One of the most important Latin inscriptions discovered so far in Jerusalem has been uncovered north of the Damascus Gate. Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists, Dr Rina Avner and Roie Greenwald, found the inscription, dedicated to the Roman Emperor Hadrian, on a large slab of limestone. The slab had been incorporated into the construction of a cistern. It was not uncommon in ancient times to recycle building materials, and many significant artefacts have been found when excavating unrelated structures.

The large slab weighs about a ton and measures 1.5 metres by 1 metre, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Only a small number of ancient, official Latin inscriptions have been discovered in Israel, so the find is significant.

Remarkably, this inscription is the other half of an engraved stone fragment discovered by the French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau in the late nineteenth century, which is on display in the courtyard of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum in Jerusalem.

The complete Latin inscription has been translated by Hebrew University of Jerusalem scholars Avner Ecker and Hannah Cotton, as follows: “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 Tenth Legion Fretensis Antoniniana.”

The discovery provides further evidence for the presence of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem during the turbulent period following the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70 AD and before the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132–135 AD, which was crushed by Hadrian. After the fall of Jerusalem, the Tenth Legion was involved in the siege of the Jewish zealots who took refuge at Masada in AD 73–74.

One of the so-called ‘five good emperors’, Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from 117 to 138, during the period of the First Seal of Revelation (Rev 6:1-2). Described by Edward Gibbon as “the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous”,2 it was during this time that the Word of God went forth to conquer the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of the empire.3

Ruling during this ‘happy and prosperous’ period, Hadrian erected permanent fortifications along the empire’s borders in order to consolidate Roman power. Hadrian’s Wall, which runs across the width of northern Britain, still stands today as a monument to his enterprise. Hadrian travelled extensively throughout the Empire, and he was active in developing and improving the provinces. He encouraged the construction of buildings and other public works, and took a personal interest in architecture and Greek culture. Hadrian also introduced efficiencies in government administration and produced a uniform code of law.

As noted above, however, Hadrian was responsible for the suppression in 135 AD of the Bar Kokhba revolt in Judea. He also issued an edict excluding Jews from Jerusalem. Hadrian subsequently rebuilt Jerusalem as a Roman colony, driving a plough across the Temple Mount (see Mic 3:12) to commemorate its founding as a new city, and renaming it Aelia Capitolina.4 Henceforth, the Jews became a stateless and homeless people.

While all that remains of the Emperor Hadrian today are the lifeless relics of his greatness and splendour, the Jewish people have returned to their homeland and re-established their state. God has also preserved a remnant who see in Israel’s primary restoration a sure sign of the return of their Lord from heaven, who will raise the dead and award a crown of victory to all those who love his appearing (Rev 6:2; 2 Tim 4:8).

References

  1. Sources: Robin Ngo, “Rare Inscription Dedicated to Hadrian Found in Jerusalem”, 21 October, 2014, Bible History Daily. [Online] URL: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/rare-inscription-dedicated-to-hadrian-found-in-jerusalem/

Laura Geggel, “Rare Inscription Hailing Emperor Hadrian Unearthed in Jerusalem”, livescience.com, October 21, 2014. [Online] URL: http://www.livescience.com/48377-roman-emperor-hadrian-inscription.html

Leen Ritmeyer, “Inscription dedicated to Hadrian found in Jerusalem”, posted on October 21, 2014. http://www.ritmeyer. com/2014/10/21/inscription-dedicated-to-hadrian-found-in-jerusalem/

  1. Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, London: Everyman’s Library, 1910, v. 1, p. 78
  2. See, Bro. John omas, Eureka, London: Dawn Book Supply, 1968, v. 2, p. 126-145, for an exposition of the First Seal
  3. Alfred Edersheim, The History of the Jewish Nation after the Destruction of Jerusalem under Titus, 3rd edition, revised by Henry A. White, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979. p. 211-212.