Cestius Gallus°

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CESTIUS GALLUS ° (d. 67 c.e.), Roman governor of Syria, appointed by Nero in 63 (or 65) c.e. He was a senator, and in 42 had been consul. When he visited Jerusalem in c. 64 the Jews complained to him about the conduct of the procurator Florus. Although Cestius promised to take action he did nothing, possibly because Florus was in favor in Rome. While in Judea, Cestius took a census; according to Josephus, this was in order to convince Nero of the strength of the Jews and perhaps also to acquaint him with the gravity of the situation. When the revolt spread, both Florus and the Jewish leaders appealed to Cestius, making charges and countercharges. Cestius thereupon dispatched the tribune Neapolitanus to investigate the situation. His report placed the blame on Florus. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 66, Cestius set out from Antioch with the Twelfth Legion and other troops to quell the uprising in Judea. During their advance on Jerusalem, the Roman forces burned down *Cabul, on the road to Acre. Cestius continued on his way to Jerusalem, detaching forces to capture Jaffa, the villages in the district of Narbatene, and Lydda. In Galilee the rebels were defeated, but Cestius' policy of burning villages and of indiscriminately killing the inhabitants led even moderates to join the rebel ranks. Advancing by way of Beth-Horon and Gibeon (Gabao), the Roman army reached Scopus, seized the suburbs of Jerusalem, and besieged the Temple Mount. A few days later, however, Cestius decided to withdraw. Josephus maintains that this was a strategic error, for the situation in the city was critical, many of the inhabitants being inclined to capitulate. Cestius' decision may have resulted from a pessimistic appraisal of his army's strength or of the logistics situation in the light of the approaching winter. The retreat became a rout as the Jews pursued and attacked the Romans, *Simeon b. Giora and *Eleazar b. Simon distinguishing themselves in the battle. Cestius' defeat had several important consequences: many more moderates joined the rebels, a government was set up, and generals were appointed in command of various districts. In Rome the defeat led to the appointment of Vespasian as the commander of the army (Jos., Wars, 1:21; Suetonius, Vespasian, 4; Tacitus, Historiae, 5:10).


Schuerer, Hist, index; Klausner, Bayit Sheni, 5 (19512), 158–62; F.-M. Abel, Histoire de la Palestine, 1 (1952), 487ff.; S.G.F. Brandon, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (1951), index, s.v.Gallus.

[Lea Roth]