Tag Archives: Roman soldiers

Acts 23 — Photo Illustrations — Antipatris

The site of Antipatris was known as Aphek in Old Testament times. It it is the place where the Philistines were encamped when they took the ark of the covenant from the Israelites who had camped at nearby Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4:1).

Antipatris was built by Herod the Great and named in honor of his father.

Herod was also a lover of his father, if any other person ever was so; for he made a monument for his father, even that city which he built in the finest plain that was in his kingdom, and which had rivers and trees in abundance, and named it Antipatris. He also built a wall around a citadel that lay above Jericho, and was a very strong and very fine building, and dedicated it to his mother, and called it Cypros. (Jewish Wars 1:417)

Because Aphek/Antipatris sat on a major south-north and west-east routes, it was dominated by many nations. The dominant feature of the site today is the Turkish fort. Inside are the excavated ruins of buildings from Canaanite to Herodian/Roman times.

Turkish fort at Aphek-Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Turkish fort at Aphek/Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Aphek/Antipatris is known by the modern name Ras el-Ain because it is located at the source of the Yarkon River which flows a few miles into the Mediterranean.

Source of the Yarkon River at Aphek-Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Source of the Yarkon River at Aphek-Antipatris. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When a plot was raised against Paul while he was in the Fortress of Antonia in Jerusalem, he was sent by night to Antipatris. The next day he was escorted to Caesarea.

So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris.  And on the next day they returned to the barracks, letting the horsemen go on with him.  When they had come to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. (Acts 23:31-33 ESV)

From Jerusalem to Antipatris is about 30 miles. From there to Caesarea is an additional 27 miles.

Paul would remain in custody at Caesarea for two years.

Roman sword & menorah engraving discovered

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday the discovery of a Roman sword still in a scabbard and a stone with the engraving of the temple menorah.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

Roman sword in scabbard. IAA photo by Clara Amit.

During the course of work the Israel Antiquities Authority carried out in Jerusalem’s ancient drainage channel, which begins in the Siloam Pool and runs from the City of David to the archaeological garden (near the Western Wall), impressive finds were recently discovered that breathe new life into the story of the destruction of the Second Temple. The excavations are being conducted on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the City of David Foundation.

A 2,000 year old iron sword, still in its leather scabbard, was discovered in work the Israel Antiquities Authority is doing in the channel, which served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans at the time of the Second Temple’s destruction. In addition, parts of the belt that carried the sword were found. According to the excavation directors Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority and Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, “It seems that the sword belonged to an infantryman of the Roman garrison stationed in Israel at the outbreak of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66 CE. The sword’s fine state of preservation is surprising: not only its length (c. 60 cm), but also the preservation of the leather scabbard (a material that generally disintegrates quickly over time) and some of its decoration”.

A stone object adorned with a rare engraving of a menorah was found in the soil beneath the street, on the side of the drainage channel. According to Shukron and Professor Reich, “Interestingly, even though we are dealing with a depiction of the seven-branched candelabrum, only five branches appear here. The portrayal of the menorah’s base is extremely important because it clarifies what the base of the original menorah looked like, which was apparently tripod shaped”. The fact that the stone object was found at the closest proximity to the Temple Mount to date is also important. The researchers suppose a passerby who saw the menorah with his own eyes and was amazed by its beauty incised his impressions on a stone and afterwards tossed his scrawling to the side of the road, without imagining that his creation would be found 2,000 years later.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

Menorah found beneath 1st century street. IAA photo by Vladimir Naykhin.

An AP report with several enlargeable photos is available here.

I think this blog was the first one to report walking through the sewer more than 15 months ago. See here.

Two words are used for sword in the Greek New Testament. The more common word is machaira which describes a short, tongue-shaped sword or dagger. The term rhomphaia, which describes a long sword, is used only in Luke 2:35 outside the book of Revelation. It is used 6 times in Revelation. Probably all but one of these finds Christ as the bearer of the sword (1:16; 2:12; 2:16; 6:8; 19:15; 19:21). The book of Revelation has a setting in the Roman Empire outside of Palestine. The use of rhomphaia seems to be the appropriate term.

