Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) discovered a papyrus pay stub that belonged to a Roman soldier while excavating at Massada.
Masada is an ancient fortress built by King Herod the Great between 37 and 31 BC, located on a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea in the Southern District of Israel. Massada is surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs. Only from the side of the sea, a narrow, so-called “viper path” leads up, according to Heritage Daily .
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During the First Jewish War, also known as the Great Revolt, Masada was captured by the Sicarii (meaning “dagger man”), a splinter group of Jewish Zealots. The Sicarii were one of the first organized groups to specialize in assassination.
In 72 AD, the Tenth Legion of the Protoca (X Fretensis), under the command of Lucius Flavius Silva, went to Masada to break the resistance of the Sicarii. The legion was supported by several auxiliary units, as well as Jewish prisoners of war (according to the testimony of the Roman Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, about 15,000 men and women).
The Romans surrounded the fortress in a ring, forming a wall extending almost 11 km around the mountain plateau, supported by a number of fortified camps or temporary forts.
After several attempts to break through the defenses of Masada, the Romans built a giant siege ramp to rise to the height of the western side of the stronghold. The siege tower and battering ram were slowly moved up the ramp and on April 16, 73 AD. the walls of Masada were breached.
Subsequent events divided historians and archaeologists. According to Josephus: “by the will of God and necessity [the Sicarii] were destined to perish,” and that the defenders drew lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man (since Judaism forbids suicide). Josephus also claims that their leader, Eleazar ben Yair, ordered the destruction of all provisions in order to demonstrate to the Romans that they defiantly chose death over slavery.
Excavations by the IAA have unearthed a detailed military check (one of only three legionary checks found throughout the Roman Empire) issued to a Roman legionary soldier during the First Jewish-Roman War of 72 AD. In total, archaeologists have found 14 Latin scrolls at Massada, 13 of which are written on papyrus and one on parchment.