IMPERIALISM AND EXPANSION. AD 74-195
3.1. VESPASIAN: A NEW NEAR EASTERN EMPIRE
Looked at as a whole, the development of the provincial system in the Near East and the transformation of Roman military dispositions there in the late first century give every impression of representing an integrated plan, conceived in Rome and thought out with the aid of a map. Judaea, as we have seen, became a one-legion province governed by a senator of praetorian rank. Commagene ceased to be a dependent kingdom and became part of the province of Syria, as (it seems clear) did the kingdom of Sohaemus of Emesa, straddling the upper Orontes and stretching out a considerable distance into the steppe; and Palmyra, whatever its relation to the province before, was now clearly tied within it. But, most important of all, it is natural to see these developments m connection with the transformation of Cappadocia into a major military province, with two legions stationed at Melitene (Malatya) and at Satala, and a senatorial governor of ex-consul status. It was at this moment, in the 70s, that after nearly a century and a half the Roman presence in the Near East ceased to be a bridgehead and came to resemble an integrated provincial and military system.
It is at this moment too that documentary and archaeological evidence begins to play a fuller part; that has its own dangers of course, for we can never fully account for the logical gap between the first attestation of something which happens, perhaps by mere accident, to appear in our evidence, and the claim that that was when the pattern now attested first came into existence. Nonetheless the cumulative effect of all the evidence is such as to make it impossible to deny a radical transformation at this stage.
Whether it represented a plan, and if so, who formed it where and when, is a more difficult question. The major step, which Suetonius attributes to Vespasian, and which Tacitus also alludes to, was the stationing of two legions in Cappadocia. One of these was almost certainly the XVI Flavia, newly created and named after the Emperor, and stationed at Satala, 40 km west of the upper Euphrates. Exactly how soon the legion was raised, and where, is not known, nor precisely when it arrived at Satala; but it certainly existed by the mid-70s. The other legion to go to Cappadocia was the XII Fulminata, at Melitene; and it would be natural to see both dispositions as part of the creation, for the first time, of an extended 'Euphrates frontier' from the upper Euphrates through Commagene to Zeugma. But in fact Josephus attributes this displacement to Titus, distributing rewards and punishments to his army immediately after the end of the siege of Jerusalem in September 70, while Vespasian was already in Italy: 'Recollecting too that the twelfth legion had under the command of Cestius succumbed to the Jews, he banished them from Syria altogether-for they had previously been quartered at Raphanaeae-and sent them to the district called Melitene, beside the Euphrates, on the confines of Armenia and Cappadocia. One could not guess from the nature of this report, from a well-placed observer, that the move was part of a major strategic plan; still less, of course, that the legion was to stay there for several centuries and construct a permanent camp which would receive a detailed description from Procopius in the sixth century. Nor was the central element of the 'Euphrates frontier' yet in place, as Commagene was still a dependent kingdom. For an account of how it came to an end, we are again indebted to Josephus, by now in Rome living in a house provided by Vespasian: no longer an eyewitness on the spot, therefore, but close to the Imperial court. Here too there is nothing on the surface of the account to suggest any overall plan. Whatever its limits, Josephus' narrative represents the most detailed description we have of the provincialisation of a dependent kingdom.
In Vespasian's fourth year, so 72 or 73, Caesennius Paetus, the legatus of Syria, wrote to Vespasian to say that Antiochus IV and his son Epiphanes had connections with Parthia, which should be forestalled before serious trouble began. Vespasian, thinking particularly of the strategic position of Samosata on the Euphrates, gave permission to Paetus to act as he thought fit. (We can assume that this exchange will have taken at least several weeks, depending as it will have done on messengers travelling in both directions.) Paetus then invaded, taking the VI Ferrata, some cohortes and some alae of cavalry; with them once again were two kings with their forces, Aristobulus of Chalcis- not heard of before, and whose kingdom cannot even be securely located- and Sohaemus of Emesa, marking the last appearance of his dynasty. There was no popular resistance; but Antiochus' two sons, Epiphanes and Callinicus, led the royal forces in a drawn all-day battle with the Roman troops. Resistance was ended only by Antiochus' determination to surrender. Once again, as with Judaea and Galilee, we are concerned with an extensive, very fertile area which could support a large population, and which represented more than a trivial military problem.
The newly acquired area was also, in military terms, a genuine frontier zone. For both sides of the river, Commagene, now Roman, with its capital, Samosata, right on the banks of the river, and on the other side Osrhoene, with its capital at Edessa, still under Parthian control, were part of the Fertile Crescent and the location of significant settled populations. It is even possible that the earliest example of Syriac literature, the Letter of Mara bar Serapion, which refers to people being driven out of Samosata by the Romans, and to others going to Seleucia (that is, perhaps, Zeugma), reflects the moment of the Roman takeover.
What form the Roman occupation immediately took is not clear. As Josephus records, a detachment was sent to Samosata during the campaign. Then very soon after, in 73, a Latin inscription from the bank of the Euphrates at Ayni, slightly over halfway from Samosata to Zeugma, records that Vespasian and Titus had had constructed an opus cochliae (a screw to raise water from the river), in the legateship of Marius Celsus. The very ruined sculptural representation of the personified Euphrates which adorned the work is accompanied by another Latin inscription naming the III Gallica. There can be no doubt, therefore, of the Roman occupation of the right bank of the river between Zeugma and Samosata. There is also no doubt that a road-system was constructed in the interior of Commagene, west of the Euphrates. For on the perfectly preserved Roman bridge over the Chabinas River, reconstructed under Septimius Severus, just enough of a fragmentary Latin inscription survives to show that a first bridge was built under Vespasian. But whether there was immediately a line of posts along the Euphrates, and what force, if any, occupied Samosata itself, is not clear. It may be that a legion, perhaps III Gallica, was stationed here already in the Flavian period, but there seems to be no concrete proof. It is rather more probable, however, that IV Scythica was again stationed at Zeugma. In between, the water-lifting screw installed at Ayni suggests at least a small fort on the river. North of Samosata, at Tille, there may also have been on auxiliary fort as early as this period. Further south, at Tell el Hajj, Latin inscriptions mentioning a Cohors Secunda Pia Fidelis and the Cohors Prima Milliaria Thracum (attested in Syria between 88 and 124) suggest that there may have been a fort there. The site lies on the Euphrates almost due south of Hierapolis.
How far to the south Roman control extended at any time before the 160s is quite uncertain, but it must have been considerably further than this. For, as has always been recognised, a very important clue to the extension of Roman active control in the direction of the Euphrates is provided by the well- known milestone erected in AD 75 at Arak (or Erech), some 27 km east-north- east of Palmyra, by M. Ulpius Traianus, the legatus of Syria in the mid 70s. Unless we are to believe that this represents an abortive project, it must reflect the existence of a Roman road leading in the direction of Oresa (Tayibeh), continuing either to the Euphrates in the area of its confluence with the Balich, that is, at Sura or Nicephorium/Callinicum, or even, alternatively or simultaneously, eastwards from Oresa to the confluence of the Euphrates and the Chabur at Circesium. At the least, therefore, we may suppose that Roman occupation now extended down the Euphrates to its confluence with the Balikh. These considerations of course presuppose that a Roman road marked out east of Palmyra would necessarily have gone as far as the Euphrates, which cannot be quite certain. In this period, before Roman occupation extended down to the lower-middle Euphrates and Dura-Europos, that is, from the 160s onwards, Dura itself was firmly Parthian; but Palmyrene outposts were established on the river further down. In other words what the famous milestone of Ulpius Traianus shows for certain is the firm integration of Palmyra within the provincial system of Syria; what it tells us about that system's relation to the eastern steppe and the Euphrates is less clear.
