The Near East & Judea

It is not documented why and when Legio X Fretensis was transferred to the Near East, however in 6 BC several sub-units of the legion are found stationed at Cyrrhus in Norther Syria, where they guarded the vital trade route from the Euphrates River to Alexandria in Egypt.

After the death of King Herod of Judea in 4 BC, the Messianic revolts by the Jews followed in Judea, with three different usurpers claiming the throne. The Governor of Syria, Publius Quintus Varus, used three out of four legions at his disposal in a military campaign to suppress the revolts. By 6 AD Judea was added to the Empire, becoming a part of the province of Syria. It is highly probable that Legio X Fretensis was one of the legions. The other Legions present in Syria were III Gallica, VI Ferrata and XII Fulminata. During the same time a decree issued by Emperor Augustus called for the census (mentioned in the Gospel of Luke) to register every person in the Roman Empire.

For another half a century no surviving document reveals any information about the whereabouts and actions of Legio X Fretensis. Speculation is that the Legion remained in the near East, mostly in Syria with some attachments in Judea. During the reign of Emperor Nero, in 58-59 BC a military campaign was conducted in the vassal kingdom of Armenia using the legions III Gallica, VI Ferrata and X Fretensis, capturing the cities of Artaxata and Tigranocerta.

The Legion was stationed for a while in Cilicia (modern day southeast Turkey) but was called back in Syria in 63 AD. Emperor Nero had plans for a military expedition in Ethiopia, and the X Fretensis was one of the legions to be used however the tide of events in the Near East developed elsewhere.

Further Readings
  • Dabrowa, Legio X Fretensis. A Prosopographical Study of its Officers (I-III C AD) (1993)
  • E. Dabrowa, “Legio X Fretensis”, in: Yann Le Bohec, Les légions de Rome sous le Haut-Empire (2000 Lyon) 317-325
  • Flavius Josephus (Author), Betty Radice (Editor) E. Mary Smallwood (Editor), G.A. Williamson (Translator) The Jewish War: Revised Edition (Penguin Classics).
  • H. Geva, “The Camp of the Tenth Legion in Jerusalem: an Archaeological Reconsideration,” in: Israel Exploration Journal 34 (1984) 239-254.
  • Josephus Flavius (Author) by G.J. Goldberg … A Chronology of the First Jewish Revolt against Rome ((http://www.josephus.org/warChronologyIntro.htm).
  • M. Gichon, “The siege of Masada”, in: Yann Le Bohec, Les légions de Rome sous le Haut-Empire (2000 Lyon) 541-554
  • Peter Schäfer (editor), Bar Kokhba reconsidered, Tübingen: Mohr: 2003.
  • Eck, ‘The Bar Kokhba Revolt: the Roman point of view’ in the Journal of Roman Studies 89 (1999) 76ff.
  • Y. Meshorer, “Two Finds from the Roman Tenth Legion”, in: Israel Museum Journal 3 (1984), 41-45.
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