More on Roman Roads and Milestones

We have had a few follow-up questions from our post on Roman Roads and Milestones. One reader asked on Facebook, “Is the milepost inside Jaffa Gate for real??”

If you enter the Old City of Jerusalem at Jaffa Gate you should turn left on the second street (lane would be better). You may not see the name, but it is Demetrius Street. A column, now serving as a lamppost, is actually a portion of an inscribed Roman column. Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (Holy Land, 5th edition) says the Latin inscription reads,

M(arco) Iunio Maximo leg(ato) Aug(ustorum) Leg(ionis) X Fr(etensis)—Antoninianae—C. Dom(itius) Serg(ius) str(ator)eius.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Roman column near Jaffa Gate. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Murphy-O’Connor explains,

The inscription honours Macus Junius Maximus, Legate of the Augusts (i.e. the emperor Septimius Severus and his eldest son Caracalla), which implies that he was the governor of the province of Judaea, and Legate of the Tenth Legion Fretensis.

The column was erected about A.D. 200. Hoade (Guide to the Holy Land) says the once-taller column “was scalped by a bomb in 1948.” [See comment below by Tom Powers, with link to a photo of the column made in the 1930s.] This column is comparable to a milestone but apparently never served that purpose. The camp of the Tenth Roman Legion was immediately south of this place in the area now occupied by the Armenian Quarter. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, Titus allowed the Tenth Legion to remain in Jerusalem.

[Titus] … permitted the tenth legion to stay, as a guard at Jerusalem, and did not send them away beyond the Euphrates, where they had been before; (Josephus, Wars of the Jews 7:17)

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Close-up of Roman column mentioning 10th Roman legion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

What is a mile? Another reader asked, “How does the mile mentioned in the NT (I would assume the Roman mile) compare in length to our mile?”

The Greek term used in Matthew 5:41 is milion. BDAG says the term is used of “a Roman mile, lit. a thousand paces, then a fixed measure = eight stades = 1,478.5 meters.”

But the term used in Luke 24:13 and John 6:19 is stadion. This term is defined as “a measure of distance of about 192 meters, stade, one-eighth mile” (BDAG). This word also came to mean “an area for public spectacles, arena, stadium.” This is the term translated race in 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Our English versions typically adapt the Greek term stadion “to familiar measurements of distance” (Louw-Nida).

5 responses to “More on Roman Roads and Milestones

  1. Pingback: More artifacts of the Tenth Roman Legion | Ferrell's Travel Blog

  2. Thanks to each of you for the comments.

    Tom, I am especially appreciative of the correction on the Hoade comment. Your link to the 1930s photo of the American Colony group evidence enough for me.

    Based on Carta’s Jerusalem Street Atlas I had trouble deciding about the street name. You may be correct that the “little lane” has no name.


  3. Ferrell: Thanks for an interesting post! The inscribed column fragment-cum-lamppost is one of my favorite “minor” landmarks in the Old City.

    BUT… I’m afraid the story advanced by Hoade, that it was “scalped by a bomb in 1948” is pure tour-guide hokum. Here is a photo of the column/lamppost taken no later than the mid-1930s: It was unearthed in the 1880s during excavations for a new hotel being built on the spot by the Greek Orthodox, so the column as it stands today is not in situ.

    About “Demetrius Street”: There is a street by that name nearby, but I don’t think this is it. I doubt the little lane has a name: The column was actually erected at the intersection of the two central passageways of the rather unusual Imperial Hotel building. Next time you’re there, look up and enjoy the restored painted vaulting overhead!


  4. Dear Ferrell,

    thank you for adding this explanation of the difference between the word used in Matthew and the word used by Luke, John and Paul!

    in my opinion, the difference can be explained as follows: face his audience, Jesus expressed “an amount of effort” required to serve others or simply a way to recommend them to perform these chores without resentment that the authorities required them, in as they were not contrary to divine law.

    the word used by the other biblical writers evokes: a “distance” to get from one point to another.

    thank you very much for these very interesting items.

    greetings christian.
    (sorry for my bad english spoken)

  5. Ferrell,
    It is posts like this one on the column near the Jaffa Gate and the Roman distance measurements which set you above all others as a peerless and indispensable teacher.

    You amaze me!
    Go with God and God will be good

    Larry Haverstock
    Web: http://www.TruthOnDisc.Com

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.