Quiri'nus, P. Sulpi'cius
2. Consul B. C. 12 with M. Valerius Messalla.
It would appear from his name that he was the son of the preceding; but the language of Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 3.48
) implies that he was of obscure origin.
This historian relates that he was a native of Lanuvium, and had no connection with the ancient Sulpicia gens; and that it was owing to his military abilities and active services that he gained the consulship under Augustus.
He was subsequently sent into Cilicia, where he subdued the Homonadenses, a fierce people dwelling in Mount Taurus ; and in consequence of this success, he received the honour of the triumphal ornaments. In B. C. 1, or a year or two afterwards, Augustus appointed him to direct the counsels of his grandson C. Caesar, then in Armenia; and on his way to the East he paid a visit to Tiberius, who was at that time living at Rhodes. Some years afterwards, but not before A. D. 5, he was appointed governor of Syria, and while in this office he took a census of the Jewish people.
This is the statement of Josephus, and appears to be at variance with that of Luke, who speaks as if the census or enrolment of Cyrenius was made at the time of the birth of Christ.
This discrepancy has given rise to much discussion and various explanations, of which the reader will find an able account in Winer's Biblisches Realwörterbuch, s. v. Quirinius.
Quirinus had been married to Aemilia Lepida, whom he divorced; but in A. D. 20, twenty years after the divorce, he brought an accusation against her, because she pretended to have had a son by him.
She was at the same time accused of other crimes; but the conduct of Quirinus met with general disapprobation as harsh and revengeful. Tiberius, notwithstanding his dissimulation, was evidently in favour of the prosecution, as he was anxious to conciliate Quirinus, who had no children, and might therefore be expected to leave his property to the emperor. Quirinus died in A. D. 21, and was honoured with a public funeral, which Tiberius requested of the senate. (D. C. 54.28
; Tac. Ann. 2.30
; Suet. Tib. 49
; Strab. xii. p.569
; J. AJ 18.1.1
; St. Luke, 2.1; comp. Acts of Apost. 5.37.)