[legate 36-39 CE]
Lucius Vitellius was a prominent Roman
senator who served three times as consul of Rome (34, 43 & 47
After his first consulship, he became Tiberius'
imperial legate & governor of Syria (35
CE). No sooner had he assumed office
than he had to remove Pontius Pilate as
prefect of Palestine, for ordering a massacre
of Samaritans. Without waiting for the aged emperor to name a replacement,
Vitellius sent his colleague Marcellus to assume control of Judea &
Samaria. While this may have been intended as only an
interim arrangement, Tiberius' death turned it into a de facto
appointment. In response to the magnificent welcome given Vitellius at
Jerusalem he cancelled all taxes on that city's commerce in agricultural
goods and allowed Judean priests custody of their own vestments. Tiberius
had ordered him to negotiate a treaty with the Parthians but capture the
Arab king Aretas IV whose forces had dealt a crushing defeat to Herod
Antipas. News of Tiberius' death, however, led Vitellius to cancel
this campaign. Recalled to Rome by Caligula, he became a trusted colleague of Claudius,
with whom he served as censor with authority over membership in the
Senate. Vitellius' son, Aulus,
later became emperor for a few months (69
CE) in the political chaos that
followed the suicide of Nero.
References: Josephus, Antiquities
18.88-90, 97-99, 104-105, 115-120, 125-126.
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