Governor of Syria
Gallus was legate of Syria from 63 or 65. He marched into Judea with a force of over 30,000 men in September 66 in an attempt to restore order at the outset of the Great Jewish Revolt. As assembled at Antioch, Gallus's army comprised legio XII Fulminata, detachments from the three other legions based in Syria, six cohorts of auxiliary infantry and four alae of cavalry. These regular troops were supported by 14,000 allies provided by Agrippa II and other client rulers.
Gallus succeeded in conquering Beit She'arim in the Lower Galilee, seat of the Great Sanhedrin (Jewish supreme religious court) in later times. With his force reduced by detachments sent to occupy Galilee and the Judean coast, Gallus turned inland to subdue Jerusalem. After suffering losses amongst his baggage train and rearguard, Gallus reached Mount Scopus and penetrated the outer city, but was apparently unable to take The Temple Mount. After a siege of nine days, Gallus decided (for reasons which remain obscure) to fall back to the coast. His decision appears to have been based on the loss of siege equipment by ambush and the threatened cutting of his supply lines as the October rains began.
During Gallus's withdrawal his column was ambushed near Beth Horon, suffering very heavy losses. He only succeeded in making good his escape to Antipatris with the loss of about 6,000 men and a large amount of war material. Judea was now almost entirely lost to Roman control.
Soon after his return to Syria and before the spring of 67 Gallus died. According to Titus Flavius Josephus the legate was broken by shame at the disgrace of suffering a major and unexpected Roman defeat. Gallus was succeeded in the governorship of Syria by Licinius Mucianus. Emperor Nero appointed the future Emperor Vespasian as commander of the Roman forces assembled in the province to crush the rebellion in Judea.
- Tacitus, Hist. v. 10, 13
- Suetonius, Vespasian, 4
- Josephus, Bell. Jud. ii. 14-20
- Emil Schürer, History of the Jewish People, 1st edn. div. i. vol. ii. p. 212 (Eng. tr., 1890); vol. 1, pp. 487f of Vermes and Millar's 1973 re-edition.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Gallus, Gaius Cestius". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- S.G.F. Brandon, 'The Defeat of Cestius Gallus', A.D. 66, 'History Today' vol.xx. pp. 38-46 (1970)