Construction work on a new metro rail line in Rome will provide a unique opportunity to excavate the Forum of Peace, reports Rossella Lorenzi[1]. The Forum of Peace was built in the first century AD by the Flavian emperors, and is sometimes known as the Forum of Vespasian, after the founder of the Flavian dynasty.

Vespasian, however, is better known to us in connection with the Jewish rebellion that led to the overthrow of Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. With news of the death of the Emperor Nero, and after some uncertainty, Vespasian was proclaimed emperor and departed for Rome leaving his son Titus to continue the war against the Jews.

Rome’s brutal suppression of the Jewish rebellion was foretold in grim terms by Moses and the prophets: “Yahweh shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth”, wrote Moses (Deut 28:49); Daniel saw in vision the rise of the little horn of the goat that would extend its power south and east against Judah and Jerusalem (Dan 8:9–12) and “destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26). And about forty years before the event, the Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples that “Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20) was the sign of the end of Judah’s commonwealth.

Josephus has left us a detailed contemporary history of the Jewish rebellion in his Wars of the Jews and for those desiring a more accessible version, Brother Robert Roberts has provided an epitome of Josephus’ graphic account in The Ways of Providence, chapters 24 to 26.

Following the tragic and terrible events of the Jewish war, Titus returned to Rome victorious. “Tons of gold, silver trumpets and gold candelabra were plundered from the Jerusalem temple and paraded through Rome’s streets in triumph”, writes Lorenzi. The triumphal procession portrayed in the relief carved into the Arch of Titus, clearly shows the menorah or seven-branched lampstand and other temple furniture being carried through the streets.

Central to the Forum of Peace was its temple, Templum Pacis, built in 71–75 AD to celebrate the subjugation of the Jews. Although nothing remains of the Temple of Peace today, it is said that between 75 AD and the early fifth century, the treasures carried off from Jerusalem were on public display there. The treasures from Jerusalem were used to help finance the building of the Colosseum.

While it is unlikely that any treasures from Jerusalem will be found during the excavations for Rome’s new metro line, it is hoped fragments will be found from an enormous marble map of Rome that once hung on a wall in the Temple of Peace. The map, carved into marble slabs during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 AD), detailed every building, street and staircase in second century Rome. Severus ruled during most of the second seal period of the Apocalypse (Rev 6:3–4), when peace was taken from the earth by civil war and widespread bloodshed as symbolised by the red horse.

In later centuries, as Rome went into decline, the marble slabs were either removed from the wall or fell and broke into pieces. Fragments were collected by scholars as early as the Renaissance and today are kept at the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Capitoline Museums in Rome but the map remains a largely unsolved jigsaw puzzle. Computer scientists and archaeologists at Stanford University have been using computer analysis to piece together the map, and any additional fragments found during excavation may assist reconstruction.

While the glory of the Roman Empire has passed away and its greatness is largely known today from the work of scholars and archaeologists, the Jews have survived and in 1948 re-established their state. The Word of God predicted not only their rejection and exile from the land, but also their return and restoration in the latter days as the sign of Christ’s coming.

King Herod’s royal theatre box discovered at Herodium

Excavations at Herodium have uncovered a royal box built at the upper level of Herod the Great’s private theatre, the Hebrew University has announced. The excavations were conducted by Professor Ehud Netzer under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.

The royal box, which measures eight by seven metres and is about six metres high, was most likely used by Herod, his close friends and family members during performances in the theatre. It is decorated with wall paintings and plaster mouldings in an Italian style that has not been seen before in Israel and was probably executed by Italian artists, suggested Professor Netzer. The decorations include a series of painted windows that show scenes of the countryside, the Nile River and a scene featuring a large boat with sails. Similar painted windows found at Pompeii are dated between 10 and 15 BC.

This find is a further indication of the luxurious lifestyle of King Herod (ca 73–4 BC), who rose to power in Judea under Roman rule. Herod was promoted by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and by 40 BC had consolidated his position over the Jews. With the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra by Octavian (later Emperor Augustus) in 31 BC, Herod was confirmed as king over Judea.

Extremely suspicious and cruel, Herod murdered his first wife Mariamne and a number of his sons, and is well known for the slaughter of the infants of the Bethlehem region shortly after Jesus was born (Matt 2:16). Herod was, however, an able administrator and regarded highly for his loyalty by Rome (Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, 1980, p. 642–644).

Unlike Herod the Great, the Lord Jesus Christ did not live a life of luxury but instead came to do the will of his Father. Although he was proclaimed “King of the Jews” when he was cruelly crucified (John 19:19), he has never reigned as their king. But he will soon return to take “the throne of his father David: and … reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32).

References

[1] “Ancient Roman map puzzle may get new pieces”, DiscoveryNews17 August, 201o http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/ancientroman-map-puzzle-may-get-new-pieces.html Ronen Shnidman, “King Herod’s royal theater box uncovered at Herodium”, Jerusalem Post 15 September 2010 http://www. jpost.com/LocalIsrael/AroundIsrael/Article.aspx?id=188111