This process seems to have been accompanied by the disappearance of the dependent kingdom of Emesa, and its incorporation into the province. The evidence is no more than circumstantial. Sohaemus of Emesa makes the last appearance in history by any member of the royal dynasty in 72, assisting the Roman forces to suppress the dynasty of Commagene. Then, in 78/79, a Greek epitaph from a funerary pyramid at Emesa (finally blown up about 1911 to make way for a petrol store) records a 'Gaios loulios Samsigeramos' of the Roman tribe Fabia, also called Seilas, son of Gaius Iulius Alexion, who constructed the tomb during his lifetime. He may be a relative of the dynasty, and the text gives the impression (though no more than that) of reflecting a provincial rather than a royal context; no dynastic or other position iIs indicated. It thus cannot be proved at what moment the dynasty ceased, or under what circumstances. Coinage of Emesa as a city, with no king, begins only under Antoninus Pius. It is, however, significant that in the Parthian war fought by Trajan in 114-116 no Roman dependent kings are recorded as providing forces.
The Roman Empire in the Near East had by that time entered a quite new phase, with the end both of the extensive kingdom of Agrippa II and of Nabataea. It is thus quite likely that the kingdom of Emesa had indeed disappeared in the 70s. If so, it would at any rate fit with two other items of evidence for the evolution of Roman control in this period. First, the milestone of Ulpius Traianus from a road going east from Palmyra would tend to imply the marking-out of Roman roads in the area further west. What happens to be preserved in our evidence is of course largely accidental. But it does so happen that there is another milestone of Traianus, dating to 75, from a site called Qorsi, some 75 km south-east of Apamea in the direction of Palmyra. The milestone might alternatively relate to a route running north-south through the steppe, between Chalcis (or Beroea) in the north and Emesa to the south.
Second, although Roman forces were always able to, and did. traverse the territories of dependent kingdoms, the normal route they had taken when intervening in Judaea or Nabataea had always been, as we have seen repeatedly, along the coast through Berytus, Tyre, Ptolemais and Caesarea. It cannot be a complete accident that three of these places were now coloniae (and were listed as such by Pliny the Elder, writing in the late 70s). If the territory of Emesa were now provincial, we would expect increased official traffic to have gone along the Orontes Valley, whether to diverge east of the mountain massif to reach Damascus or to continue down into the Bekaa Valley, into the inland territory of the colonia of Berytus, around Heliopolis.
It is thus wholly appropriate that the inscription which gives the most vivid and detailed reflection of the impact of Roman rule in this area towards the end of the first century should have been put up at Hama/Epiphania in the reign of Domitian (81-96) and should have to do with the demands of Roman official travellers. Epiphania, which as we saw will have gained its Greek name under Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC), and in the Empire was a very minor place (a polis?) which never minted coins, lies on the Orontes some 45 km north of Emesa and 50 km south-east of Apamea. There under Domitian an extract from the Imperial instructions (mandata) given to the procurator (financial manager) of the province was somehow acquired, translated into Greek and put up in public, in what context is not known. Whatever the process of transmission of the text, the fact of its having been inscribed publicly can be confidently attributed to local initiative. Hence it is certain that the issues set out in it were of acute local concern. The text runs as follows:
From instructions of Imperator [Dom]itianus Caesar, son of Augustus, Augustus. To Claudius Athenodorus, procurator: Among items of special importance that required great attention by my father, the god Vespasianus, I know that he gave great care to the cities' privileges. With his mind fixed on them he ordered that neither by the renting of beasts of burden nor by the distress of lodging should the provinces be burdened, but, nevertheless, by conscious decision or not, deliberate neglect has set in and this order has not been observed, for there remains up to the present an old and vigorous custom which, little by little, will progress into law if it is not obstructed by force from gaining strength. I instruct you to see to it that nobody commandeers a beast of burden unless he has a permit from me. For it is most unjust that, either by the favour or prestige of certain people, requisitions should take place which nobody but myself can grant. Therefore, let there be nothing which will break my instructions and spoil my intent, which is most advantageous to the cities, for to help the weakened provinces is just, provinces which with difficulty have enough for the necessities of life. Let no force be used against them contrary to my wish, and let nobody commandeer a guide unless he has a permit from me, for, when farmers are torn from their homes, the fields will remain without their attention. You, either using your own beasts of burden or renting them, will act best.
There is, however, yet more striking evidence for the increased investment by the Roman state in the Near East in this period, which has to do with the role of Seleucia and Antioch as the arrival-points of Roman communications by sea, and their interconnection with land-routes. First, a cylindrical stone in the form of a milestone, found just north-east of modern Antakya, near the site of the hippodrome of Roman Antioch, records that under Traianus as legatus, in AD 75, a stretch (ductus) of three Roman miles of what is described as the 'Dipotamia(e?) flumen', with bridges, had been constructed by soldiers of various units. 'Dipotamia(e?) flumen', an expression mixing Latin and transliterated Greek, must mean something like 'double river'. The only reasonable interpretation is that of D. van Berchem: the reference is to a canalisation of the combined course of the two rivers, the Orontes from the south and the Kara Su from the north, which meet a few kilometres above Antioch.
The fact that the Roman army was so heavily involved in the work probably implies that the canalisation served some Imperial purpose and was not purely for local benefit. It is true that the inscription shows that 'Antiochenses' were also involved, but whether as civilian labour or as soldiers is unclear Two long and important Greek inscriptions from Antioch, however, also dated by the legateship of Traianus, show that work was simultaneously being carried out on an extensive water-channel for use by fullers, that is, for local civilian use. In this instance the labour-force was secured by corvee from the different quarters of the city, and Traianus is recorded as having merely 'supervised' the work.
If it was in the Imperial interest to invest large quantities of military labour in a canalisation of the Orontes above Antioch, this was surely to prolong the navigability of the river, perhaps even to, and hence across, the lake of Antioch (which is now dry). Strabo in the Geography already records that one could travel by boat from the sea to Antioch in a day. But this route, through a narrow gorge, must always have been difficult (and today no traffic at all uses the river). Hence it is no surprise to find that Pausanias records that major works had been needed, under an Emperor whom he does not name: 'The Syrian river Orontes does not flow throughout its whole course to the sea on level ground, but tumbles over a precipitous ledge of rock. Wishing, then, that ships should sail up the river from the sea to the city of Antioch, the Roman Emperor had a navigable canal dug with much labour and at great expense, and into this canal he diverted the river.'
From the evidence given earlier it must be reasonable to suppose that the Emperor concerned is Vespasian, and very likely that military labour was used on the river below as well as above Antioch. This becomes all the more likely when we find military labour being used under Vespasian in a closely related but separate project at Seleucia, on the coast. On a small-scale map, Seleucia might look as if it lay almost at the mouth of the Orontes, and was literally a port for Antioch, some 25 km inland up the river. But in fact, while the Orontes reaches the sea at the south end of the coastal plain, at the foot of Mount Casius, Seleucia lies at the north end of the shore-line, below Mount Coryphaeus (a spur of Mount Amanus), some 10 km away. Its artificial harbour, dug out of the plain, remains clearly visible, as is (even more so) the well-known cutting and tunnel made in the side of Mount Coryphaeus under Vespasian to divert a stream from the port and thus prevent it from being silted up. The project was a major one, 1300 m in length and with a maximum depth of so m; apart from the building of roads and frontier installations, it would be hard to find in the Roman provinces examples of construction projects undertaken by the Empire on a scale comparable to those on the Orontes and at Seleucia. Latin inscriptions with the names of Vespasian and Titus (and no doubt originally Domitian) make it certain that this work too was carried out by soldiers. This is confirmed by Greek inscriptions, from the earlier phases of the project, recording that work was done in sections, in one case under a centurion of IV Scythica and in another a ship-captain (nauarchos). Other inscriptions record further work, by soldiers of IV Scythica and XVI Flavia Firma, under Antoninus Pius in about 149.
