Base Of Caesar’s Legendary Roman Legion That Fought Gaul Is Uncovered

A huge 1,800-year-old army barracks that would have been home to an elite force of legendary Roman legionnaires that defeated the Gauls from the time of Asterix and which was created by Julius Caesar has been discovered in Israel.

The Legio VI Ferrata, or Sixth Ironclad Legion, was first raised by Caesar during his invasion of Gaul in 52 BC and fought at Alesia, where Gallic King Vercingetorix was defeated.

The fictional comic book Asterix series about a village of indomitable Gaulish warriors including Asterix depicts the fight against the Romans and Caesar with the aid of a magic potion in a fictional retelling of the time after the Gallic Wars.

Emil Algam, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash

The legionnaires who would have been located at the base were later part of Emperor Augustus’ standing army before eventually being sent to garrison Judea, where the legion remained for two centuries.

Now archaeologists say they have unearthed the huge Roman fort that served as Legio VI’s main base there.

The fort, located at Tel Meggido is the only Roman permanent base camp in Israel, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Located near the ancient village of Kfar Othnay in northern Israel, the dig is being directed by Dr Yotam Tepper and Barak Zin and is part of a large project to expand Road 66.

Archaeologists have uncovered large parts of Via Pretoria, the camp’s main road, as well as remnants of large public buildings.

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The base was first located by archaeologists in 2015 but it has only been deeply excavated now.

The footage shows archaeologists hard at work as they excavate the fort, right next to the main road, with experts saying that up to 6,000 Roman legionnaires were stationed at the base at any given time for approximately 180 years.

They said that they are in the process of unearthing “very impressive architectural” remains, most notably the Via Pretoria, as well as a large number of roof tiles, coins, and weapon parts.

Photo shows the excavation area. In Megiddo, undated. Buildings, roads in huge, complete Roman-era military base revealed by excavations. (Emil Algam, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

They also hailed the site as a “unique assemblage” of architectural remains that will allow for a greater understanding of how the Roman military operated, its technology, and how it built bases.

Newsflash obtained a statement from the IAA saying: “In the course of the excavation, extensive and impressive architectural remains of the Via Pretoria (the main road of the camp) were uncovered, as well as a semicircular-shaped podium and stone-paved areas which were part of a large, monumental public building.

“The VIth Legion Roman legionary base is the only Roman military base of these dimensions that has been located and exposed in the Land of Israel.”

Excavation director Tepper said: “The Roman Legion camp at Legio was the permanent military base for over 5,000 Roman soldiers for more than 180 years, from 117–120 to about 300 CE.”

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He added: “Two main roads intersected at the center of the 550 m long and 350 m wide camp, and its headquarters were erected here.

“It was from this base point that all the distances along the Roman Imperial roads to the main cities in the north of the country were measured and marked with milestones.

Photo shows tile fragments found in the excavation, undated. Buildings, roads in huge, complete Roman-era military base revealed by excavations. In Tel Megiddo, Israel. (Emil Algam, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

“The ancient building remains were not preserved to a height, as most of the building stones were removed over the years for reuse in building projects carried out during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods.”

Tepper said that the discovery of the legionary base was not an accident and was the result of a number of surveys and archaeological excavations over the last decade.

Tepper added: “In the course of the excavation seasons, the upper part of the commanders’ courtyard (principia) was exposed southwest of Road No. 66. And in the present excavation, carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, we are uncovering the northeastern part of the camp that extends alongside Road No. 66.”

The statement said: “Preliminary surveys of the camp area, carried out in the context of the JVRP using Ground-Penetrating Radar equipment. Indicated that the entire Roman base and all its components underlie the wheat fields of Kibbutz Megiddo.”

Tepper said: “The unique contribution of the results of this research project lies in the rarity of such archaeological discoveries.”

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The excavation also revealed coins, parts of weapons, pottery sherds and glass fragments with the most predominant discovery being the roof tiles “that have been found in extremely large quantities”.

Photo shows the excavation area. In Megiddo, undated. Buildings, roads in huge, complete Roman-era military base revealed by excavations. (Emil Algam, Israel Antiquities Authority/Newsflash)

Tepper said: “The rooftiles, some of which were stamped with the VIth 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.”

To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Joseph GolderSub-EditorJoseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash

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