Last of a Line

People tend to think that tomorrow will be like today.  It is very difficult to predict the end of an era unless there is a clear end point.  Most crises hit on random Tuesday afternoons when we are least expecting them; and just like that, one era finishes and we walk into the next.

gargiliusGargilius Antiquus certainly didn’t take the job of Roman Prefect of Judea knowing that he would be the last.  This life-long Roman politician was unknown in the history of Judea until January 2016.  While conducting an underwater archaeological expedition near Tel Dor on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, scientists found a Roman base which names  Gargilius as the Roman prefect of Judea.

Dor was an ancient city which stood on a small headland just north of a protected inlet on the Mediterranean.  The first Canaanites settled in Dor in the Bronze Age.  For the next 3000 years, this space would continue to be occupied.  It was under the influence of the Phoenicians during the Iron Age – one of a string of coastal towns.

During the 5th century B.C.E.,  an alliance between the Athenians and the Egyptians to protect their trade route saw Dor separated from the larger Phoenician centers to the north, to become a Greek outpost.  When the Romans took over the cities of Phoenicia, Dor was again included with them and absorbed into the province of Syria; it was not part of the province of the Jews, Judea.

At the end of the 1st century C.E., Dor was transferred to the Jewish province of Judea.  Could it be that the Jews fleeing revolt and destruction in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. settled in more far-flung places like Dor and made them more “Jewish”?

The statue base which was found at the bottom of the ancient harbor and its 7 lines of text provide a link between Judea, Gargilius and the office of Roman prefect.  Such a base could have helped to cement the inclusion of the city of Dor in Judea in the eyes of the population.  It is like a billboard which says, “Hey! You’re part of Judea now and Gargilius is your ruler.”

The period when Dor was under the Prefect of Judea was short-lived. After the Bar Cochva revolt in 135 C.E., Hadrian eliminated the prefects of Judea.  He changed the name of the region and absorbed the former province into the province of Syria.

There was no way for Gargilius Antiquus to know that he was to be the last prefect of Judea; and his forgettable reign  sank to the bottom of the sea, as did the recently found testament to his term.  Although Hadrian tried to erase Judea, even the sea brings forth signs of Judea, the land of the Jews.

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