In one of the news reports about the recently found sword, archaeologist Elie Shukron is quoted as saying that the sword was the type used by Roman centurions, but that it was probably taken from the Roman garrison by one of the Jewish rebels (see here). This seems much more plausible to me.

G. K. Beale comments on the sword coming out of the mouth of Jesus:

The Christians in Asia are to understand that Jesus will do battle in this manner not only against the evil nations (19:15) but also against all those among the churches who compromise their faith (2:16). The consensus is that this sword alludes to that of the Roman soldier, used in battle, further enhancing this idea. (The Book of Revelation in NIGTC, 212)

This photo was made at the RACE show (Roman Army and Chariot Experience) in the hippodrome at Jerash, Jordan. It shows the centurion wearing both swords.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman Centurion at Jerash with two different swords. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

HT: Bible Places Blog; Joseph Lauer.

Roman soldiers in Decapolis

The RACE show at Jerash, Jordan, is a must if you have the opportunity to visit the area. RACE stands for Roman Army and Chariot Experience. You will see actors in authentic dress as armed legionaries, gladiators, and a short chariot race. The show takes place in the Roman hippodrome of Jerash. The view of the city ruins in the vicinity make this a wonderful setting for the performance. Full details may be found here. I have seen the program three times. On the last visit, earlier this year, I thought the performers showed less discipline and the show was not quite as good as on my previous visits.

Jerash was the second largest city of the Decapolis (after Damascus) in New Testament times. People from the Decapolis followed Jesus during His ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:23-25). When Jesus traveled through the Decapolis he possibly visited the area around Jerash (Mark 7:31).

The photo shows the Roman soldiers of the 6th Legion from the time of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). A visit to this show provides several good photographs to illustrate New Testament times.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman soldiers at Jerash, Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A larger image, suitable for presentations, is available by clicking on the photo.

King of Israel felled by stray arrow

The story is in 1 Kings 22. Ahab, king of Israel (874-853 B.C.), and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (870-848), decided to try to take back the city of Ramoth-gilead which had fallen under the control of the king of Aram (Syria). Ramoth-gilead is a city of tranjordan, now in the northern part of Jordan near the border with modern Syria.

Ahab was fearful to be seen in battle and disguised himself to avoid attack.

Now an archer shot an arrow at random, and it struck the king of Israel between the plates of his armor. The king ordered his charioteer, “Turn around and take me from the battle line, because I’m wounded.” (1 Kings 22:34 NET)

The king of Israel died and was taken to Samaria for burial.

JP van de Giessen, a fellow blogger at Aantekeningen bij de Bijbel, has kindly granted permission for the use of these wonderful photos he made at the Romanfestival in Nijmegen (the Netherlands). He tells me that the festival is organized every two years with many actors. At this festival there were about 100 soldiers, 10 calvary and 120 civilian people (from slave to noble).

JP says the archers he photographed are Persian archers dressed according to the time of the Seleucids (the period between the testaments). They provide great illustrations for a lesson on 1 Kings 22.

Persian archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

Archer from the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

According to JP, one of the archers he spoke with said he needed a year to create his costume, and another year for his bow and sword.

Archer from time of Seleucids. Photo by archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

Archer dressed as at the time of the Seleucids. Photo: JP van de Giessen.

More photos may be viewed here. JP van de Giessen holds the rights to these photos, but I think he is pleased when they are used in teaching. Click on the photo for a larger image.

Hippos overlooks the Sea of Galilee

I think many Bible Land travelers pass En Gev on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and never realize that the site of Hippos is visible about one and a half miles to the east. Perhaps that is because of the almost magnetic attraction of the Sea of Galilee.

The site of Hippos (Susita), east of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The site of Hippos (Susita), east of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Vassilios Tzaferis wrote about Hippos in Biblical Archaeology Review:

If you look at the site of Sussita/Hippos from an adjacent mountain, or, better yet, from the air, and follow the adjoining ridge, or saddle, to the east, the site looks like the head of a horse and the saddle, or ridge, looks like the long, outstretched neck of a horse. It is this configuration that gave the site its name for nearly a thousand years. The ancient Greeks, who apparently were the first to settle the site, must have been aware of this resemblance because they named the place Hippos (horse). When the Jews conquered the city, they translated the name to Sussita, “mare” in Aramaic. When the Arabs conquered it, they called it Qal’at el Husn, the “fortress of the horse.”

