Publius Quinctilius Varus

From Academic Kids

Publius Quinctilius Varus (ca.46 BC-9 AD) was a Roman politician and general under Augustus Caesar, mainly remembered for having lost three Roman legions and his own life when attacked by Germanic leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.



Varus was a patrician, born to an aristocratic but long impoverished and unimportant family. His father was Sextus Quinctilius Varus, a senator aligned with the conservative republicans in the civil war against Julius Caesar. Sextus survived their defeat and was involved in Caesar's assassination. He committed suicide after the Battle of Philippi (43 BC). Despite his father's political choices, Varus became a supporter of Caesar's heir, Octavianus later known as Caesar Augustus. He was married to Vipsania, daughter of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, and became a personal friend of both Agrippa and Octavian. When Agrippa died, it was Varus who delivered the funeral eulogy. Thus, his political career was boosted and his cursus honorum finished as early as 13 BC, when he was elected consul as junior partner of Tiberius, Augustus' step-son and future emperor.

Political Career

Between 8 and 9 BC, following the consulship, Varus was governor of the Africa province, one of the few still outside the control of Octavianus. After this, Varus went to the important province of Syria, where he had four legions under his command. By then he was a competent governor and a trusted servant of the emerging Roman Empire. The Jewish historian Josephus mentions the swift action of Varus against a messianic revolt in Judaea after the death of Rome's client king Herod the Great in 4 BC.

Following the governorship of Syria, Varus returned to Rome and remained there for the next few years. His political career appeared to reach an end. During these years, Varus married Claudia Pulchra, a grand-niece of Octavianus, which shows that he still enjoyed political favour.

In the first years of the 1st century Rome's political and military life was concentrated in Germania, the area north of Gaul and east of the Rhine river. Tiberius, his brother Drusus, and Germanicus conducted a long campaign in the region and subdued several Germanic tribes, such as the Cherusci. In 7 AD, the region was pacified and Varus was appointed to govern Germania.

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

In 9 AD, Varus was stationed in a summer camp near the Weser River with his three legions, the seventeenth, the eighteenth and the nineteenth, when news arrived about a growing revolt in the Rhine area to the west. Despite several warnings, Varus believed Arminius, the man who appealed for his help because he was a Romanised Germanic prince and commander of an auxiliary cavalry unit. But this was a mistake. Arminius was indeed planning an ambush, and he attacked the three legions in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest on September 9 (near modern Osnabrück). The Romans were slaughtered. Casualties included the three legions, the cavalry and the camp followers. The Germans also took the Eagles (battle standards) of the legions, a major insult to Roman pride, since the standards were considered minor deities. Varus took his own life towards the end of the battle's final day. His head was cut off and sent to Rome.

Teutoburg was one of Rome's biggest military catastrophes and greatly upset Octavianus. After the battle, Varus was made the scapegoat for Octavianus' difficulties in Germany. However, Varus' head was buried in the mausoleum of Octavianus' family, suggesting that the emperor did not hold a grudge against him. The Roman historian Suetonius, in his The Twelve Caesars, wrote that, upon hearing of Varus' defeat in Germania, Augustus banged his head against a wall and cried, "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!')

External Links

he:פובליוס קוינקטיליוס וארוס


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