Bible and archaeology news
Salvage excavations led by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) archaeologists Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald north of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate have uncovered a stone fragment engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman emperor Hadrian. Scholars already consider it one of the most important Latin inscriptions discovered in Jerusalem.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem scholars Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton, who translated the stone’s six lines of Latin, said that the inscription was dedicated by the Legio X Fretensis (“Tenth legion of the sea straits”) to Hadrian in the year 129/130 C.E. The inscription reads:
“To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country [dedicated by] the Tenth Legion Fretensis Antoniniana.”
This newly discovered inscription provides further evidence for the presence of the Legio X Fretensis in Jerusalem during a tumultuous period following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.) and before the Bar-Kokhba revolt (132–135 C.E.). The Legio X Fretensis famously besieged the Jewish rebels atop Herod’s desert fortress-palace at Masada in 73/74 after the fall of Jerusalem.
Some scholars believe the Bar-Kokhba revolt—named for the Jewish military leader—was triggered when Hadrian decided to rebuild Jerusalem and rename it Aelia Capitolina around 130 C.E. Following the defeat of the Jewish rebels in 135 C.E., Hadrian proceeded with the establishment of Jerusalem as a Roman city and exiled the Jews from Judea.
The IAA archaeologists determined that the newly excavated inscription dedicated to Hadrian was one-half of an engraved stone fragment discovered in the late nineteenth century by pioneering French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau and now on display in the courtyard of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum in Jerusalem.
Hanan Eshel, “Roman Jerusalem: Aelia Capitolina: Jerusalem No More,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1997.
Ro’i Porat and Hanan Eshel, “Fleeing the Romans,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2006.
Oren Gutfeld, “The Emperor’s New Church on Main Street, Jerusalem,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2013.
Menahem Magen, “Recovering Roman Jerusalem—The Entryway Beneath Damascus Gate,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1988.
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