Roman governor of Syria 6-4 B.C.; successor of Saturninus. He first became prominent in Jewish history when Herod the Great placed his own son Antipater on trial before the tribunal over which Varus presided, and which condemned him. After Herod's death, however, his two sons, Archelaus and Antipas, went to Rome to make their pleas for the throne, while Varus remained in Jerusalem and quickly suppressed a revolt before he left for Antioch. When, however, Sabinus arrived at Jerusalem and oppressed thepeople, rebellion again raged throughout Judea, so that Varus was obliged to return with both his legions. Joined on the march by the Arabian king, Aretas, he first traversed Galilee, where Judas, whose father, Hezekiah, had been put to death by Herod, was at the head of the insurrectionists. Sepphoris, the capital, was burned, and all its inhabitants were sold as slaves, after which Varus marched on Emmaus in the west, and burned it likewise, the inhabitants saving themselves by flight. Traversing the entire district of Samaria, which he left undisturbed, he reached Jerusalem, where the Roman legion was besieged in the royal palace by the rebels. The news of his approach, however, so dispirited the latter that he was able to enter the city without resistance, whereupon the great majority of the people were pardoned, although the country was scoured by soldiers and about 2,000 of the insurgents were crucified. After the suppression of this revolt Varus returned to Antioch.
In an enumeration of the various wars, the Seder 'Olam Rabbah (end) alludes to this rebellion and its suppression as the "polemos shel Varos." According to Grätz, it exercised a great influence on Judaism, its direct results being the following: the rabbinical regulations (1) that emigration causes ritual defilement, since the people flee for refuge to foreign lands (Tosef., Mid. xviii. 3; Tosef., Kelim, B. Ḳ. i. 1, 5; Giṭ. 8a), and (2) that an agent delivering a geṭ must prove its authenticity through a messenger (Giṭ. i. 1); (3) the reception into the canon of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and the Hagiographa (Yer. Shab. 3c); (4) the redaction of the Psalms (the majority of the daily Psalms contained lamentations and allusions to the Roman supremacy, and this was felt most keenly in the post-Herodian period); (5) the introduction of regular Psalms into the service of the Temple.
Bibliography:J. S. O.
- Josephus, Ant. xvii. 5, §§ 3-7; 10, §§ 7, 9-10;
- idem, B. J. i. 32, §§ 1-5; ii. 4, § 3; 5, §§ 1-3;
- Derenbourg, Hist. p. 194;
- Neubauer, M. J. C. i. 66;
- Grätz, in Monatsschrift, 1866, p. 80;
- idem, Gesch. 4th ed., iii., 235, 249, 252, 714-720;
- Schürer, Gesch. i. 322, 413, 420, 421, 669; iii. 215.