Both projects, separate but closely comparable, thus represent a quite exceptional investment of effort and labour by the Empire. That labour, as noted before, was largely provided by soldiers. The Latin inscription of 75 recording the construction of a dipotamiae fluminis tractus lists four legions-the III Gallica, IV Scythica, VI Ferrata and XVI Flavia-and twenty infantry cohortes. From just this period, because of the developing use of individual bronze diplomata issued to discharged auxiliaries, we can begin to have a fuller picture of what these units were. The earliest diploma issued to an auxiliary soldier from Syria dates to 88, and (as they normally do) reflects a mass grant of rewards after twenty-five or more years of service (so going back to the early 60s). In this case three mounted alae and seventeen infantry cohortes are listed.30 As most auxiliary units bore the names of the ethnic groups from which they were originally recruited, we seem at first sight to be granted an insight into the varied geographical composition of the auxiliary part of the Roman army: the groups mentioned come both from within the Near East-Ascalonites, Sebastenes and Ituraeans-and from far outside it- Pannonians, Gauls, Numidians, Thracians, Bracaraugustani from Spain and so forth. This impression is indeed valid as regards the original raising of such forces, and hence is of immense value. If we think only of units originally raised in the Near East, diplomata of the following few decades show a cohors of 'Damasceni' from which discharges are being made in go (hence in service by the 60s), and of 'Antiochenses' in 93, an ala of Ituraeans in Pannonia in 98, Tyrians in Moesia Inferior (the lower Danube) in 99, and, very significantly, the second Cohors Flavia of Commagenians in 100, with another, listed as 'the first', in 105. Recruitment of auxiliaries had thus begun in Commagene immediately after the fall of the kingdom.
As is well known, however, it would be quite misleading to see the ethnic names of these units as proving the continued ethnic composition of the soldiers who served in them. The individual who received the diploma of 88 was Bithus son of Seuthus, a Breucan, who took the diploma back with him to his native Thrace; but he had been serving in a cohors of Musulamii, a people from North Africa. In other words, the presence of the various types of unit of the Roman army was very important as contributing to a complex process of mutual cultural influence, which it would be an over-simplification to call 'Romanisation'; but the ethnic names of the auxiliary units concerned will in most cases give clear evidence of the origins of the soldiers who served in them only at the moment of the initial raising of the unit. Nonetheless we would have a much clearer conception of the relevance of the army to the cultural and social history of the Near East if we knew how the alae (at least three) and cohortes (at least twenty) of the province were distributed; and at a more local level, whether they lived in camps, or occupied parts of towns or were billeted on the civilian population.
We gain a comparable (and equally partial) conception of auxiliary forces in Judaea from a diploma of 86, found in Hungary, to which it had been brought back by the recipient, a cavalryman named Seuthes son of Trabaithus, from an ethnic group called the Cololetici, who was serving in a cohors of Thracians. The list of units from which discharges had been made includes alae of Gactuli, from North Africa, and of Thracians; and cohortes of Lusitanians, Thracians and Cantabrians. The Sebastenes and Caesareans, originally raised as local royal forces, had, as Josephus noted, evidently been moved elsewhere by Vespasian.
If we return to the important Latin inscription recording the construction of the dipotamiae Juminis ductus above Antioch, considerable importance attaches to the names of the four legions whose soldiers contributed to the work. The date of the inscription (though not necessarily of all the work) is 75. The four are III Gallica, which may already have been at Samosata; IV Scythica, which was probably already at Zeugma; VI Ferrata, which had taken part in the conquest of Commagene, and whose regular station is unknown; and XVI Flavia. As we have seen, this last legion had been created by Vespasian; the inscription from Antioch is in fact the earliest documentary evidence for its existence. Everything suggests that it either still was or at any rate until recently still had been in Syria. The building-up of Cappadocia as a two-legion province under a consular legatus was therefore, it seems, a process completed only in the mid-70s, and Josephus was not necessarily wrong to see Titus' despatch of XII Fulminata to Melitene as an isolated step of late 70. The first consular governor of Cappadocia is in fact attested in 76, and the second legion, certainly the XVI Flavia, must have arrived there by then. If we look at the 'eastern frontier' as a whole, the diffusion of a permanent legionary garrison both southwards to Judaea and northwards to Cappadocia was thus a process which took place in two stages, but separated by only a few years. The two stages taken together, both within the reign of Vespasian, represent a considerable change in the strategic shape of the Empire. If, alternatively, we look towards the Mediterranean, the reign of Vespasian may also represent, as van Berchem suggests, the moment of the creation of the 'Syrian fleet' (classic Syriaca) attested in the second century; but it cannot be proved. What is clear is that this period, the 70s, produces a quite new level of evidence on the ground for the presence and impact of the Roman Empire in this region. This process is visible from the coast to the Euphrates, in the interior of Commagene, in the steppe on either side of Palmyra, on the middle Euphrates, and also of course in Judaea itself, where a legion now occupied part of the ruins of Jerusalem, and a detachment left behind some of its documents on the top of Masada. Fragmentary as our evidence is, we can observe both an intensification and a considerable geographical expansion of the Roman presence. An important aspect of both was the replacement of royal rule (as well as royal taxation and the maintenance of royal forces) by Roman provincial rule. Two further stages of this process were soon to follow: the absorption of the kingdom of Agrippa II and then that of Nabataea.
3.2. TRAJAN: EXPANSION AND REARRANGEMENT IN THE SOUTHERN NEAR EAST
With the absorption of Commagene the province of Syria had reached a natural 'frontier', in the sense not only of the upper-middle Euphrates itself but of the mountains of the Kurdish Taurus, round which the Euphrates sweeps through gorges in a great eastward bend between Melitene and Samosata. No route could follow the river through the gorge; and troops moving, like XII Fulminata in 70 or 7I, from Syria to Melitene will have crossed the moun- tains further west.' In the southern part of the province, the kingdom of Em- esa, on the upper-middle Orontes and stretching far out into the steppe, seems clearly to have been absorbed in the 70s, while Roman roads now extended to and beyond Palmyra. Only in the far south did there remain a complex pattern of royal and provincial territory, some of the latter still forming an enclave geographically separate from the rest of the province. By the mid- second century Gaza, on the coast, had certainly ceased to be an enclave separate from the province of Syria, and became part of Syria Palaestina (as Judaea was by then called). When this happened is not certain; but probably as soon as Judaea was put under a senatorial governor in the early 70s, for Pliny the Elder, writing in the 70s, describes the long trade-route from Arabia Felix as ending in Gaza 'in Judaea'.
A far more complex pattern is presented by the central mountain region of Lebanon, Anti-Lebanon and Mount Hermon, the territories to the south belonging to Agrippa II (including part of Galilee and Peraea) and then Nabataean territory. The absorption of Agrippa's territories, whatever these precisely were, represented the logical preliminary to the takeover of Nabataea in 106, and its conversion into the province of 'Arabia'. But we cannot state either exactly what Agrippa's territories consisted of or whether this absorption belongs in the gos under Domitian or in 100 under Trajan. It cannot indeed be certain that the process took place all at once.
In brief, since 53 Agrippa had ruled Batanaea, Trachonitis and Auranitis; the 'tetrarchy of Lysanias', apparently based on Abila, on the pass between Damascus and the Bekaa Valley; and the 'territory of Varus', of unknown location and extent, but apparently on Mount Lebanon. Nero had added considerable parts of Galilee (with the cities of Tiberias and Taricheae) and Peraea. Agrippa may have also have received further territory under Vespasian. At any rate as Titus marched back up the coast in the autumn of 70, he passed near a town called Arcea of the kingdom of Agrippa, Iying between Berytus and Raphaneae in the Orontes Valley; this is the small place Arca or Caesarea ad Libanum', at the north end of Mount Lebanon whence the Emperor Severus Alexander was later to come. It thus seems clear that Agrippa's domains were not geographically continuous.
All that is certain is that by the time Josephus was coming to the end of his Antiquities, completed in 93/94, Batanaea had become provincial territory. For we have already seen Josephus' sketch of the history of the colony of Babylonian Jews there, settled by Herod and later under the tetrarch Philip, Agrippa I and Agrippa II, but by now crushed by the tribute imposed by Rome. Josephus might seem to imply that Agrippa was now dead. Reliance has often been placed on the statement in the Bibliotheca of Photius, compiled in the ninth century, that Agrippa died in the third year of Trajan, so 100. Documentary evidence, however, makes clear that Batanaea and the surrounding area will have become provincial just about the time when Josephus was completing his Antiquities and writing the pendant to it, his Autobiography, where indeed he speaks of Agrippa as no longer living. The latest known document of Agrippa's reign is a Greek inscription from Sanamein in Batanaea dated by the double era of Agrippa to the years 37 and 32, so 92/93. But some three years later local datings show that royal rule was over, and that the area was provincial. In the remarkable collection of antiquities, largely in the local basalt, in the museum of Suweida (Souedias/Dionysias) there is an inscription carved on a basalt grave-stele, and dated by the sixteenth year of Domitian, 96. Within a year or so we have another dating in Greek by the first year of Nerva, 96/97, from southern Trachonitis.