The summit of the mountain is a plateau of about 37 acres on which lie scattered the ruins of what was once a beautiful town overlooking the lake.

Our story begins—perhaps it will begin much earlier after the site is thoroughly excavated—about a century after Alexander the Great conquered and Hellenized much of the then-known world. After Alexander’s death in 331 B.C., his empire split in two—the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria shared this world. Over the centuries Palestine passed from one side to the other, occasionally winning its own independence. The first evidence we now have of organized habitation at Hippos indicates that it was founded by the Seleucids in the middle of the third century B.C., very probably as a frontier fortress against the threat of the Ptolemaic kingdom to the south. The settlement was located on a most strategic point, on the western approach to Gaulanitis (today’s Golan Heights). The site’s natural fortification and defense allowed it to serve equally as a fortress stronghold and as an effective frontier post, controlling any movement to the east, both in time of war and peace. In about 200 B.C., the boundaries of the Seleucid kingdom were pushed down to southern Palestine, so Hippos lost much of its strategic significance but it retained its importance as an urban cultural center, with a social and political organization in accord with the principles of a Greek polis.

When the town was formally recognized as an official constitutional polis, it was renamed Antiocha, in honor of the head of the Seleucid kingdom, Antiochus the Great (III), although the old name Hippos was also officially used.

Hippos had a port on the Sea of Galilee “to serve the commercial and navigational needs” of the city.

The progress of the city as a Hellenistic center was interrupted for a period of about 20 years during the first half of the first century B.C. Sometime between 83 and 80 B.C., the Judean king Alexander Jannaeus, who then ruled an independent fiefdom, conquered Hippos. According to the first-century A.D. historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews 14.75), Jannaeus forced Hippos’ heathen inhabitants to be circumcised and to accept Judaism. In 64 B.C., however, the Roman army entered the scene. The Roman general Pompey took the city from the Jews; it was then included in the League of the Ten Cities, the Decapolis, created by Pompey in the northern Jordan Valley and adjacent Transjordan. Each city in the Decapolis had jurisdiction over an extensive area. As a member of the Decapolis, Hippos enjoyed internal autonomy and could even mint its own coins. The population of Hippos welcomed Pompey with open arms.

About 35 years later, Hippos again became part of a Jewish realm. In 30 B.C. the Roman emperor Augustus gave Hippos to Herod the Great, who ruled it until his death 26 years later, in 4 B.C. After Herod’s death, Hippos was assigned by the Romans to the province of Syria.

During the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–70 A.D.), the Jews attacked Hippos and its Greek inhabitants, who retaliated by killing or imprisoning the Jews residing there. (Biblical Archaeology Review 16:05, Sep/Oct 1990).

Riesner says that Hippos “must be” the city of the Decapolis presupposed in Mark 5:1-20 (the account of casting demons into swine; Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels 40). It might be. Hippos is the closest of the cities of the Decapolis to the area of Jesus’ ministry which was centered in Capernaum. It would make sense that Gentiles in this area might be growing pigs.

And he [the healed demon-possessed man]went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:20 ESV)

And great crowds followed him [Jesus] from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:25 ESV)

During excavations at Hippos in 2007, a sandal print identified as that of a Roman soldier was uncovered:

Sandal print from Hippos.

Roman sandal print from Hippos. Photo: University of Haifa.

Archaeologists have discovered a footprint made by the sandal of a Roman soldier in a wall surrounding the Hellenistic-Roman city of Hippos (Sussita), east of the Sea of Galilee.

The footprint was discovered during this eighth season of excavation, led by Prof. Arthur Segal from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa in conjunction with archaeologists from the Polish Academy of Sciences and Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

This rare footprint, which is complete and well preserved, hints at who built the walls, how and when,” said Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute at the University of Haifa.

The print, made by a hobnailed sandal called caliga, the sandal worn by Roman soldiers, is one of the only finds of this type. The discovery of the print in the cement led archaeologists to presume that legionnaires participated in construction of the walls.

The full article may be read in Science Daily here.