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Marcus Plancius Varus

Marcus Plancius Varus

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Marcus Plancius Varus was an Anatolian Roman noble who lived in the 1st century in the Roman Empire. His paternal ancestors were originally from Latium in Central Italy. They had immigrated to Anatolia in the time of the late Roman Republic. Varus came from a local, wealthy family who were prominent and they came from an unknown town in Galatia. His family owned large estates in Galatia. Apart from this, not much is known on the family and early life of Varus.

Between the years of 56-69, Varus served as a Praetor during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. He entered the Roman Senate as a praetor and through this entry, became a Roman Senator. After his service as a praetor, Varus implied treasonable behavior by a Roman called Dolabella. A Roman woman called Triaria (second wife of Lucius Vitellius the younger and sister-in-law to the brief future Roman Emperor Aulus Vitellius) terrified the City Prefect Titus Flavius Sabinus (brother to future Roman Emperor Vespasian) warning Sabinus not to seek a reputation for clemency by endangering Nero.

During the reign of Roman Emperor Vespasian 69-79, Varus served as a Proconsul of Bithynia and later in Pontus. During his time in Nicaea, the capital of the Roman province of Bithynia, Varus had struck coinage honoring the Roman State and of himself. At unknown date Varus married the Herodian Princess Julia, the daughter of King Tigranes VI of Armenia and sister of prince Gaius Julius Alexander.

After his time as serving as a proconsul had ended, Varus and Julia finally settled and lived in Perga, the capital of the Roman Province of Pamphylia. Julia bore Varus two children who were:

  • Son, Gaius Plancius Varus, who became a Roman Senator and served as a consul during the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian, who reigned 117-138.
  • Daughter, Plancia Magna. Plancia Magna married a man of Roman Senatorial rank from Perga, a local citizen called Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus. Cornutus Tertullus and Plancia Magna had a son called Gaius Julius Plancius Varus Cornutus, who was Varus and Julia’s only grandchild. Plancia Magna became a prominent patron and prominent citizen in Perga.

Julia became a priestess and served in the temple of the Ancient Greek Goddess Artemis in Perga. Artemis was the most important Goddess in Perga. In Perga, the city’s most magnificent structure was the Hellenistic Gate that was the entrance to the city. Inside in the courtyard of the Hellenistic Gate, there are inscribed bases of statues that bear the names of Marcus Plancius Varus and his son.

From these inscriptions it is understood that Varus along with his son were wealthy, influential and generous citizens in Perga. Varus and his son were made benefactors whom they contributed to the prosperity of Perga. Due to the goodness and generosity of Varus and his son, they were both accepted as the second founders of the city. For who they were both honored with the title ‘’Ktistes’’ or ’’Founder’‘.

Varus also had contributed to the construction of the North Gate of Nicaea/İznik, now called Istanbul Gate, that was built between 70-71. He had appeared to have died before 81. There is a possibility that Varus could be buried west of this Gate. His epitaph was written and dedicated in common Emperorship by Vespasian and his son Titus. Varus’ epitaph is preserved inside the Istanbul Gate. His epitaph was written in metal letters:

Proconsul M. Plancius Varus devoted this monument to Nicaea capital of state and exalted home of emperors, which the monument is completed by effort of Gaius Cassius Chrestus.
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