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.

Read more at Haaretz

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


How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen