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attius

Publius Attius Varus

Publius Attius Varus (d. March 17, 45 BC) was the Roman governor of Africa during the Civil War that broke out after Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. He declared war against Caesar, and initially fought and defeated Gaius Scribonius Curio, who was sent against him in 49 BC.

Background

On the breaking out of the civil war, Varus, an adherent of the optimates, was stationed in Picenum at the head of a considerable force. Upon the approach of Julius Caesar he was forced to evacuate the area and he and his levies joined Pompey in Apulia. When Pompey left Italy for Greece, Varus crossed over into Africa, and took possession of the province. As he had served as propraetor of Africa a few years previously, Varus was well known with the province and its people, and was thus able to raise two legions.

The battle for Africa

Caesar then sent Gaius Scribonius Curio to Africa with the purpose of taking it away from the republicans. Curio was given command as a means of rewarding him for his political support, but he had only limited military experience, and none at high command. He took over legions initially recruited by Pompeians that had switched allegiance at the surrender to Caesar at Corfinium. Curio landed successfully near Utica, surprising Varus' army. Varus' brother, Sextus Attius Varus, had been at Corfinium and appealed to Curio's legions to desert and return to their original loyalty. However, the troops refused and, after a success in a cavalry skirmish, Curio led them in a bold, uphill attack which swiftly routed Varus' army. Encouraged by this success, Curio acted on what proved to be faulty intelligence, and attacked what he believed to be a detachment of Juba's army. In fact, the bulk of the king's forces were there and, after an initial success, Curio's forces were ambushed and virtually annihilated. Curio was surrounded with the remnants of his troops on a hilltop and died in the fighting. Only a small fraction of his army, including the historian Asinius Pollio and the later consul Gaius Caninius Rebilus, escaped to Sicily.

Aftermath

After the battle of Pharsalus, the remaining Republicans fled to Africa to continue the struggle and Varus was forced to resign the supreme command to the more senior Metellus Scipio. In the following campaign Varus commanded the republican fleet and after the Republicans' defeat at Thapsus, Varus fled to Spain. There he was defeated off Carteia in a naval battle by Didius, one of Caesar's commanders, and forced to join the army on shore. He fell at the battle of Munda, and his head, together with that of Titus Labienus, was presented to Caesar.

References

  • Cic. ad Att. viii. 13, b, 15, 20 ;
  • Caes. B. C. i. 12, 13, 31; ii. 23—44 ;
  • Cic. pro Ligar. I;
  • Dion Cass. xli. 41, 42; xlii. 57, xliii. 30, 31;
  • Appian, B. C. ii. 44—46; ii. 105;
  • Lucan, iv. 713, foil.;
  • Hirt. B. Afr. 62, 63;

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