a native of Clazomenae, succeeded Albinus as procurator of Judaea, A. D. 64-65.
He owed his appointment to the influence of his wife Cleopatra with the empress Poppaea.
The government of Albinus had been oppressive, but the conduct of Florus caused the Jews to regard it with comparative regret. Without pity or shame, equally crafty and cruel, Florus was a systematic plunderer of his province. No gains were too petty, no extortion was too enormous for him. His ravages extended to whole districts, as well as to particular cities and persons : exile was preferable to his government; and the banditti who infested Judaea purchased impunity by sharing their booty with the procurator. Josephus (Antiq
xviii. ], § 6, 20.11.1, B. J.
2.14), whom Tacitus confirms (Hist.
5.10), expressly attributes the last war of the Jews with Rome to Florus, and says that he purposely kindled the rebellion in order to cover the enormities of his government. At Caesareia, where in A. D. 65-66, in the second year of Florus' administration, the insurrection broke out, the Jewish citizens bribed him with eight talents, to secure them ingress into their own synagogue. Florus took the money, and immediately quitted Caesareia, abandoning the Jews to the insults and fury of the Greek population. Jewish deputies sent from Caesareia to Sebaste, to claim their purchased protection, were thrown into prison by Florus.
He abstained from nothing which even the worst of his predecessors had respected.
At one time lie demanded 17 talents from the templetreasury in " Caesar's name ;" and twice within a few days he excited a tumult, and ordered a massacre at Jerusalem, in which 3600 persons perished, merely to afford him, amidst the confusion, an opportunity of plundering the Temple.
The attempt failed, but oni this occasion he publicly scourged and impaled Roman citizens of equestrian rank, but Jewish birth, although Berenice, of the Asmonaean race, and sister of Agrippa II. [BERENICE, No. 2; AGRIPPA HERODES, No. 2], stood barefooted and in mourning beside his tribunal, supplicating for her countrymen.
At the feast of the Passover, April, A. D. 65, three millions of Jews petitioned Cestius Gallus [GALLUS, CESTIUS], the proconsul of Syria, against the tyranny of Festus.
But the only redress they obtained was a faint promise of milder treatment, while Florus stood at the proconsul's side, deriding the suppliants, and on his departure ostentatiously escorted him from Jerusalem to Antioch. Hatred to Florus, rather than to Rome, rendered all Agrippa's efforts in A. D. 66, to prevent the rebellion of the Jews ineffectual, and, after it broke out, all parties represented Florus as its principal cause.
It is doubtful whether Florus perished in the insurrection or escaped. His death is recorded by Suetonius (Vespas.
4; Oros. 7.9
), but not implied by Josephus (Vita,
6). (Tacit., Joseph. ll. cc.,
14.9.2, 20.9.5, B. J.
16.1; Sulpic. Sev. Sacr. Hist.
2.42; Eusebius, Chronicon.
LXVI.) He is sometimes called Festus and Cestius Florus.