Ancient Roman military base uncovered in Israel

The site, at the foot of Tel Megiddo, served as a permanent base for more than 5,000 soldiers, for more than 180 years, according to excavation director Yotam Tepper.

By Pesach Benson | | Topics: archaeology, history
The Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at Megiddo. Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at Megiddo. Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority.

Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a Roman legionary base in northern Israel dating back 1,800 years, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday.

The excavation, at the foot of Tel Megiddo, sheds light on the military presence and infrastructure of the Legio VI Ferrata (Iron Legion), according to the IAA.

Tel Megiddo, also known simply as Megiddo, occupies a strategic position overlooking the Jezreel Valley, a key crossroads of ancient trade routes connecting Egypt and Mesopotamia. Its history spans thousands of years, making Tel Megiddo one of the most extensively excavated sites in the region.

Among the discoveries are sections of the Via Pretoria, the camp’s main road, as well as a semicircular-shaped podium and stone-paved areas that formed part of a large public building. According to the IAA, the sheer scale of the base—measuring 550 meters (1,805 feet) long and 350 meters (1,148 feet) wide—makes it a unique find in the region.

“While Roman military camps are known in Israel, they are temporary siege camps, or small camps belonging to auxiliary divisions,” said excavation director Yotam Tepper. “None compares with the entire complex of the legionary base, as has been uncovered in the archaeological excavations at Legio, next to the Megiddo Junction,” he added.

“The Roman legion camp at Legio served as a permanent military base for over 5,000 soldiers for more than 180 years. It was a strategic hub from which distances along the Roman Imperial roads to major cities in the north were measured and marked,” he explained.

The excavation has also yielded artifacts, such as coins, weapons parts, pottery sherds and glass fragments, along with a vast quantity of stamped roof tiles used for various construction purposes.

Tel Megiddo, which has been inhabited continuously for over 5,000 years, is mentioned several times in the Bible. Christian texts often refer to the site as “Armageddon.” Today it is a national park designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site.

“The proximity of the Roman legionary base to the National Park of Megiddo, recognized as a World Heritage Site, and also to one of the earliest Christian prayer halls known in the world, discovered by the IAA within the Megiddo Prison compound, provide potential to enhance the tourist experience at this central location at the gateway into the Galilee,” said IAA Director Eli Eskosido.

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