Whatever the precise personal history of Agrippa II, therefore, it is indisputable that the central area of his kingdom had become provincial territory before the end of Domitian's reign. As must already be clear, nothing whatsoever is known of the circumstances. But the most reasonable conclusion is that he died in about 92/93, and that his varied territories became provincial at that moment.
The southern area was in any case the most important, for it was that which bordered on Nabataean territory. In the short term all of this region presumably became part of Syria, with the effect that for the first time the land-area of the province was continuous into the Decapolis. It is perhaps relevant that an equestrian officer is recorded by an inscription as exercising some functions in 'the Decapolis of Syria' at some point under Domitian, probably around 90; and that an inscription shows that the south theatre at Gerasa, or some of it, was dedicated in 90/91 'in accordance with a decree of Lappius Maximus, legatus Augusti pro praetore'. Whether this is an accident of our evidence or not, no earlier evidence attests a governor's decision in this outlying region. Galilee and Peraea may now have reverted to Judaea; nothing is known. For a picture of a complete transformation of this whole area, we have to await the acquisition of Nabataea in 106.
Again, nothing is known of the circumstances. No conflicts with Rome are recarded in the long reign of the last king, Rabbel II, described in Nabataean documents as 'he who has given his people life and deliverance. His reign lasted from 70 to 106, and the latest record of it comes from his thirty-sixth year, so immediately before the Roman conquest.
All that we know of the moment of conquest, or acquisition, is a single sentence of Cassius Dio: 'About this time also Palma the governor of Syria subjugated Arabia around Petra and made it subject to the Romans'. Speculation on motives, whether simply the occasion of the king's death, or local disputes or (improbably) an interest in trade-routes, is fruitless. This occasion, significant though it is, can contribute nothing to any discussion of the reasons for continued Roman expansionism in the Near East. All that is certain is that no alleged motive of the sort concerned in the suppression of Commagene-royal connection with a neighbouring power-can have played any part. For Nabataea bordered only on the steppe, except where it extended into the mountain-chain of the Hedjaz stretching down the east coast of the Red Sea. Complex as is the problem of the relations of the Nabataean area and its population to the unsettled peoples of the steppe, there is nothing to suggest that any large-scale military threat was felt from that direction.
If neither the decision-making process which lay behind it nor the campaign itself (if there was any real campaign) can be understood, by contrast the multiple effects of the annexation are very clearly reflected in our evidence. In strategic terms we know that, as Dio records, the operation was conducted from Syria, not from Judaea, and by the legatus of circa 104/ 105-107/108, A. Cornelius Palma, who duly earned triumphal ornamenta, a statue in the Forum of Augustus in Rome and a second consulate in 109. What forces he took from Syria we do not know. All that is clear is that as early as 107 a governor of Arabia, Claudius Severus, was already in office. The same structure had been created as in Judaea, whereby a senatorial governor of ex-praetor rank was simultaneously the legatus of the province and of the one legion which was stationed there. The legion was the III Cyrenaica, which had been brought from Egypt, reducing its legionary garrison to one.
All this and more appears with great clarity in the famous papyrus letter of a soldier in III Cyrenaica written to his father in Egypt in March 107 from Bostra, to which he had just been moved. Since he explains that Bostra is an eight days' journey from Petra, the major city of the kingdom, it is probable that he had previously been stationed there. Strikingly, he also records that merchants were arriving from Pelusium in Egypt every day. The distances were considerable: certainly well over 300 km along the coast and across the Negev to Petra, and some 260 km from Petra to Bostra in the southern Hauran.
In both this and a later letter from February 108 the soldier, Iulius Apollinaris, describes how, as a result of promotion, he can go around doing nothing while others toil all day cutting stones. The reference may be to the most conspicuous landmark of the Roman occupation, the Via Nova Traiana, which ran from the Hauran down to Aila at the head of the Red Sea: as milestones of 111-117 put it in triumphal terms, Trajan 'after Arabia had been reduced to the form of a province opened and paved a new road from the borders of Syria to the Red Sea through C. Claudius Severus, legatus Augusti pro praetore'. Even these words hardly capture the dramatic impact of the road as visible from the air today, stretching along the Jordanian plain and then across the great Wadi Mujib (the ancient Arnon), which runs into the Dead Sea." The total volume of stone-cutting must have been prodigious.
Iulius Apollinaris, writing from Bostra, may alternatively have been talking of the construction of a camp. For what seems to be beyond question the outline of a Roman camp (a rectangular enclosure of circa 463 m by 363 m) can be seen from the air attached to the north side of Bostra, whose plan as both a Nabataean and a Roman provincial town is clearly visible from the air and on the ground. If this is correct, it is a rare case when we can give some meaning to the statement that a legion was stationed 'at' a particular town.
So profound a transformation of the region could hardly fail to register with the population living there. In Avdat in the Negev someone dated a building by 'year two of the province', using the Greek word eparcheia in transliteration: SNT TRTYN LHPRKY'. A year later at Madaba someone dated a tomb in Greek 'in the third year of the province', but in Nabatnean in a slightly different way, 'in the third year of the province (i.e., the provincial regime at?) Bostra': BSNT TLT LHPRK BSR'. The expression may reflect a consciousness that that was where the main Roman base was. It will not, however, mean that Bostra was the 'capital of the province', for Roman provinces did not have capitals. By 114 an inscription on a Roman arch erected at Petra (as it seems, the earliest Greek monumental inscription from the Nabataean region) records Petra as a metropolis ('mother-city')-apparently, for the text has a gap, 'mother-city of Arabia'. That has no significance for the misdirected question of whether Petra or Bostra was 'the capital': the governor will have given jurisdiction at either, for Roman governors were peripatetic, and they certainly did give jurisdiction at times at Petra. On November 17, 130, one of the documents in the priceless 'archive of Babatha' shows someone summoning her to appear before Haterius Nepos, the then legatus, 'at Petra or elsewhere in the province'. But in the following year, faced with a summons by someone else to appear at Petra, she issued a counter-summons to her opponent to appear first before the governor at Rabbathmoab.
Auxiliary units were also transferred to the new province. So the Ala veterana of Gaetuli, which we saw in Judaea in 86, was later in Arabia, and its cavalrymen left graffiti, in highly erratic Greek, at Medain Saleh in the Hedjaz, the southernmost known Roman outpost, 900 km from Bostra. Similarly the Cohors I Hispanorum and Cohors I Thebaeorum, recorded in 105 as having been transferred from Egypt to Judaea, may have gone on to Arabia; if so, then perhaps accompanying the legion III Cyrenaica. As for other units, their presence is even more speculative, or attested only later. Certainty is not essential, for we could assume in any case that a number of auxiliary units arrived; the role of some of them in the inscriptions of the later second century and after will be discussed below. But the wider issue is important, for it involves the problem of what the army in this area was for, and in what sense the outermost area of Roman occupation represented a 'frontier'.
