Friday, June 28, 2013

Evidence of the Roman Siege of Jerusalem

In his description of Rome's siege of Jerusalem, Josephus records that those inside the city were facing starvation. He also claims that those who had food were forced to hide it and could only eat it in the "dark corners of their homes."

At times Josephus gives details about events that happened inside besieged places like Jerusalem, Gamla or Masada. And one might question his claims since he was not inside, but outside with the Romans. But every now and then something comes along that confirms some aspect of his narrative.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of some complete cooking pots and an oil lamp from a cistern dating to that period. 

Recently a small cistern belonging to a building was exposed in an archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting near the Western Wall, in the vicinity of Robinson’s Arch in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Inside the cistern were three intact cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp that date to the time of the Great Revolt. 
The vessels were discovered inside the drainage channel that was exposed in its entirety from the Shiloah Pool in the City of David to the beginning of Robinson’s Arch. 
According to Eli Shukron, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “This is the first time we are able to connect archaeological finds with the famine that occurred during the siege of Jerusalem at the time of the Great Revolt. The complete cooking pots and ceramic oil lamp indicate that the people went down into the cistern where they secretly ate the food that was contained in the pots, without anyone seeing them, and this is consistent with the account provided by Josephus”. 

In his book The Jewish War Josephus describes the Roman siege of Jerusalem and in its wake the dire hunger that prevailed in the blockaded city. 
In his dramatic description of the famine in Jerusalem he tells about the Jewish rebels who sought food in the homes of their fellow Jews in the city. These, Josephus said, concealed the food they possessed for fear it would be stolen by the rebels and they ate it in hidden places in their homes. 
“As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the partisans increased with it….For as nowhere was there corn to be seen, men broke into the houses and ransacked them. If they found some they maltreated the occupants for saying there was none; if they did not, they suspected them of having hidden it more carefully and tortured them.” 
“Many secretly exchanged their possessions for one measure of corn-wheat if they happened to be rich, barley if they were poor. They shut themselves up in the darkest corners of the their houses, where some through extreme hunger ate their grain as it was, others made bread, necessity and fear being their only guides. Nowhere was a table laid…” (Josephus The Jewish War. Translated by G.A. Williamson 1959. P. 290). 

You can read the article here

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Roman road from Jerusalem to Jafa uncovered.

Photographic credit: Assaf Peretz,
courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
In an age when most our infrastructure is crumbling beneath us, it is somewhat of a marvel that Roman roads are still being discovered by archaeologists. In fairness to our modern day engineers, the Romans didn't have to construct roads and bridges to take the same daily beating that our roads endure from thousands of trucks weighing as much as 40 tons. Nonetheless, it is still impressive when modern roads use the Roman road as a base, as happens in a number of European locations. 

In Israel the Antiquities Authority is announcing that construction crews have uncovered the main road between Jerusalem and Jafa. 

An ancient road leading from Yafo to Jerusalem, which dates to the Roman period (second–fourth centuries CE), was exposed this past fortnight in the Beit Hanina neighborhood in northern Jerusalem. The road remains were revealed in an archaeological excavation the IAA conducted in Beit Hanina prior to the installation of a drainage pipe by the Moriah Company. 
The wide road (c. 8 m) was bounded on both sides by curbstones. The road itself was built of large flat stones fitted to each other so as to create a comfortable surface for walking. Some of the pavers were very badly worn, indicating the extensive use that was made of the road, and over the years the road also underwent a series of repairs. 
According to David Yeger, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Several segments of the road were previously excavated by research expeditions of the IAA, but such a finely preserved section of the road has not been discovered in the city of Jerusalem until now”. 
“The Romans attached great importance to the roads in the empire. They invested large sums of money and utilized the most advanced technological aids of the period in order to crisscross the empire with roads. These served the government, military, economy and public by providing an efficient and safe means of passage. Way stations and roadside inns were built along the roads, as well fortresses in order to protect the travelers. The construction and maintenance of the roads was assigned to military units, but civilians also participated in the work as part of the compulsory labor imposed on them by the authorities.” 

You can read the article here

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ten lessons about publishing from an editor

Publishing an article, essay or book is not easy. I have met a number of people over the years who assume that publishing is only a matter of having a good idea and then sending it off to a journal. In reality, there are many good ideas out there that are not necessarily publishable. There is also limited space and only so many articles can published in a given journal. Those who think that getting something published is easy probably haven't tried. 

Over at Crux Sola Nijay Gupta refelcts on ten lessons he has learned from serving as one of the founding editors for the Journal for the Study of  Paul and His Letters. He offers some good advice for those wanting to submit research for publication. I found his first point to be a helpful reminder that everyone gets rejected.
Rejection is extremely common and happens to everyone regardless of stature. We have gotten articles from well-known scholars and we have received submissions from grad students. Because the process is peer-reviewed blindly (anonymously), preference is not given to the “big names.” As an editor, sometimes I cringe when I see that a reputable scholar has to be sent a rejection email. But – that is part of academia. A rejection is not a reflection on  your qualifications as a teacher or even a scholar. It is just that your one article, on this occasion, did not meet the standards for this journal by the two or three reviewers that we sent it toNobody likes rejection, but please do your best not to take it personally. In this world, you will hear “no” a lot more than you will “yes.”

You can read his entire post here. It's a god piece that can help you from making the kinds of mistakes that will earn you a rejection letter.