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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