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Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (Greek Κυρήνιος – Kyrenios or Cyrenius, c. 51 BC – AD 21) was a Roman aristocrat. After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus from the tetrarchy of Judea in AD 6, Quirinius was appointed legate governor of Syria, to which the province of Iudaea had been added for the purpose of a census.
Born in the neighborhood of Lanuvium, a Latin town near Rome, of an undistinguished family, Quirinius followed the normal pathway of service for an ambitious young man of his social class. According to the Roman historian Florus, Quirinius defeated the Marmaridae, a tribe of desert raiders from Cyrenaica, possibly while governor of Crete and Cyrene around 14 BC, declining however the honorific name Marmaricus. In 12 BC he was named consul, a sign that he enjoyed the favour of Augustus.
From 12 – 1 BC, he led a campaign against the Homonadenses, a tribe based in the mountainous region of Galatia and Cilicia, around 5 – 3 BC, probably as legate of Galatia. He won by reducing their strongholds and starving out the defenders. For this victory, he was awarded a triumph and elected as duumvir by the colony of Pisidian Antioch.
By 1 AD, Quirinius was appointed rector to Augustus' grandson Gaius Caesar, until the latter died from wounds suffered on campaign. When Augustus' support shifted to his stepson Tiberius, Quirinius entered the latter's camp of followers, serving with Tiberius in Armenia from 1–3 AD. Having been married to Claudia Appia, about whom little is known, he divorced her and around 3 AD married Aemilia Lepida, daughter of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and sister of Manius Aemilius Lepidus, who had originally been betrothed to Lucius Caesar. Within a few years they were divorced; in 20 AD he accused her of claiming that he was her son's father, and later of trying to poison him during their marriage; Tacitus claims that she was popular with the public, who regarded Quirinius as carrying on a prosecution out of spite.
After the banishment of the ethnarch Herod Archelaus in 6 AD, Iudaea (the conglomeration of Samaria, Judea and Idumea) came under direct Roman administration with Coponius as prefect; at the same time Quirinius was appointed Legate of Syria, with instructions to assess Iudea Province for taxation purposes. One of his first duties was to carry out a census as part of this.
The Jews already hated their pagan conquerors, and censuses were forbidden under Jewish law. The assessment was greatly resented by the Jews, and open revolt was prevented only by the efforts of the high priest Joazar. As it was, the census did trigger the revolt of Judas of Galilee and the formation of the party of the Zealots, according to Josephus.
The Gospel of Luke links the birth of Jesus to the census of 6CE. Most modern historians consider Luke's account mistaken, since he also seems to locate the birth during the reign of Herod the Great, who died a decade earlier.
Quirinius served as governor of Syria with nominal authority over Iudaea until 12 AD, when he returned to Rome as a close associate of Tiberius. Nine years later he died and was given a public funeral.
Thus in 6 or 7 AD, Augustus commissioned the newly appointed Legate of Syria, Quirinius, to carry out the census
|chapter=ignored (help) repr. in Millar, Fergus (2006). "The Greek World, the Jews, and the East". Rome, the Greek World and the East (University of North Carolina Press) 3: 139–163. Gilbert Labbé, "De Varus à Quirinius...la Judée sous administration romaine directe dès la mort d'Hérode : une hypothèse exclue", Syria, 85, 2008, p. 229-247.
Tiberius and Publius Quinctilius Varus
|Consul of the Roman Empire|
Quintus Aelius Tubero and Paullus Fabius Maximus