For the moment it is more important to stress that the acquisition of Arabia involved some reshaping of the provincial structure south of Mount Hermon. For a start, two or three cities of the Decapolis which had been part of the enclave belonging to the province of Syria now found themselves in Arabia: from south to north, Philadelphia (Amman), Gerasa and possibly Adraa. The new order is perfectly expressed in the dedication to Trajan from the North Gate at Gerasa, on the part of the 'Antiochenes by the Chrysorhoas, the former Gerasenes, to their own saviour and (?)founder', put up under Claudius Severus, still there as legatus in 115. A new boundary between 'Arabia', as a Roman province, and Syria thus now ran east-west through the Hauran to the north of Bostra and probably of Adraa also. What the situation was on the western edge of the Jordanian plateau (for instance with the city of Gadara, formerly in Syria or along either side of the Jordan) is remarkably unclear. It has to be admitted that this area might have been either in Arabia, or in Judaea or in Syria; Judaea is the most probable. Certainly the area of Scythopolis, in the Plain of Jezreel west of the Jordan, which had been part of Syria, seems now to have belonged to Judaea; for an inscription attests the presence there of an ala, earlier stationed in Syria, which by 139 at least was certainly part of the garrison of that province. Similarly the Babatha archive (once again) shows that another auxiliary unit which had earlier been in Syria was by 124 stationed in Engeddi in Judaea, on the west shore of the Dead Sea. For in that year Judas son of Elazar, a resident of Engeddi, acknowledged receipt of a loan from Magonius Valens, centurion of the Cohors prima milliaria Thracum. What is more, the property which he pledged was located to the west of a military headquarters (praesidium, transliterated in Greek). The intensified presence of the Roman army could not be more clearly illustrated.
'Arabia', as a province, certainly extended across the Wadi Arabah into the Negev and Sinai, and we have seen that at Avdat (Oboda) people began immediately to date by the new province. So far as is known, 'Arabia' did not reach to the Mediterranean, and the question of how real a presence Rome was able to establish in either the southern Negev or the vast expanses of the Sinai peninsula cannot be answered. But, as we will see when we look at the military structure of the Near East as it was at the end of the second century, Roman outposts are attested not only at Medain Saleh in the northern Hedjaz but at Dumatha (Jawf) in the Wadi Sirhan. The total area of the new provincia, if we think of it in the older sense of an area of military activity, was enormous, stretching over hundreds of kilometres.
The presence of Roman legionary and auxiliary soldiers will have been the most immediately perceptible aspect of the arrival of provincial organisation. Its counterpart was the raising of auxiliary troops, perhaps (it is not known) by a takeover of some or all of the royal forces. What is certain is that Nabataean troops entered Roman service immediately as regular auxiliary units. A diploma of AD 139 records men of the fourth and sixth cohorts of Petraeans being discharged in what was by then called Syria Palaestina; they should thus have entered service no later than 114. As another diploma, of 156, shows, all these cohortes (at least six, so three thousand men) raised in Arabia will have borne the formal title 'Cohors Ulpia Petraeorum', after the Emperor Ulpius Traianus, under whom their region became a province. All the discharged auxiliaries gained the Roman citizenship, only one of the many complex changes in local society which Roman rule brought, and which will need to be considered later.
As we have seen on several occasions, in Syria and Judaea in AD 6, and in Batanaea in (probably) the early 90s, the most distinctive feature of Roman rule in a new area would be the imposition of the census and of direct taxation. For Arabia we do not have to envisage this impact through narrative reports written later, for two newly published papyri present the nature of the exchanges between the settled population and the new occupying forces in concrete detail. One of the documents forms part of the Babatha archive; the other may well have been found originally in the same desert area to the west of the Dead Sea. Both relate to a small area already mentioned, the village of Maoza in the district of Zoara, lying in the great depression south of the Dead Sea. Like the marriage-contract quoted much earlier, these two papyri illustrate the use of written documents in Greek in a rural society remote from any town. The only town mentioned in them is Rabbathmoab on the Jordanian plateau, some 37 km away as the crow flies-and, more realistically, at an elevation of some 1000 m higher.
Both documents (and probably fragments of a third) are returns of land for the census of 127 under the legatus Augusti pro praetore of Arabia, Titus Aninius Sextius Florentinus. The well-preserved document from the Babatha archive will be used to illustrate the new relationships involved in the census. There is nothing to indicate how many previous Roman censuses had been conducted before the current year: 'according to the compute of the new province of Arabia year twenty-second'. If a census had first been imposed in (say) 107, there may have been a ten-year cycle, with an intervening one in about 117. The document begins with the attestation of its being a copy of that posted in the basilica at Rabbathmoab. The declaration itself follows, starting with the dating: by Hadrian, the two consuls and the year of the province. Then comes Babatha's sworn statement:
As a census of Arabia is being conducted by Titus Aninius Sextius Florentinus, legatus Augusti pro praetore, I, Babtha daughter of Simon, of Maoza in Zoarene [district] of the Petra administrative region, domiciled in my own private property in the said Maoza, register what I possess (present with me as my guardian being Judanes son of Elazar, of the village of Engedi in the district of Jericho in Judaea, domiciled in his own private property in the said Maoza), viz. within the boundaries of Maoza a date orchard called Algiphiamma.
The text continues with more details, some very difficult to understand, but enough to make clear that each plot paid a fixed tax, calculated both in produce (dates) and in coin.
The document concludes with a record of the 'subscriptions' (formal statements 'written below' a document) made by Babatha herself and the praefectus alae stationed at Rabbathmoab. Nothing could more perfectly exemplify the role of Greek as the common language of the eastern Mediterranean and as the medium of communication between the Roman Empire and its Semitic-language subjects. For this paragraph translates into Greek both the oath made by Babatha in Aramaic and the subscription of the praefectus in Latin:
Translation of subscription: I, Babtha daughter of Simon, swear by the genius of our lord Caesar that I have in good faith registered as has been written above. I, Judanes son of Elazar, acted as guardian and wrote for her. [Second hand] Translation of subscription of the prefect: I, Priscus, prefect of cavalry, received (this) on the day before the nones of December in the consulship of Gallicanus and Titianus.
To complete our impression of the meeting of languages, the document has on the back the names of five witnesses who have signed in Nabataean; the first is Abdu son of Moqimu, witness' ('BDW BR MQYMW SHD).
As hinted above, we cannot possibly say how far down the great new road to Aela, or mto the Hedjaz or into the Negev or Sinai the Romans could find any settled population, or bring them within the operations of the census. But It should be stressed that only a series of accidents, in the ancient and the modern world, led to the discovery of these documents in the 'save of Letters' on the side of the Nahal Hever between Engeddi and Masada. We can confidently assume that similar declarations were made all over the settled area of the former kingdom, at least from Petra in the south through the Decapolis and the area to the east of it shading off into the steppe, to Bostra and the Hauran in the north. The area of the Near East to which Roman direct rule, Roman jurisdiction, and the Roman census and taxation were applied, widening stage by stage, and never possible to calculate accurately, will approximately have doubled since the battle of Actium in 31 BC. More significant than that, it had now stretched decisively outside those areas-northern Syria, the Phoenician coast and the Decapolis-where Greek cities were, or seemed to be, the predominant social form. It had at the same time, though the two processes are not to be equated, removed all the dependent kingdoms west of the Euphrates and substituted its own tax-gathering, military occupation and military conscription. It could also have been thought to have reached its natural geographical limits: all of the mountain-chain from the Taurus to the northern Hedjaz, all of the cultivable land between the mountains and the steppe, and all of the upper-middle Euphrates from where it emerges from the Taurus gorge to where the Fertile Crescent stops and the river turns south-east through the steppe. The reign of Trajan thus does indeed represent a sort of culmination. But the campaign which he fought in the second decade of the second century represented not only the first in the Near East in which royal forces could play no part, but the first which a reigning Emperor led in person, and the first which aimed at the permanent occupation of territory across the Euphrates.
3.3. THE ROMAN PRESENCE, AD 114-l51
With the Parthian war fought by Trajan in the last years of his reign, the relation of the Near East to the Empire again entered a quite new phase, which was to last to and beyond the end of the Parthian Empire in the 220s, and its replacement by a new Persian Empire. Its features included Roman campaigns beyond the Euphrates, not merely from Cappadocia into Armenia but from Syria into northern Mesopotamia; the aim, achieved in the 190s, to make northern Mesopotamia into Roman provincial territory; and the conduct of these campaigns by Emperors in person. The eastern wars of the 350s and 360s, in which Ammianus Marcellus was to participate as an officer and of which he was later to write the history, went back, in their context and objectives, to Trajan's war. It was a continuity of which Ammianus himself was fully conscious; for he recalls Trajan's siege of Hatra, mentions the town called Ozorgadana on the Euphrates, where Trajan's tribunal was still pointed out; and reproduces Julian's speech to his soldiers reminding them of the victories in Mesopotamia of Trajan, Lucius Verus and Septimius Severus.
