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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘roman’

Ancient Inscription Identifies Gargilius Antiques as Roman Ruler on Eve of Bar Kochva Revolt

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

University of Haifa researchers have made an important discovery underwater: a rare inscription from the period preceding the Bar Kochva revolt offers for the first time the definite identification of Gargilius Antiques as the Roman prefect of Judea at that time. The inscription was found in a University of Haifa underwater excavation at Tel Dor, on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, about 20 miles south of Haifa.

“For the first time, we can state with certainty the name of the Roman prefect of Judea during the critical period leading up to the Bar Kochva revolt,” stated Prof. Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, who is directing the underwater excavation with Dr. Gil Gambash, head of the Marine Civilizations Department at the University of Haifa, who helped him interpret the inscription. “In addition, this is only the second time that the name ‘Judea’ has appeared in any inscription from the Roman period,” he added.

Tel Dor, identified as Biblical Dor, was an active community until at least the fourth century CE. It has been first excavated as early as the first half of the twentieth century. Since 2003, the excavation has been led by Dr. Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa and Dr. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University, together with Prof. Rebecca Martin of Boston University and Prof. Yasur-Landau.

Anchors, earthenware, and many other items have already been found in the inlets at Dor, but it is doubtful that anything prepared the researchers for their latest discovery. In January, Ehud Arkin-Shalev and Michelle Kreisher, two research students from the Coastal Archeology laboratory at the University of Haifa, found a massive rectangular stone within the area of Dor Nature Reserve. Even before they took it out of the water they could see that the stone bore an inscription. After consulting with Kobi Sharvit, the director of the Marine Archeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Yigal Ben Ari, head of the Coastal District in the Nature and Parks Authority, it was decided to remove the inscription from the sea as quickly as possible to prevent it being damaged or covered by sand.

After a complicated engineering operation to remove the artifact, the researchers realized that they were looking at a hewed rectangular stone 33.46 inches high and weighing more than 1,323 pounds. The stone bore a seven-line inscription in Greek, and, according to Prof. Yasur-Landau, “probably formed the base of a sculpture from the Roman period. As far as we know, this is the longest inscription found underwater in Israel.”

Dr. Gambash joined in the task of deciphering the inscription. The work on the eroded stone has not yet been completed, but the researchers have already made two exciting discoveries. First, and most importantly, the inscription mentions the name Gargilius Antiques, and states that his position was prefect of Judea. Antiques’ name also appears in a similar inscription that was found some 70 years ago, but in that case the finding did not include the name of the province where he served as prefect. An academic debate followed, with some scholars arguing that the inscription stated that Antiques was the prefect of the province of Syria, while others were convinced that it clearly identified him as prefect of Judea. The newly-found inscription proves beyond all doubt that Gargilius Antiques was the Roman prefect of Judea during the period leading up to the outbreak of the Bar Kochva revolt in 131 CE.

But the identification of Antiques’ position is not the only exceptional feature of this finding. To date, the name “Judea” has only been found in one other Roman inscription – a famous item from Caesarea that mentions the name of the prefect Pontius Pilate.

Immediately after the Bar Kochva revolt, the Romans decided to abolish the province of Judea and to obliterate any mention of its name. The province was united with Syria to form a single province called Syria Palaestina, from 135 to about 390. So the newly discovered inscription dates to just before Judea ceased to exist as a province under that name.

After the inscription has been fully deciphered, the researchers will turn to examining its historical context. “Together with the inscription that was found around the time the State of Israel was established, we have here two sculptures honoring and lauding the prefect Antiques,” note the researchers, adding: “The question is – why? Do these inscriptions mark two different significant events, or was it usual practice to erect a new sculpture for the patron of the city without any special reason?”

The inscription was revealed to the public for the first time on Wednesday, as part of a special exhibition entitled Via Maris, in the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Library at the University of Haifa. It is part of the fourth annual Haifa Conference on Mediterranean Research, which is devoted this year to the history of the Mediterranean. The exhibition and the conference were organized by Dr. Gil Gambash and Historian Dr. Zur Shalev, to mark the upcoming inauguration of the Haifa Center for Mediterranean History (HCMH).


Oded Kobo’s, Roman Abramovich’s Shellanoo Planning TASE IPO

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

The Shellanoo Group, a technology company focusing on value-based products and services whose executive board includes Oded Kobo, Roman Abramovich and Gee Roberson, said on Sunday that it plans to raise around $27 million in an initial public offering (IPO) on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in September or October.

Oded Kobo, son of businessman Bebo Kobo, founded Shellanoo in 2014. The company website says that its board of directors consists of Kobo, Abramovich, and former chairman of Geffen Records super-agent Gee Roberson. The website describes Shellanoo Group as a “technology company specializing in mobile applications, artificial intelligence and online services.”

