Dedicatory Inscription to Jupiter Optimus Maximus Sarapis in Jerusalem (CIL III, 13587)

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Typology (Honorific / Funerary / etc.): 
Original Location/Place: 
Unknown location in Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem).
Actual Location (Collection/Museum): 
Now lost.
116 CE to 117 CE
Physical Characteristics: 
Dedicatory inscription, perhaps once part of an altar, reused in the Ottoman wall east of Zion Gate, Jerusalem.
Stone (?)

CIL III, 13587

This inscription may have formed part of a dedicatory altar that was set up in the city of Jerusalem; the monument itself and its original location is now unknown, but the inscriptional text has survived following its insertion into the Ottoman Wall, east of the Zion Gate (Pucci Ben Zeev, Diaspora Judaism, p. 4). It is an important source for the military presence of Rome in Judea during the reign of Trajan, and relates to the difficulties experienced by Rome of the Jewish rebellions in Egypt, Cyrene, Cyprus, and Mesopotamia in 115-116 CE. The inscription also pertains to the ongoing debate as to whether or not Jewish communities in Judea also participated in these revolts.
Although little is known of the provenance of this inscription, it appears to have come from a votive monument dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, who has been syncretised here with the Graeco-Egyptian deity Sarapis. It was dedicated by a detachment of a Roman legion (of which further discussion follows below), for the “safety and victory” of the emperor Trajan and of the Roman people (pro salute et victoria / Imperatoris Traiani). The epithets awarded to Trajan here – Germanicus Dacicus Parthicus – indicate that the “safety and victory” to which the inscription refers must be Trajan’s successful annexation of Armenia and northern Mesopotamia, and his installation of a client king (the Parthian prince Parthamaspartes) in Parthia between 114 – 116 CE (for Trajan’s Parthian campaign, see Bennett, Trajan, p. 183-204). The fact that Trajan is not yet deified in the inscription means that the votive must have been dedicated between his withdrawal from Parthia to Syria in 116 CE and his death in 117 CE. However, although not mentioned in the inscription, a further threat to the emperor’s ‘safety’ at this time was presented by the simultaneous revolts of the Jewish communities in Egypt, Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Mespotamia, also between 115 and 116 CE. There is much debate as to the exact chronology and sequence of events, in part due to the opaque and somewhat conflicting versions of events given by the main sources for the revolts, Eusebius and Cassius Dio. The disquiet appears to have emerged firstly in Cyrene in the middle of 115 CE, which spread to Egypt in 116 CE following the arrival of a community of Cyrenaican Jews and their leader, who was named either Lucuas (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, IV.2.4) or Andreas (Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXVIII.32. See also Applebaum, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, p. 267). The outbreaks of unrest in Cyprus and Mesopotamia may have been inspired by these events, but were not directly connected (for a full discussion of the differing evidence for the chronology of the rebellions, see Fuks, “The Jewish Revolt,” p. 98-104; Applebaum, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, p. 261-344). According to Eusebius and Cassius Dio, the action was directed towards the Graeco-Roman neighbours of the Jewish communities who were revolting, and against whom immense devastation was wrought. The Roman buildings of the city of Cyrene were so badly damaged by the revolts that Hadrian instituted an enormous re-building programme in the earliest years of his reign (see Colonisation of Cyrene and the Jewish Riots under Trajan;Dedication for the rebuilding of the Basilica of Cyrene (AE 1974, 672); The Temple of Hecate and the Jewish Riot in Cyrene). As many as 220, 000 Jews apparently lost their lives over the course of the year’s rebellion (Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXVIII 32, 1-3). The Jews appear to have taken advantage of the minimised Roman presence in each area affected by the revolt, following the redirection of legionary detachments that had been sent to assist the Parthian campaigns. The aim of the revolt was two-fold: to establish contact between Cyrene and the strongest Jewish centre outside of Judea – Egypt, and to annihilate the Roman garrison in Egypt (Applebaum, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, p. 339). The revolt was considered so serious by Trajan that Marcius Turbo, one of his most trusted generals, was sent to Cyrenaica to put it down, and the moorish general Lusius Quietus was dispatched from Judea to crush the rebellion of the Mesopotamian Jews, on the politically sensitive eastern frontier (Schäfer, The History of the Jews, p. 141. For further discussion of Marcius Turbo and Lusius Quietus, see Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule, p. 402-421).
The relevance of the inscription to these revolts is in how it contributes to our understanding of the role played by Judea in the conflicts, and whether or not a rebellion can be said to have broken out there too. Chapter 5.2 of the “Life of Hadrian” in the Historia Augusta refers to the revolts of “Libya and Palestine” together, as well as references in rabbinic literature to a ‘War of Quitus’ or ‘Kitos War’ – that took place between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Bar Kokhba revolt – which has been interpreted as possibly referring to either of the two generals responsible for bringing the revolts to an end – Lusius Quietus or Quintus Marcius Turbo (see Mishnah Sotah9:14). Judea may well have been in a state of disquiet; the status of the province was raised from praetorian to consular rank around the same time as the revolts took place, with Lusius Quietus installed as its first consular legate (Cassius Dio, Roman History, LXVIII, 32.5; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, IV.2.5). As consular governorships were usually awarded to provinces with garrisons of more than one legion, this change of status may indicate that the Roman military presence in Judea increased with the addition of a second legion – possibly the VI Ferrata or the II Traiana – to the legio X Fretensis already based there at the earlier date of 115-116 CE, rather than under Hadrian’s reign as usually attested (Smallwood, Jews under Roman rule, p. 421-422). It is clear from the inscription’s text, however, that irrespective of the addition of an entire legion, there was an additional military presence already established; the votive was dedicated by a vexillatio – a detachment – of the legio III Cyrenaica, which appears to have come to reinforce the garrison of Jerusalem after the X Fretensis were called away from the city to support the efforts in Parthia (Applebaum, Jews and Greeks in Ancient Cyrene, p. 301, citing ILS 2727). This legion had been stationed in Egypt since the reign of Augustus, but a detachment had been redirected to Jerusalem in 116 CE, indicating that there was some fear of the revolt spreading (for the history of the legio III Cyrenaica, see Sanders, “Origin of the Third Cyrenaic Legion,” p. 84-87). It does not appear that unrest in fact broke out in Jerusalem, or anywhere else in Judea for that matter; although it is unclear how many Jews still lived in Jerusalem at this time, with the Jewish presence gradually having shifted from Judea towards Galilee and other areas, it would seem that the “sympathetic restlessness” that the inhabitants of the region may have felt for their Diaspora compatriots was kept in check by Rome’s prompt action to quell the revolts and reassert her military control in the most contentious city of the dispute (Smallwood, Jews under Roman Rule, p. 421). The construction of a votive monument by the soldiers responsible for holding that city, which honoured a syncretised version of the most important Roman God and which spoke of the salus et victoria (‘safety and victory’) of the ruling emperor and the Roman people was a firm dismissal of any claim to the contrary.
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Dedicatory Inscription to Jupiter Optimus Maximus Sarapis in Jerusalem (CIL III, 13587)
Author(s) of this publication: Caroline Barron
Publishing date: Fri, 11/02/2018 - 15:51
Visited: Mon, 04/22/2024 - 12:04

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