The New Testament famously describes a great apocalyptic battle that will precede the end of days as taking place at Armageddon—a name that is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew Har Megiddo or “Mount Megiddo.” Located on the edge of the Jezreel Valley in northern Israel, Megiddo is not a mountain, but a tel, i.e., a mound created by the remains of successive bygone settlements. It was the location of an ancient Israelite fortress as well as several historic battles: in 609 BCE the Egyptians defeated the Judean army there and slew King Josiah; in 1918 it was where Edmund Allenby led a British force to victory over the Ottomans. The ancient Romans built a military base in Megiddo, as Margaret Crable writes:
In 1902, the archeologist Gottlieb Schumacher began digging around Armageddon. . . . Schumacher’s primary interest was the ancient city of Megiddo, but he did do a bit of digging in the surrounding area. He uncovered evidence of occupation by the Roman army and noted a large, circular depression in the earth. An ancient amphitheater, he guessed.
It wasn’t until 2013 that a team of researchers began the first official excavation of the army base that Schumacher hypothesized was in the vicinity. They uncovered both the walls and administrative center of the Roman 6th Legion’s base and hypothesized that the odd depression was a military amphitheater associated with the legion. . . . It’s the first Roman military amphitheater ever uncovered in the Southern Levant, which encompasses Israel [and] Jordan.
Their work revealed enough of the structure to confirm the hypothesis that it was built for the local military base, occupied by Legio VI Ferrata (the 6th Ironclad Legion), which protected Rome’s holdings in what was then the Province of Judea. . . . Military amphitheaters were generally smaller than the civic amphitheaters designed for gladiator combat or executions (structures made famous again by the 2000 film Gladiator). These were used for troop training, marching, speeches and, perhaps most important, fun.