Kobo has been described by his own website as “an acclaimed Internet entrepreneur and businessman with over 20 years of experience and success in the sector,” with a note that “over the last two decades, his business interests have ranged from telecom to Internet to private equity to property, with over $1 billion in exits.”

The Shellanoo Group is home to several dozen employees in its Herzliya offices.

According to Globes, Shellanoo has so far raised $35 million. Its biggest financing round was $30 million in April 2015, led by Abramov with $15 million, for the “Music Messenger” app, which facilitates trading songs among friends. Other investors in that round included, according to Globes, music industry leaders including them Will.i.am, David Guetta, Tiesto, Nicki Minaj, Avicii, Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame).

The company home page also claims “the Company is currently valued at approximately $200 million by BDO” and announces it is “scheduled to go public on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in October 2016.”

One of Shellanoo’s apps is anonymous messaging app Blindspot, which is under fire for being used as a weapon for cyber-bullying.


Rare Roman Period Frescoes Discovered in Galilee

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

A team from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has discovered hundreds of fragments belonging to frescoes from the Roman period in the Zippori National Park, west of Nazareth in Upper Galilee. The fragments, which contain figurative images, floral patterns and geometric motifs, shed light on Zippori (Sepphoris), which was an important urban center for the Jews of the Galilee during the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The discovery was made this summer in the excavations at Zippori, conducted in memory of Ursula Johanna and Fritz Werner Blumenthal of Perth, Western Australia. The excavations are directed by Prof. Zeev Weiss, the Eleazar L. Sukenik Professor of Archaeology at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

The frescoes decorated a monumental building that was erected in the early second century CE north of the decumanus, a colonnaded street that cut across the city from east to west and continued to the foot of the Acropolis. The building, whose function is not clear at this stage of excavation, spread over a wide area, and the nature of the artifacts discovered indicate that it was an important public building. At the center of the building was a stone-paved courtyard and side portico decorated with stucco. West and north of the courtyard, several underground vaults were discovered. Some of these were used as water cisterns and their construction was of high quality. The monumental building was built on the slope and the vaults were designed to allow the construction of the superstructure located on the level of the decumanus (an east-west-oriented road in a Roman city).

The monumental building was dismantled in the third century CE for reasons that are unclear, and replaced by another public building, larger than its predecessor, parts of which were uncovered during this digging season. The monumental building’s walls were dismantled in antiquity and its building materials — stone and plaster, some colorful — were buried under the floors of a newly established Roman building on the same location. Hundreds of plaster fragments discovered during this excavation season were concentrated in one area, and it seems that they belonged to one or several rooms from the previous building.

Guilloche, in a fresco from Zippori, dating from the early Second Century CE (Photo: G. Laron).

Guilloche, in a fresco from Zippori, dating from the early Second Century CE (Photo: G. Laron).

The patterns on the plaster fragments are varied and are decorated in many colors. Among them are geometric patterns (guilloche) and brightly colored wall panels. Other fragments contain floral motifs (light shaded paintings on red backgrounds or various colors on a white background).

Particularly important are the pieces which depict figures — the head of a lion, a horned animal (possibly a bull), a bird, a tiger’s hindquarters and more — usually on a black background. At least one fragment contains a depiction of a man bearing a club. Research on these pieces is in its early stages but it is already clear that at least one room in the building was decorated with figurative images, possibly depicting exotic animals and birds in various positions.

A bull's head in a fresco from Zippori, dating from the early Second Century C.E. (Photo: G. Laron)

A bull’s head in a fresco from Zippori, dating from the early Second Century C.E. (Photo: G. Laron)

The population of Zippori prior to the Great Revolt against the Romans was not very large, and archaeological finds dating to this period are particularly notable for the absence of figurative images – both humans and animals. The construction of the Roman city of Zippori after the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE, is indicative of a change in the attitude of Galilean Jews toward Rome and its culture. The city gained the status of a polis thanks to its loyalty to Rome during the Great Revolt, and constructed monumental public buildings, as befit a polis, that stood out in the urban landscape. This building boom also included the monumental building discovered north of the decumanus whose walls were decorated with frescoes, and whose remains were discovered during this season.

The new finds in Zippori contribute significantly to the research of Roman art in Israel. To date, excavators have uncovered the walls of several public and private buildings from Roman Zippori (second and third centuries CE) which were decorated with colorful frescoes in geometric and floral patterns. This season’s finds are the first, only and earliest evidence of figurative images in wall paintings at the site. The finds date to the beginning of the second century CE. Parallels to these finds are virtually unknown at other Israeli sites of the same period. Some panels bearing depictions of figures were discovered a few years ago in Herod’s palace at Herodium, and according to Josephus (Life of Josephus 65-69) the walls of the palace of Herod Antipas in Tiberias were also decorated with wall paintings depicting animals; but beyond that, no murals with depictions of figures, dating to the first century and the beginning of the second century CE, have been discovered to date in the region.

