The War of Varus: Judea Rises Against Rome in 4 BC

January 19, 2011 at 1:08 am

King Herod I. served Rome as a willing proxy ruler over Judea, alienating his Jewish subjects by supporting pagan temples, observance of Roman holidays, and sponsorship of arena games in Jerusalem. The last straw for the pious Jewish opposition was erection of a huge gilded eagle – the symbol of Roman power – above the gates to the Temple District.

When Herod died in 4 BC, Jerusalem and all Judea erupted. Pious Jews, would be Messiahs, and terrorists alike rose up, all hoping to restore Judea’s liberty. Publius Quintilius Varus, Rome’s governor in Syria, was tasked with suppressing the revolts and restoring order — Rome’s order — in the land.

Varus led three complete legions and numerous Arab auxiliaries into Judea and marched on Jerusalem, systematically and brutally suppressing all opposition, with little regard for the fate of innocents. Jewish-Roman historian Josephus termed the War of Varus one of the greatest catastrophes to ever befall the Jewish people.

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Entry filed under: Ancient History, Greater Middle Eastern Military History. Tags: , , , , , .

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