As is well known, the two, or perhaps three, provinces formed by Trajan across the Euphrates were immediately given up. But if we take a longer-term view of this abortive project, it acquires a far greater significance. Exactly such a view is provided by the Breviarium of Rufius Festus, a brief survey of Roman expansion written in the 360s, some three decades after our period ends:
At last under the principate of Trajan the diadem was taken from the king of Greater Armenia, and through Trajan Armenia, Mesopotamia, Assyria and Arabia were made provinciae and the eastern frontier was established on the banks of the Tigris. But Hadrian, who succeeded Trajan, jealous of Trajan's glory, voluntarily returned Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria, and wished the Euphrates to be the boundary between the Persians (sic) and the Romans. But afterwards under the two Antonines, Marcus and Verus, also Severus, Pertinax (?) and other Roman Emperors, who fought with varying fortunes against the Persians, Mesopotamia was four times lost and four times recovered. Then in the time of Diocletian, after the Romans had been defeated in a first campaign, and in a second battle king Narses was worsted . .. and when peace was made Mesopotamia was restored and the frontier was re-formed along the banks of the Tigris, in such a way that we gained the overlordship of five peoples settled across the Tigris.
What matters about this passage is not the details in it, but first its perspective and second its implication for the continuity of Roman imperialist ambitions in the East from Trajan onwards. Nor need the controversial details of the Parthian war itself be explored. What matters here is that Trajan, hearing that the Parthians had crowned a king of Armenia without his consent, came to the Near East in person (the first reigning Emperor to do so since Augustus), leaving Rome in autumn 113 and spending 114 on the establishment of Armenia as a province. The year 115 seems to have seen the creation of the province of 'Mesopotamia', a term which now (as later under Severus) meant the north-Mesopotamian shelf as far as Nisibis and Singara; the frontier may perhaps have been envisaged as running down the river Chabur from near Singara to its confluence with the Euphrates. It will have been the acquisition of these two new provinces about which Trajan sent a 'laurelled letter' to the Senate which arrived in February 116; for coins of 116 celebrated 'Armenia and Mesopotamia subjected to the power of the populus Romanus'. It was probably in the same year that the kingdom of Adiabene, lying mainly beyond the Tigris, was conquered; if (as is improbable) there ever was a short-lived Trajanic province of 'Assyria', it will have been here. Then, after a winter (115/116) in Antioch marked by a great earthquake, in 116 Trajan marched down the Euphrates to Ctesiphon, the Parthian capital, and then to the head of the Persian Gulf. There Cassius Dio describes him looking longingly at a merchant-ship setting off for India, and wishing that he were as young as Alexander. This motive is by no means irrelevant to the growing Imperial preoccupation with the East. But then a general revolt broke out, and Trajan was forced to return, and to recognise the Parthian dynasty. He himself fell ill, and died, back on Roman territory, in Cilicia in 117.
Whatever else is unclear about this poorly recorded sequence of events, it is certain that provinciae of Armenia and Mesopotamia were indeed formed, before being given up by Hadrian on his accession in 117. For both a senatorial governor and a procurator of Armenia Maior are recorded on inscriptions; and in 116 another Latin inscription, from Artaxata in Armenia, shows building being undertaken by soldiers of the legion IV Scythica, probably stationed at Zeugma. At about the same time at least one Roman road was being constructed in Mesopotamia. For a milestone whose Latin inscription gives Trajan's titles as of 116 was found 15 km north-west of Singara, at a point where a pass leads over the Jebel Sinjar in the direction of Nisibis. (Nusaybin).
This city which eight decades later would find itself with the rank of a Roman colonia, played a key part in Trajan's campaign. For his route took him across northern Mesopotamia to the Tigris, and a bridge of boats was constructed by cutting wood in the forests around Nisibis and transporting it (about 100 km) to the river on waggons. The reference must be to the foothills of Mount Masius (the Tur Abdin), just below which modern Nusaybin lies. At some point Trajan's forces besieged Hatra, in the steppe west of the Tigris and some 120 km south of Singara, no more successfully than Severus later, as Dio notes." But in the 230s this place, encircling its famous temple of the Sun, was to be the furthest point to the south-east occupied by Roman troops.
Roman forces also, as we have seen, advanced down the middle Euphrates, in the campaign of 116. They certainly remained at Dura-Europos long enough for the legion III Cyrenaica to erect an arch in honour of the Emperor to the north of the town. They did not stay, however, and the place reverted to Parthian control. One citizen of the place duly recorded on a Greek vinscription how he had restored a shrine there: 'and the original doors were taken away by the Romans, and after their departure from the city I made anew other doors for the same naos at my own expense, and outer doors also'. His inscription was dated to the Seleucid year 428, so between October 116 and September 117. The evacuation need have no connection with Hadrian's abandonment of the provinces of Mesopotamia and Armenia. From the 160s onwards, when Dura was occupied by the Romans, it would belong to the province of Syria.
The Parthian war was of great significance as a demonstration of the continued vitality of Roman imperialism-reflected not only in narrative accounts but in contemporary documents-and also as the first sign of a strategic commitment which would last for centuries, until the Islamic conquests, and which meant that Syriac literature would evolve largely within the bounds of the Empire. It also meant, in the shorter term, a renewal of relations with dependent, or potentially dependent, kings, of a type which, west of the Euphrates, had for the time being disappeared. When Trajan reached Antioch in the winter of 113/114, he was greeted by an embassy from 'Augaros the Osrhoenian'-that is, Abgar the king of Edessa-who sent expressions of friendship but did not appear himself, in the hope of remaining neutral. It was only when he reached Edessa itself that he met Abgar, along with 'Mannos, the phylarchos of the neighbouring part of Arabia, and Sporakes, phylarchos of Anthemousia'. Abgar laid on a banquet for the Emperor and, knowing Trajan's personal tastes, had his good-looking son dance 'in barbaric fashion' during the meal. The dynasty of Edessa, which was to figure in a number of late-Roman and medieval Syriac chronicles, thus makes another of its sporadic appearances in Graeco-Roman narratives. It may indeed be that when Parthian control was restored, there was an interregnum for a couple of years.
The partial nature of our evidence for these major campaigns means that we camlot assess in detail which legions from which provinces participated; and more generally the evidence for the movements and numbers of legions in these years presents complex problems which are not worth exploring here. It is clear at least that IV Scythica, probably from Zeugma, was in Armenia, and that some or all of III Cyrenaica was briefly at Dura. The XVI Flavia Firma from Satala naturally took part, as did the VI Ferrata, perhaps from Samosata, which is found operating in the mountains, evidently in Armenia; for a fragment of Arrian shows its legatus, Bruttius Praesens, equipping his men with snowshoes in local style. The X Fretensis from Jerusalem also took part (there is as yet no concrete evidence of a Jewish revolt in Judaea, parallel to that in Egypt, Cyrene and Cyprus, at this moment). More significant is the fact that a tribunus militum of the legion XI Claudia, stationed in Moesia Inferior (along the lower Danube), led cavalry detachments from that province and Dacia to take part in 'the Parthian expedition'. For we begin at this point to have evidence of the importance of the land-route from the Balkans through Asia Minor via Ancyra (Ankara) and the Cilician Gates to Syria, and its role as one of the crucial links which made the Empire, for all the limitations imposed by space and time, a unitary organism in military terms. From Ancyra itself at this time we have the honorific inscription of a local magnate who had 'received' (that is, supplied) the forces wintering in the city and had 'sent forward (with supplies again) those on their way to the war against the Parthians'.
