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


Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times