Important Latin Inscription in Stone Found in Jerusalem

A 2,000 year-old stone found in Jerusalem in July is now on display at the Rockefeller Museum. The stone has an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian engraved on it. The Israel Antiquities Authority found the fragment during an excavation near the Damascus Gate on land marked for a shopping center. A Byzantine-era compound was found during the excavations with floor tiles, one of which had Latin letters.

Once the authority discovered the Latin letters, it called in Latin expert, Avner Ecker, a PhD candidate at Hebrew University. Ecker read and translated the  six lines of text comprising the inscription and says Legio X Fretensis dedicated the inscription to the Emperor Hadrian in 129/130 CE. Few ancient official Latin inscriptions have been discovered during excavations in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem, making this find incredibly important according.

The English translation of the inscription is: “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.”

Ecker was able to translate the full inscription after putting it together with the other portion of the stone. The other half of the stone was discovered close by in the late 19th century and is on display at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum near the Lion’s Gate in the Old City in Jerusalem. It’s suspected that the inscription topped an arch or large public building the legion constructed, which occurred as part of the suppression of the Great Revolt in Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The find of the inscription raises more debate over the causes of the Bar Kochba Revolt. Jews rebelled against the Romans twice, but were defeated both times — first, around the time Herod’s Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, and then around 132-135 CE, under the legendary leader Bar Kochba. The Hebrew University will have a conference to discuss the inscription.

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Photo by Hagitavr369