BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Roman Training Ground Found at Megiddo

Small arena used for combat training

Roman Amphitheater found at Megiddo

Excavation tents of the Legio amphitheater with Tel Megiddo in the background. Courtesy Nathan Steinmeyer, BAS.

Archaeologists excavating the site of Legio—the legionary camp of Rome’s Sixth Legion located at the foot of Tel Megiddo in northern Israel—have unearthed the remains of a small amphitheater used not for performances but rather for brutal combat training exercises. Measuring just 160 by 130 feet, the oval amphitheater was where the more than 5,000 Roman soldiers stationed at the base received routine combat and weapons training in the second and third centuries CE.

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Excavating the Legio amphitheater. Courtesy Nathan Steinmeyer, BAS.

As reported in Haaretz, the Roman amphitheater was built into a manmade depression in the hillside where clay used for making pottery and roof tiles had been extracted for generations. Although the soft ground of the bowl-shaped depression was used for seating, the arena itself was built of stone with an arched entryway that archaeologists are just beginning to uncover. The arena appears to have at least two distinct architectural phases, though the precise dating and plan of each remains uncertain. Most strikingly, paint found on some of the stones indicates that part of the structure was colored a bright crimson red, possibly evoking the bloody exercises that took place inside.

Legio was established during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117–138 CE) and served as the base of the Legio VI Ferrata (or Sixth Ironclad Legion) in the second and third centuries. Situated in the Jezreel Valley, the camp was well positioned to control this strategic corridor, which gave direct access to the Galilee and the inland valleys of northern Palestine. Excavations, which began in 2013 under the direction of Matthew Adams and Yotam Tepper, have revealed the only full-scale second-century Roman base known in the Eastern Mediterranean. With the help of survey, ground-penetrating radar, and targeted excavation, archaeologists have identified most of the camp’s key features. These include the outer perimeter wall, soldiers’ barracks, the headquarters building (principia), the commander’s residence, and now this amphitheater.


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Legio

Uncovering a Roman Army Base at Legio 

 

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

The Regional Study—A New Approach to Archaeological Investigation

Hadrian’s Legion

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