1,800-Year-Old Roman Legionary Base Found at Tel Megiddo

A Roman military base, at the foot of one of the world’s most battled cities
The excavation of the Israel Antiquities Authority at Megiddo
Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority

A 1,800-year-old Roman legionary base, belonging to Legio vi Ferrata (“Sixth Ironclad Legion”), has been uncovered at the foot of Tel Megiddo, one of the largest, most powerful and most battled over cities in ancient Israel.

Legio VI Ferrata standard, depicting Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf

The excavations, carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority (iaa) and funded by the Netivei Israel National Infrastructure Company, revealed “extensive and impressive architectural remains of the Via Pretoria (the main road of the camp), as well as a semicircular-shaped podium and stone-paved areas which were part of a large, monumental public building,” according to the press release issued today. It “is the only Roman military base of these dimensions that has been located and exposed in the land of Israel.”

This particular legion was recruited by Julius Caesar in 52 b.c.e. and first saw action against the famous leader of the Gauls, Vercingetorix.

The Roman legionary base, with Tel Megiddo in the background.
Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority

This discovery was not accidental nor a surprise, emphasized Dr. Yotam Tepper of the iaa. Over the last decade, multiple surveys and excavations have taken place in a joint project with the Jezreel Valley Research Project.

Legionary rooftiles found in the excavation
Emil Aladjem/Israel Antiquities Authority

Discovered inside the base were coins, remains of weapons, pottery, glass and many, many roof tiles. “The roof tiles, some of which were stamped with the vi Legion stamps, were used for various purposes, for roofing buildings, paving floors and coating walls. The technology and know-how, the building techniques, and the weapons that the legion brought with it from the home country are unique to the Roman army, reflecting specific Roman Imperial military footprints,” the press release stated.

“Whilst Roman military camps are known in Israel, they are temporary siege camps, or small camps belonging to auxiliary divisions,” Dr. Tepper said. “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.” There is hope that this discovery will shed light on the existence of other Roman bases mentioned in historical sources, such as the base of the famous Legio x Fratensis in Jerusalem.

Legio X Fretensis standard

The plan was to build a road in this area, thus necessitating excavation as part of the infrastructure plan. The nearby Tel Megiddo is recognized as a World Heritage Site and Eli Eskosido, director of the iaa, hopes that this discovery will “enhance the tourist experience” at the site.

You can learn more about the significance of Megiddo and its other biblical-period discoveries here.

Let the Stones Speak