Gessius Florus°

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GESSIUS FLORUS °, the last procurator of Judea before the Jewish War; governed from 64–66 c.e. He was appointed on the recommendation of Nero's consort Poppaea Sabina (Tacitus, Historiae, 5:10). Florus showed himself to be an oppressive and rapacious ruler. On the occasion of a visit to Jerusalem of the Roman governor of Syria, *Cestius Gallus Gaius, the Jews complained bitterly to him of the procurator's conduct. On his departure the situation deteriorated. With the renewal of the quarrel at Caesarea between the Jews and the Syrians over the local synagogue, Florus promised the Jews his support but later adopted an anti-Jewish attitude (tj, Bik. 2:3, 65d). The arrest of Jewish leaders who had come to Sebaste to enlist his aid, and his plundering of 17 talents from the Temple treasury, aroused the anger of the people against him, and the Jews sarcastically collected money in the streets of Jerusalem for the "indigent procurator." Florus demanded that those responsible should be handed over to him for punishment and finally ordered his soldiers to sack Jerusalem, paying no attention to the intercession of *Berenice, the sister of *Agrippa ii. For a while the leading citizens were able to calm the people, but when Florus led his troops on the city the Jews rose in arms and succeeded in halting the Roman advance. Fearing a second attempt, the Jews now broke down the porticoes connecting the Temple Mount with the fortress of Antonia, whereupon Florus returned to Caesarea. Agrippa tried to calm the people, but they refused to submit any more to the orders of the procurator. Both Florus and the Jews gave the governor of Syria their own version of what had taken place. The latter sent an emissary to Jerusalem to learn the truth of the matter and subsequently informed Nero that the blame for the outbreak of war rested on Florus. There is no doubt that Florus's conduct was one of the chief causes of the ensuing war which resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple.


Jos., Ant., 20:252–68; Jos., Wars, 2:277ff., 558; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 585,601ff.; Pauly-Wissowa, 13 (1910), 1325–28, no. 5.

[Lea Roth]