Yet the sea-route to northern Syria, though it certainly never carried troops en masse, nor could have, remained significant. Trajan himself had travelled through the province of Asia and then Lycia, arriving by sea at Seleucia. It was in the second century, if not for certain before, that we can see Seleucia emerging as an established naval base. The Latin epitaphs of officers and sailors, from both the 'Syrian fleet' (now named as such for the first time) and those of Misenum and Ravenna, inscribed at Seleucia, reflect its importance in communications and represent a small island of Romanisation, and the use of the Latin language. So we find at Seleucia Pieria in 166 an optio of the Misenum fleet making a contract, in Latin and Greek, for the purchase from a sailor of the same fleet of a slave-boy 'from across the river [transfluminianum]', called Abba or also Eutyches. Then, as in 114-116, Roman armies were operating beyond the river Euphrates, captives will have been available in larger than normal numbers, and ships from other fleets will have come to Seleucia. D. van Berchem may well be right to suggest that we need to envisage a network of communications and supplies stretching from the Mediterranean through Seleucia to northern Syria and the Euphrates. That would explain why one of the very rare Latin honorific inscriptions from Syria was erected to a prefect of the Misenum fleet, Marcius Turbo, in about 114, precisely at Cyrrhus, on one of the two main routes from Antioch to Zeugma. Whether we would think of supplies, rather than forces, travelling over such distances is uncertain; but in later campaigns we do know that supplies were shipped from southern Asia Minor to Syria for the armies; and, while we must resist too confident a reconstruction of a supply network, an inscription from Caria does record an equestrian officer who had been 'in charge of supplies in the Parthian war on the bank of the Euphrates'.
If the Parthian war marks a notable step in the evolution of the Empire in the Near East, and a significant foretaste of future strategic commitments, the very fact that a reigning Emperor was now resident there for some three years was also important. First, there was the simple fact that it was possible; that the Empire was not such that it had to be ruled from Rome. Whatever an Emperor needed to do by way of the civilian government of the Empire could be done from his stopping-points on a journey, or in the intervals of campaigning. But in so stark a form this too was a sign of the future rather than of established practice; not since Augustus, more than a century before, had any Emperor spent so long a continuous period in (or beyond) the provinces. What this meant for the Empire is perfectly expressed by Dio in recounting the consequences of the great earthquake which struck Antioch when Trajan was there in December 115:
While he was staying in Antioch an extraordinary earthquake took place. Many cities suffered from it, but Antioch was the most unfortunate. For as Trajan was wintering there, and many soldiers had gathered there as well as many civilians, whether for judicial hearings or on embassies or as traders or out of curiosity, there was not a province or a community which remained unharmed, and thus in Antioch the whole world under the Romans suffered disaster.
The slowly emerging role of Antioch as a secondary Imperial 'capital' is vividly captured. Trajan escaped on this occasion, to die of natural causes while sailing back from Syria along the Cilician coast in August 117. Whether he had intended it or not, the succession went to a son of his cousin, P. Aelius Hadrianus, well placed as legatus of Syria, who heard the news within days and proclaimed himself Emperor'in Antioch, the metropolis of Syria'. Setting off from there, and sending some forces before him, he took the land-route across Asia Minor, through Ancyra, Iuliopolis and Nicomedia, to the Balkans, arriving in Rome nearly a year after his proclamation, in July 118.
His reign, as is well known, was to be unique in that so much of it was spent on systematic journeys through the provinces, with both civilian and military ends in view. But the military aspect arose largely not from the necessities of campaigns but from a desire to inspect the army. The fact that his journeys included the Near East is thus not distinctive in itself. What is distinctive is first the strongly local colouring of the documentary evidence which happens to reflect his presence there; then the second of the two great Jewish revolts, under Bar Kokhba or Ben Kosiba, in 132-135, against which the Emperor took command in person; and finally his foundation of the last 'real' colonia in the history of Rome, Aelia Capitolina, Jerusalem.
Hadrian may have been in Syria in 123, but the period when his visit left the clearest traces in our evidence seems to be from the autumn of 129 to the summer of 130. Much of any possible reconstruction depends on later sources and may be left aside. For instance the fact that there were 'Hadrianic Baths' in Antioch is now made certain by the new archive of the third century from the middle Euphrates. But whether, as Malalas records in the sixth century, Hadrian ordered the construction of these baths himself, as well as of other public buildings, or did so while present in person, is quite uncertain. What matters is the very vivid documentary evidence of his presence in certain areas. Perhaps the most distinctive is the earliest documentary record of an Imperial visit to Palmyra, which in this reign gained the Greek title 'Hadrian E Palmyra'. It comes from a bilingual honorific inscription from the temple of Ba'alshamin recording that a man called Males had been secretary (grammateus) of the city during the visit of Hadrian, had provided oil for strangers and citizens and had seen to the reception of the troops. In the Palmyrene text Hadrian is 'our lord Hadrian, (the) god: [MR]N HDRY[N'] 'LH'. The inscription dates the dedication of the statue of Males to 130/131, but does not of course serve to date the exact moment of the visit. Nonetheless it is highly significant that the Imperial entourage and escort troops did visit Palmyra at this time, when it was reaching the summit of its architectural development; on the other hand there is nothing whatsoever in the literature of the second century to suggest that the culture of Palmyra had been registered as something of particular interest to intellectual circles elsewhere in the Empire.
Probably on the same journey Hadrian also travelled south to the province of Arabia. A Greek inscription put up in his honour by Gerasa, 'the city of the Antiochenes by the Chrysorhoas, the former Gerasenes', seems to refer to the whole period of his stay, and to his having held jurisdiction while there, and dates to 130. It is matched by a Latin dedication on his behalf by some of his escort troops, his equites singulares who had wintered 'at Antiochia by the Chrysorhoas, also called Gerasa, sacred, inviolate and autonomous'. The triumphal arch which stands to the south of Gerasa was dedicated by the city on behalf of the Emperor at the same time, 130. Here, too, no Emperor had ever been before. It is very likely that the Emperor did give jurisdiction while there, as Caracalla was later to do in Antioch.
We would have known anyway that Hadrian visited Arabia, for contemporary coins record ADVENTUS AUG ARABIAE, as they do ADVENTUS AUG FUDAEAE. But precise connections between his presence, the plan to found a new colonia at Jerusalem, with a temple to Iuppiter Capitolinus, and the outbreak of the great revolt in 132 cannot be established. There is, however, no good reason to disbelieve the implications of Cassius Dio's account, according to which it was this plan, involving the settlement of a gentile population, which provoked rebellion (a reported ban on circumcision mav also have been relevant). According to Dio, fighting did not break out while Hadrian was in Egypt or again in Syria, but only when he was far away.
Hadrian certainly visited Gaza in 130, was in Egypt over the winter of 130/131 and may have sailed up the Phoenician coast before spending the winter of 131/132 in Athens. So it is not unreasonable to regard the plan for a new colonia, with the title 'Colonia Aelia Capitolina', reflecting the name of the Emperor, P. Aelius Hadrianus, as a product of his personal initiative while there. Whether it was planned before that cannot be known. All that is clear is that Judaea was transferred from being a one-legion province, under a legatus of ex-praetor status, to being a two-legion province under an exconsul, not after the revolt, as we might expect, but before it. If this change did not take place, as had been argued, under Trajan, it had certainly occurred by the 1205, when first the legion II Traiana (before going to Egypt) and then, on a permanent basis, the VI Ferrata were stationed there.
At this point no details of the revolt itself are needed except to emphasise that it lasted some three and a half years, saw the foundation of a regular administration in the areas free of Roman control and again required a major concentration of force by the Roman army. The contemporary documents which reflect life in the Jewish-held area belong in the social history of Judaea; they strongly suggest that the revolt began in the spring of 132 and continued until the autumn of 135. Even for the Roman army it is enough to recall that apart from X Fretensis and VI Ferrata, III Cyrenaica from Bostra and (at least) IV Gallica from Syria took part; as the consular legatus of Syria left the province to confront the uprising in Judaea, probably other units from Syria came too. Moreover, the tribune of a legion in Pannonia was appointed by Hadrian to bring detachments for the war. More significant still, it can be taken as certain that the Emperor took command in person, at least for a time; inscriptions recording military honours now granted by the Emperor describe the campaign as an expeditio Iudaica, one on which the Emperor was present. The revolt thus left Judaea as a major, and on the surface a highly Romanised, element in the structure of the Empire: two coloniae, Caesarea and Aelia; an ex-consul as governor with two legions each under a praetorian legatus; and a substantial number of auxiliaries. A diploma of 139 shows that there were then at least three cavalry alae and twelve cohortes in the province. No other province with no external frontier had so large a garrison. But what the diploma of 139 also shows is that the name 'Iudaea', with its ethnic reference, had already disappeared, to be replaced by a new name, 'Syria Palaestina'.
