Roman Legionary Camp Identified at Megiddo

The Sixth Roman Imperial Legion Ferrata established a permanent base at Tel Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley during the early 2nd century AD. This display of Roman muscle, along with the Tenth Legion Fretensis in Jerusalem, was intended to stabilize a region that had already produced the Jewish War (AD 66-73) and would soon give birth to the destructive Bar Kochba Revolt (AD 133-136). As it turned out, the Sixth Legion Ferrata may have done its job. The Bar Kochba Revolt centered itself in Judea with little impact on the Jezreel Valley.

The Roman Sixth Legion stayed by Tel Megiddo for at least a century. Centuries later, an Arab village in the area continued to show its legionary roots with the name Lejjun (or, Lajjun). The village of Lejjun endured until 1948, but the exact site of the original Roman camp was just recently located. In 2013 an archaeological team uncovered buildings from the camp in a field just south of the tel. The area of the discovery is a field labeled “el-Manach” just below-right of center in the photo below. You can read a well-illustrated summary of the excavation’s finds here.

(Courtesty of the JVRP)

Aerial photo showing the tel of Megiddo (top center) and other nearby locations. The area of the Roman VI Legion camp was in the field labeled el-Manach. (Courtesty of the Jezreel Valley Regional Project)

Just below el-Manach is a crossroads that has been strategic for millennia. The road coming up from the bottom center is the exit from the Megiddo Pass (also called Wadi Ara or the Aruna Pass), connecting Megiddo to the Coastal Highway. The el-Manach field is perfectly located to guard the crossroads, and it was here that the Sixth Roman Imperial Legion established its  permanent base.

Excavation squares from the 10-day expedition in 2013 are visible below.

(Courtesy of JVRP)

Excavation squares in the field south of Tel Megiddo. This dig uncovered buildings of the original VI Legion camp in the early 2nd century AD. (Courtesy of JVRP)

Below is a photo I took of this same field during a visit to Megiddo in 2012, one year before the excavation.

(Photo by Luke Chandler)

The field of the Roman VI Legion camp, viewed from Tel Megiddo. The strategic crossroads is located immediately to the left of the trees. (Photo by Luke Chandler)

The first recorded battle in history occurred in this field. Pharaoh Thutmose III came here in 1457 BC to put down a Canaanite rebellion. He ignored his generals’ advice to advance over easier terrain and instead sent his army through the narrow Wadi Ara pass. The Canaanite coalition was caught off guard as the full Egyptian army suddenly poured onto the field before Megiddo. The Canaanite army panicked and fled, and Thutmose eventually achieved a total victory. During the First World War, British General Allenby used this same maneuver against the Ottoman forces at Megiddo and routed the entire army. (The British government later granted him the title, “Lord of Armageddon.”)

(Courtesy of JVRP)

An aerial view of the 2013 excavation squares. You can see remains of 2nd century AD buildings below the modern ground level.  (Courtesy of JVRP)

I plan to be at Megiddo in just a few weeks and will try to post another photo of this area. If you want to see this yourself, come with me to Israel this fall. The tour registration closes next month, so now is the time to decide to go. You will not regret it!

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About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister in English and Spanish with the North Terrace Church of Christ and participates annually in archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke also leads tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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2 Responses to Roman Legionary Camp Identified at Megiddo

  1. vanbraman says:

    There is an article about Legio X Fretensis and Masada in the current issue of BAR. I wrote about it in my blog post tonight. I am looking forward to hearing about the dig at Lacish.

    • lukechandler says:

      I was reading that article this afternoon. Very informative and, as is usual for BAR, well-illustrated. It will be useful during my group’s visit there in about three weeks.

      To whet your appetite on Lachish, right now they are surveying with ground penetrating radar to look for evidence of a water system such as at Hazor, Megiddo, et al. It would be news if they do actually find something.

      Best wishes,
      Luke

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