Israel Antiquities Authority archeologists believe the rare 2,000 year-old engraved stone is among the most significant discoveries in Jerusalem.
A fragment of a stone engraved 2,000 years ago in clear, large Latin letters to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, has been unearthed in Jerusalem.
The Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that researchers believe this is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem.
The stone was unearthed during salvage excavations in several areas north of the Damascus Gate to the Old City. According to Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald, excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the inscription was incorporated around the opening of a deep cistern. “In antiquity, as today, it was customary to recycle building materials and the official inscription was evidently removed from its original location and integrated in a floor for the practical purpose of building the cistern. Furthermore, in order to fit it with the capstone, the bottom part of the inscription was sawed round,” they said in a statement.
The inscriptions, consisting of six lines of Latin text engraved on hard limestone, read: To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis Antoniniana.
This inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE. It is none the right half of a complete inscription, the other part of which was discovered nearby in the late 19th century and is currently on display in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum.
Only a small number of ancient official Latin inscriptions have been discovered in archaeological excavations throughout Israel, and in Jerusalem, in particular. The significance of the inscription stems from the fact that it specifically mentions the name and titles of Hadrian, who was an extremely prominent emperor, as well as a clear date. He is remembered in Jewish history for the persecution and forced conversion of Jews living at the time in the empire.
The inscription is significant confirmation of the historical account regarding the presence of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem during the period between the two Jewish revolts against the Romans, and possibly even the location of the legion’s military camp in the city. It also sheds light on one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt several years later and the establishment of the Aelia Capitolina.
The IAA says that the inscription, which is in an impressive state of preservation, might have been displayed on top of a triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary, such as the Arch of Titus in Rome.
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