him against Paul; and they urged him, asking as a favor to have the man sent to Jerusalem, planning an ambush to kill him on the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly. "So," said he, "let the men of authority among you go down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him." (Acts 25:1-5 RSV)
"But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem, and there be tried on these charges before me?" But Paul said, "I am standing before Caesar's tribunal, where I ought to be tried; to the Jews I have done no wrong, as you know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death; but if there is nothing in their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar." Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, "You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you shall go." (Acts 25:9-12 RSV)
"And as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are mad; your great learning is turning you mad." But Paul said, "I am not mad, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am persuaded that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner." (Acts 26:24-26 RSV)
"King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe." And Agrippa said to Paul, "In a short time you think to make me a Christian!" And Paul said, "Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am - except for these chains. Then the king rose, and the governor and Bernice and those who were sitting with them; and when they had withdrawn, they said to one another, "This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment." And Agrippa said to Festus, "This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar." (Acts 26:27-32 RSV)
Fact Finder: While on his voyage to Rome, what was the name of the island where Paul was shipwrecked?
See Malta and Paul's Journey To Rome