Publius quinctilhis Varus in Jewish sources

Hanan Eshel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Varus was the Roman governor of Syria between 7 and 4 BCE. After Herod's death in 4 BCE, Varus ruthlessly suppressed the riots that broke out in Judaea, during which Roman soldiers razed the porticos of the temple in Jerusalem. These events are described in detail in Josephus' writing, and are mentioned in the pseudoepigraphical work the Assumption of Moses and in the rabbinic chronicle work Seder 'Olam Rabbah. Between 6 and 9 CE Varus was the legate of Germania. In 9 CE, while Varus was leading three legions from the areas north of the Rhine to their winter quarters on the Lippe and Rhine rivers, the Germanic tribes at the Teutoburg Forest ambushed him. The Germanic forces slaughtered the Roman legionaries; during the battle Varus committed suicide. We have not found in the writings of Josephus or in the apocryphal and rabbinic works the claim that Varus was killed in Germania because of his actions in Jerusalem. Therefore, it seems as though Josephus and Jews in Judaea were not aware of what befell Varus in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008


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