The discovery in Zippori is unique and provides new information regarding murals in Israel under Roman rule. Zippori is well known for its unique mosaics. The newly discovered frescos are now added to the city’s rich material culture. While the earliest mosaics discovered at the site date to around 200 CE, the ancient frescoes precede them by about a hundred years and are thus of great importance.

These finds raise questions relating to their socio-historic background. Who initiated the construction of the monumental building that was discovered north of the decumanus? Who is responsible for choosing the patterns that adorn the walls, and for whom were they intended?

The various finds uncovered throughout the site indicate that Zippori, the Jewish capital of Galilee, was home to many Jewish inhabitants throughout the Roman period, but the city also had a significant pagan community for which the temple was built to the south of the decumanus, opposite the monumental building, parts of which were discovered this season. It is difficult at this stage of the excavation to determine who was responsible for the construction and decoration of this monumental building. However, the new finds clearly reflect the multi-cultural climate that characterizes Zippori in the years following the Great Revolt, in the late first century and the second century CE.


The Undivided Past

Friday, October 4th, 2013

There are several words used in the Bible to describe the Jewish people. At one stage we were simply tribal. Then we became an “Am”, a people, a “Goy”, a nation, a “Mamlacha”, a kingdom. Post-Biblically, if the gentiles called us Jews, Judeans, Israelites, Hebrews, Yids, or whatever, we used “Yisrael” as the name of choice, in the main, which meant a people, a culture, a religion, a relationship with God and a land, all of that in varying and amorphous degrees. We knew what it meant, even if others were confused or bemused. It takes one to know one.

Under pagan empires religion was not a factor, just loyalty to an overarching regime or royal family. If you were a serf it was loyalty to your lord and village. Neither the Persian, nor the Greek, nor the Roman Empires cared how you worshipped or behaved, so long as you professed loyalty to the empire. Then Christianity emerged as the religion of the Roman Empire and other religions were marginalized. Ironically the bloodiest battles were within Christianity, between one theological variation and another. The same thing happened under Islam. Ideals soon got perverted by politics and as today, Muslims of different sects killed more Muslims than all their enemies put together and doubled. Freud memorably described this internal divisiveness as “the narcissism of minor differences”.

In the West, most Jews that non-Jews encounter are not particularly committed to being Jewish. For Jews like a Soros or a Zuckerberg, it’s an accident of birth, a minor casual affiliation, like belonging to the Church of England. And this explains why most of those in the West who think about the matter reckon that the Jews are not really too concerned about having a land of their own and that it was only the accidental intervention of imperialist powers that explains the Jewish presence in the Middle East. It was a misjudged adventure. And really the Jews ought to pick up and leave and stop being nasty to the indigenous population.

It takes an objective observer to notice that for millennia Jews have shared a powerful core identity, even if in almost every situation except when they were given a choice, most Jews actually abandoned the community of Jews. But it took a determined minority within a minority to fight hard, relentlessly, and ultimately victoriously for its Jewish identity.

In his book The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond Our Differences, David Cannadine writes:

“Egypt under the Pharaohs may have resembled a nation…but there was no accompanying sense of public culture or collective identity. As for the ancient Greeks, their limited pan Hellenic aspirations embodied in their shared language, Homeric epics and Olympic games foundered on the disputatious reality of their fiercely independent city-states. Similar objections have been made to claims that the Sumerians, the Persians, the Phoenicians, the Arameans, the Philistines, the Hittites and the Elamites were ancient nations, or that the Sinhalese, the Japanese or the Koreans might be so described during the first millennium of the common era. Only in the case of Israel does it seem plausible to discern a recognizable ancient nation with its precise though disputed territoriality, its ancient myths, its shared historical memories of the Exodus, the Conquest and wars with the Philistines, its strong sense of exceptionalism and providential destiny and its self-definition against a hostile “other” and its common laws and cultures. These were and are the essential themes in the unfinished history of the Jews this example has also furnished ever since a developed model of what it means to be a nation.” (p. 58)

Throughout exile we somehow did preserve a sense of belonging to a people, to a tradition, to a land, a sense of community, Klal Yisrael. This is why the problem of Israel in the Middle East, the Jewish problem, is so intractable. The overwhelming majority of Jews now living in Israel or the West Bank are committed to the notion of a Jewish people. It is not to be compared as ignorant opponents of Israel try, to a few British or white imperialists imposing themselves on a vast majority “other”. Some may try to delegitimize us by overturning a decision of the United Nations, but they cannot delegitimize or wish away the Jewish people.

Jeremy Rosen

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-undivided-past/2013/10/04/

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