With these changes the evolution of the structure of the Empire in the Near East west of the Euphrates was almost complete. If we look at it in very local terms, we can see that it consisted of a spread of major legionary bases: from Samosata (XVI Flavia Firma) and Zeugma (IV Scythica) in the north overlooking the Euphrates, to the Orontes Valley, where III Gallica seems to have been at Raphaneae, to Syria Palaestina, where X Fretensis was at Aelia and VI Ferrata at Caparcotna in the Jezreel Valley; and III Cyrenaica at Bostra m Arabia, where, as we have seen, the camp is still visible from the air attached to the north side of the city. Even here we are hardly in a position to assess the complex mutual influences and relationships between the civilian population and these large masses of soldiers. Still less is this the case with auxiliary units, whose long-term locations, if they had them, are hardly ever known. One place where a few such sidelights are available, however, is Palmyra, where the earliest evidence for the presence of Roman auxiliary units belongs to the middle of the second century. Typically, what little we know is a product of the 'epigraphic habit', and specifically of the habit of putting up honorific inscriptions. So Greek inscriptions from the temple of Bel at Palmyra show us the praefectus of the Ala Herculiana of Thracians, Iulius Iulianus, in 167; and around the same period a different praefectus, Vibius Celer, who had also become a town-councillor (bouleutes) of the city; he is described as 'the prefect of the ala (stationed) here', presumably the same one.
How the different units of the army were distributed across the landscape, how they were housed and supplied and what functions they performed, for instance as a police-force, in relation to the civilian population are questions Impossible to answer in general terms. There is no way in which the impact or presence of the Roman state in the Near East can be adequately assessed. Its more profound, longer-term effects, for instance the spread of the Roman citizenship or the transformation of collective identities (in what sense did any Commagenian or Nabataean identity survive the imposition of provincial status?) must be reserved for a closer look at the different sub-regions of the area. But it is still relevant to pick out, by way of illustration, a few features of the presence of the Roman state which we can discern from our scattered evidence.
One, which cannot have escaped anyone, was the construction of roads. Though a road might be anything from a fully paved construction, like the much-photographed section still visible between Antioch and Beroca, or a track from which stones had been systematically cleared, or just a track, milestones bearing the name of the Emperor, wherever they were placed, will have been an unmistakable sign of the Imperial presence. For instance, still clearly visible from the air and from the ground is the road linking Damascus to Bostra cut, in the middle of the second century, directly across the Leja, the plate of broken volcanic rock known as Trachonitis, once part of Herodian domains. The road is lined with watch-towers and milestones, one of which records that in 185/186 the road was restored 'from Phaena to Aerita', that is, from the northern edge of the rock plate at Phacna (Mismiyeh) almost to the southern edge at Aerita (shire or Ariqah). Here a Greek inscription from above a surviving gate, dating to 169/170, perfectly exemplifies one form of interaction between Empire and subjects. For the gate was built at his own expense by a man from Aerita with a perfectly Roman name, T. Claudius Magnus, a veteran (ouetranos, transliterated), and the work was supervised by a centurion of III Gallica. The same centurion, as well as one from XVI Flavia Firma, appears engaged in building at Phaena.
Most of the inscriptions from Phaena come from a monumental construction, finally destroyed in 1890, which may have been a temple or some sort of official building. Its most striking feature is a letter, engraved beside the main entrance, of Iulius Saturninus, legatus of Syria in 185-187:
Iulius Saturninus to the Phaenesians, metrokomia of Trachon, greeting. If anyone imposes himself on you by force, whether a soldier or a private person, send to me and you will have justice. For you do not owe any contribution to strangers, and having a guest-house you cannot be forced to receive strangers in your houses. Put up this letter of mine in a prominent place in your metrokomia, so that no one may be able to excuse himself on grounds of ignorance.
This letter thus takes its place, along with the extract from the mandata of Domitian from Hama/Epiphania, in a long list of documents illuminating the most contentious area of friction between the state and its subjects. The use of a distinctive local term, metrokomia ('mother-village'), as well as the fact that the legatus addresses this community directly, also illustrates the city-like function of the major villages of this region. Whether the change was for good or ill, no one there could mistake the fact that since the disappearance of Agrippa II some decades before, they belonged to a wider and quite different state-system.
As we have seen in the cases both of the colony of Babylonian Jews established in Batanaea by Herod the Great and of the villagers of Maoza when Nabataea became the province of Arabia, it would have been equally impossible to ignore the imposition of Roman taxation and the Roman census. Yet, as elsewhere in the Empire, our documentation for the Near East hardly allows us to gain any conception of this process, or even to be sure whether direct taxation was paid predominantly in cash or in kind. What we do know, or are told, about this in our sources manages to combine sweeping assertions with a lack of concrete detail. So, for instance, Appian, writing in the middle of the second century, mentions in passing that for 'Syrians' and 'Cilicians' there is an annual tax, at I percent of their census-rating. That would imply a total valuation of landed property, as a basis for the payment; and it also implies a very high level of taxation. For if we suppose that land yielded 7 percent per year on its capital value, the rate of taxation would have been something like 15 percent on income. But the two known census-returns from Judaea show no trace of any such system-each piece of property has a conventional rate of taxation, in cash or kind, attached to it. Nor do we gain any conception of how taxation of property related to taxation of individuals, the 'head-tax', or tributum capitis. So the most important of the Roman lawyers of the early third century, Ulpian, a citizen of Tyre, writes of the census: 'It is necessary to record a person's age in the census-return, because certain groups gain exemption by reason of age; for example in Syria males are liable to the tributum capitis from 14 years, females from 12, until the 65th year'. We have to assume that both a land tax (tributum soli) and a 'head-tax' were payable. For the jurist Paulus, a contemporary of Ulpian, notes that when Vespasian made Caesarea a colonia, he remitted only the tributum capitis; but his son Titus exempted their land (solum) also. Babatha, making her census-return in the province of Arabia in 127, makes no reference to her own age, however, or to anyone else as being resident on the properties concerned.
In other words the realities of the process by which the Roman state lived off its subjects, in this as in other areas, escape us. Almost equally fragmentary evidence survives for the collection of tolls (portoria) by contractors (publicani) on the main routes. The complex question of long-distance trade will concern us later; so it is sufficient here to mention the collection of tolls at Gaza on the caravan-trade coming up from the Yemen (Arabia Felix), and the 'quarter-collector' (tetartones), attested (again) on an honorific Greek and Palmyrene inscription from the agora at Palmyra put up in 161. The honorand, Marcus Aemilius Marcianus Asclepiades, was a town-councillor of Antioch, and was honoured by 'tine traders who had come up from Spasinou Charax' at the head of the Persian Gulf. It is accompanied by another, of 174, which honours another tetartones, and is one of the very few known trilingual inscriptions, in Latin, Greek and Palmyrene-brief as it is, a perfect expression of the complex cultural framework created by the extension of Roman power into the steppe. A quite different perspective is offered by a scene in Philostratus' historical novel the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, written in the early third century: when Apollonius and his party are about to cross the Euphrates into Mesopotamia, the telones (publicanus) stationed at Zeugma takes them to a board on which standard charges for various items are listed.
This work, set in the later first century, properly takes no account of the great changes and upheavals which occurred in the later second century and early third. These events were to give Syria a new and unexpected centrality in the functioning of the Empire, and to extend Roman rule both far down the middle Euphrates and across northern Mesopotamia to the Tigris.