Archaeologists Have Found the Roman Sixth Legion’s Base of Operations in the Galilee

Dec. 29 2017

For the past three years, a group of archaeologists have been excavating a Roman encampment in northern Israel, not far from Megiddo. Philippe Bohstrom writes:

The existence of the camp proves [beyond a doubt] the assumption, based on multiple sources, that ancient Rome maintained a massive military presence in the Galilee. . . . The camp at [the ancient city of] Legio (also known as Lajjun) dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Today covered by crops, then it was home to the famous Sixth Legion.

It is the only full-scale imperial Roman legionary base found so far in the eastern [part of the Roman] empire. Camps of this sort are familiar from the western empire, and given the extent of local Roman presence, other major bases are likely to be found eventually in the east. For example, a full-scale Roman legion was known to have been based in Aelia Capitolina, the colony Emperor Hadrian had built on the ruins of Jerusalem following the city’s destruction in 70 CE. However, that legion’s base hasn’t been found, at least not yet. . . .

The legion’s task was to secure Rome’s hold over Syria-Palaestina, [the province that encompassed what is now Israel, Lebanon, and most of Syria], guard vital imperial roads, and maintain order in the region. It was probably also involved in quelling Jewish uprisings, such as the fateful Bar-Kokhba revolt that began in 132 CE and would end three years later in a decisive Roman victory.

The excavators also found a man-made cave dug inside the Legio base. Inside it, they found a Roman cooking pot with the remains of a cremated human, probably a soldier. Finding one’s final resting place in a cooking pot was not atypical of Roman burial practices at other Roman military sites, in Israel and around the Mediterranean.

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Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Simon bar Kokhba

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary]. approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat