Uncovering a Roman Amphitheater at Armageddon

Aug. 11 2022

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.

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Read more at USC Dornsife

More about: Ancient Israel, Ancient Rome, Archaeology

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam