A find of "tremendous historical significance," was announced today in Jerusalem by the Israeli Antiquities Authority. A stone fragment bearing an official inscription in Latin dedicated to Roman emperor Hadrian was found during excavations north of the Damascus Gate. Dr. Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald of the IAA told the press that the inscription's importance is in the naming of Hadrian and his titles. The stone provides a clear date, and thus a tangible confirmation that the Tenth Legion of the Roman army was present in Jerusalem during two important revolts of the Jewish against Roman rule. The archaeologists said that it may be "the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem."
“We found the inscription incorporated in secondary use around the opening of a deep cistern," said Avner and Greenwald, in a statement. "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."
The inscriptions consist of six lines of Latin text chiseled on limestone. The text was clear and legible. Translated by Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton of Hebrew University, the text said "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."
The two experts concluded "This inscription was dedicated by Legio X Fretensis to the emperor Hadrian in the year 129/130 CE." They added that it represents just one half a single inscription.
The other half was discovered in the 1800s by French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. That half, which was found not far from the modern excavation, is now on display at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum - also known as the the Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology of the Pontificia Universitas Antonianum - in Rome.
Official Latin inscriptions are rare in the Holy Land, especially in Jerusalem.
The discovery of the second half of the inscription not only confirms the presence of the Roman Tenth Legion during the revolts of Jewish patriots against tyranny, but it may also confirm the location of the legion’s military camp in the city of Jerusalem, which was one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt between 132 and 136 AD. Led by Simon bar Kokhba, the revolt was the last of three rebellions of Jews against Roman rule. The Emperor Hadrian was especially reviled by Jews because of his persecution of the Jews and the imposition of onerous dictates that forced conversions of Jews. These became known as 'Hadrianic decrees.' Hadrian himself visited Jerusalem in 129 AD.
The revolt was eventually crushed by the Romans, who annihilated thousands of Jews and members of the early Christian Church, even while the Romans themselves sustained heavy losses. Among the legions involved in the slaughter were the Fifth Macedonian Legion, Eleventh Claudian Legion, and the Ninth Spanish Legion. Among the atrocities committed by the Romans was the execution of ten revered rabbis, as well as Simon bar Kokhba himself.