Quintilius Varus°

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QUINTILIUS VARUS ° (d. 9 c.e.), Roman consul in 13 b.c.e. and governor of Syria from 6 to 4 b.c.e. Varus first appeared in Judea during the last years of *Herod the Great, and on that occasion he participated in the king's trial of his son Antipater, accused of attempted patricide. After hearing lengthy denunciations of the prince and verification that the poison allegedly prepared for the plot was in fact potent, Varus went into private consultation with Herod, drafted a report to Augustus, and departed for Antioch. Antipater was put into chains, and it was assumed by the populace that Herod in so doing was acting upon the advice of the Syrian governor, although Antipater was eventually executed. With the death of Herod in 4 b.c.e., his primary heir Archelaus was unable to control the serious disturbances that broke out throughout the country. Following a bloody attempt on Passover at quieting the unrest, Archelaus departed for Rome and disturbances reached a new peak with the appearance of Sabinus, finance officer (procurator) of Syria, for the purpose of taking charge of Herod's estate. During the festival of Pentecost the Jews in Jerusalem rose up in open rebellion, which eventually spread to all of Palestine, Sabinus, realizing his inability to cope with the situation, was forced to appeal to Varus for help. The Syrian governor appeared at Acre with the three legions at his disposal, together with auxiliary troops supplied by the citizens of Berytus, and from there proceeded to subdue the whole country. Cities such as Sepphoris and Emmaus were reduced to ruins, and thousands of rebels were crucified. The invasion under Varus was so devastating that Josephus lists it together with the wars of Antiochus Epiphanes, Pompey, and Vespasian (Apion 1:34). The rabbinic chronology Seder Olam Rabbah also cites a pulmus shel Asveiros taking place 80 years before the war of Vespasian, and since Graetz historians have interpreted this as "the war of Varus." Varus was eventually killed by the Germans at the battle of the forest of Teutoburg.


Jos., Wars, 1:617ff., 2:16ff.; Jos., Ant., 17:89ff., 221ff.; Schuerer, Gesch, 1 (19014), 322, 420f., 3 (19094), 296.

[Isaiah Gafni]