Money for boots, tunic and horse feed: a check for a Roman legionary was discovered

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.

The payroll contains details of a Roman soldier’s salary for two pay periods (out of three he received annually), including the various deductions he was charged.

Dr. Oren Ableman, senior research curator at the Dead Sea Scrolls Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, said: “The soldier’s salary included contributions for boots and a tunic, as well as barley fodder for his horse.”

“Surprisingly, the details indicate that the deductions almost exceeded the salary of a soldier. Although this document only gives an idea of ​​the expenses of one soldier in a particular year, it is clear that, given the nature and risks of the work, the soldiers remained in the army not only for the sake of pay,” Dr. Ableman added.

According to Ablement, soldiers may have been allowed to loot during military campaigns. Other possible speculations come from an analysis of various historical texts held by the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls Laboratory.

For example, a document found in the Cave of Letters in Nahal Gever from the time of the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135 AD) sheds light on some of the side machinations of Roman soldiers that they used to earn extra money. This document is a loan agreement signed between a Roman soldier and a Jewish inhabitant, and the soldier charged the inhabitant with interest higher than allowed by law. This document reinforces the understanding that additional sources of income could be added to the salary of Roman soldiers, which made service in the Roman army much more profitable.

Focus had previously written about Roman jewelry found in an ancient bathhouse .

Focus also talked about the last legion of Rome, which lasted until the Middle Ages .

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