Inscription Reveals Governor of Judea Before the Bar-Kokhba Revolt

Inscription confirms Roman governor of Judea

Who was the Roman governor of Judea during the time leading up to the Bar-Kokhba revolt, the second Jewish revolt against Rome (132–136 C.E.)? This question has now been answered thanks to an inscribed stone block recently discovered off the coast of Tel Dor in northern Israel.

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An inscribed stone block found off the coast of Tel Dor has named the Roman governor of Judea who served before the Bar-Kokhba revolt. Photo: Ehud Arkin Shalev.

The enormous block was first observed underwater in the Dor Nature Reserve by research students Ehud Arkin-Shalev and Michelle Kreisher from the Coastal Archaeology and Underwater Survey Lab at the University of Haifa. The significance of the block was evident because it bore an ancient inscription, and authorities determined that it must be extracted from the waters. Assaf Yasur-Landau, a professor in the Department of Maritime Civilizations at Haifa, headed the underwater excavation to bring the stone to dry land for study and conservation.

Gil Gambash, chair of the Department of Maritime Civilizations at Haifa, is in the process of deciphering the Greek inscription on the massive 0.7-ton, 2.8-feet-high stone. Haaretz reports that the inscription was reconstructed to read: “The City of Dor honors Marcus Paccius, son of Publius, Silvanus Quintus Coredius Gallus Gargilius Antiquus, governor of the province of Judea, as well as […] of the province of Syria, and patron of the city of Dor.”
 


 
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The stone block naming the governor of Judea, Marcus Paccius Silvanus Quintus Coredius Gallus Gargilius Antiquus, is now on display at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Library at the University of Haifa. Photo: Jenny Carmel.

Interestingly, the person named on the stone, Gargilius Antiquus, is known from one other inscription, which was found in 1948 at Tel Dor.1 Missing from the latter inscription is the name of the province over which he governed, which scholars have debated was Syria or Judea. The discovery of the inscribed stone off the waters of Dor confirms that Gargilius Antiquus was governor of Judea.

“For the first time, we can state with certainty the name of the Roman prefect (a type of governor) of Judea during the critical period leading up to the Bar-Kokhba revolt,” said Yasur-Landau in a University of Haifa press release. “Apart from that, this is only the second time that the name ‘Judea’ has appeared in any inscription from the Roman period.”

“Immediately after the Bar-Kokhba revolt, the Romans decided to abolish the province of Judea and to obliterate any mention of its name,” Yasur-Landau and Gambash explain. “The province was united with Syria to form a single province called Syria-Palestine. So what we have here is an inscription dated to just before Judea ceased to exist as a province under that name. Of the two inscriptions mentioning the name Judea, this is the latest, of course. Because such findings are so rare, it is unlikely that we will find many later inscriptions including the name Judea.”

The other inscription that references Judea is the so-called “Pilate Stone,” which was found at Caesarea Maritima and mentions Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea (26–36 C.E.) during the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
 


 
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Notes:

1. For a good overview of the scholarship on this governor, see Dr. David E. Graves, “Marcus Paccius … Gargilius Antiquus Confirmed Governor of Judea,” Deus Artefacta (blog), November 30, 2016.
 


 

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  • Rick says

    What does the positive identification of Gargilius Antiquus do to what is known or speculated about the timelines of other (previous/subsequent) governors?

  • John says

    Was not Judea a sub-province of Syria during the 1st-early 2nd centuries CE? The Syrian title of Marcus Antiquus is apparently not legible, but it could have been pro-consul. I would lean to the idea that the stone was tossed into the sea by the Bar Kochba forces with the same intent of “damnatio memoriae” that motivated the subsequently victorious Romans to erase the name of Judea. Use as an anchor-stone would almost certainly have left rope marks in what appears to be a limestone block.

  • Annasthesia says

    Does the Judea capta coin not count as an inscription, or are we only including stone inscriptions?

  • Rob says

    Off the coast? Possibly used as an anchor, being wrapped around/tied with a rope. Rope deteriorated and it was lost to the bottom, being too heavy to retrieve. Otherwise, he was an unpopular governor and he was “drowned in effigy”.


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