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East of the Via Nova in Roman Arabia: Two Tetrarchic Milestones from Northern Jordan

Julien Aliquot et Abdel Qader Al-Husan
p. 361-364

Résumés

Résumé – Cet article présente deux milliaires inédits découverts entre Mafraq et Zarqa, dans le nord de la Jordanie. Les deux monuments jalonnaient la même route, à l’est de la via nova et au nord de la province romaine d’Arabie. Inscrits en latin à la même époque, ils témoignent de l’entretien du réseau routier de la steppe sous la Tétrarchie.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Bauzou 1998 offers a comprehensive study on the northern section of the via nova and its milestones
  • 2 On the network of Roman roads in North-East Jordan, see Kennedy 1997, with useful maps and air pho (...)
  • 3 Bauzou 1998, p. 214-218, nos. 121-128 (via nova), p. 251-252 and no. 132 (Sabha); Bader 2009, p. 10 (...)

1The two milestones published here have been more or less recently found between Mafraq and Zarqa in Northern Jordan. The main road that crossed this area in Roman times was built under Trajan shortly after the province of Arabia was created (106 ad) in order to connect Syria to the Red Sea 1. Modern historians call it the via nova by taking the phrase that appears on its oldest milestones: viam novam a finibus Syriae usque ad mare Rubrum. As can be inferred from the places where they were discovered, our monuments did not belong to this road. They rather marked out a side route following a north-south direction to the east of the via nova and running about 30 km long from Umm al-Jimal via al-Qihati to Qasr al-Hallabat, in a stark landscape of limestone, chert, and lava 2. Both are small coarse columns of black basalt including a base, lacking mileage, and bearing a Latin dedication in honour of the two seniores Augusti Diocletian and Maximian, the two Augusts of the second Tetrarchy Constantius I (Chlorus) and Galerius, and the two Caesars Severus and Maximianus II (Daia). They were thus engraved after the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, between the 1st of May 305 ad and the 25th of July 306 ad. Several monuments of the same series have already been found along the via nova and eastwards 3. Like the numerous inscribed milestones dated from 285 to 307 ad and spotted in the northern section of the road (more than 20% of the inscribed milestones between Bostra and Philadelphia), they were certainly related to the reorganization of the Roman eastern frontier by Diocletian and his colleagues. Such operations involved the building of forts on the edge of the desert and the raising of new units as well as the construction or rehabilitation of the most strategic roads and tracks in the steppe.

21. The first milestone was found in 1998 in an ancient grave at al-Hussayniyya, about 5 km to the north of Khalidiyya and al-Qihati fortlet, along the way to al-ʿAjib. It is now at Mafraq in the courtyard of the Department of Antiquities (inv. 197). The surface of the block is much scratched. A large cross added in the middle of the monument over lines 5-9 points to a secondary use of the stone in Late Antiquity as a Christian tombstone. Dim.: 115 x 25-33 x 18-26 cm. Height of the letters: 2-3 cm (fig. 1-3).

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): front

© J. Aliquot

Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): left side

© J. Aliquot

Figure 3.

Figure 3.

Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): right side

© J. Aliquot

Felici C(aio) Aur(elio) Val(erio)
Diocletiano p-
at[ri i]mmpp(eratorum duorum) et
4 M(arco) Aur(elio) Val(erio) Maxim-
iano patri imm-
pp(eratorum duorum) et Fl(avio) Aur(elio) Val(erio)
Consta[nti]o P(io) F(elici)
8 Invicto A[ug(usto)] e[t]
G(alerio) Aur(elio) Val(erio) Maximi-
ano P(io) F(elici) [Invic]to A-
ugg(usto) et Fl(avio) Val(erio) Sev-
12 ero nob(ilissimo) Caes(ari) et
G(alerio) Val(erio) [Maximi]no
nob(ilissimo) Caes(ari).

“To the most fortunate Caius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, father of the two emperors, and Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, father of the two emperors, and to Flavius Aurelius Valerius Constantius, Pius, Felix, Invictus Augustus, and Galerius Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, Pius, Felix, Invictus Augustus, and Flavius Valerius Severus, nobilissimus Caesar, and Galerius Valerius Maximinus, nobilissimus Caesar.”

  • 4 Kennedy & Al-Husan 1996, p. 259-262, nos. 6-18.
  • 5 Kennedy & Al-Husan 1996, p. 261-262, nos. 11-12 (AE 1996, 1621-1622).
  • 6 Bauzou 1998, p. 251.

3At some distance south of al-Hussayniyya, the environs of the hill where the small Roman fort of al-Qihati stands have yielded no less than a dozen of milestones. All those which were readable are Tetrarchic in date 4. Like ours, two of them date from 305-306 ad and have similar wording 5. Other formulae also appear on contemporary milestones in Northern Jordan 6.

42. Our second milestone was lying among the blocks scattered north of the Qasr al-Hallabat, a Late Roman quadriburgium changed into an aristocratic residence under the Umayyads. Thanks are due to Thomas Weber, who found it in 2013 and who drew our attention to it. It is broken at the top and on the left, but is almost completely preserved on the right. Dim.: 93 x 23 cm. Height of the letters: 2-3 cm (fig. 4).

Figure 4.

Figure 4.

Milestone no. 2, Qasr al-Hallabat

© J. Aliquot.

[- - -]
[- - -] et Flav(io)
[Val(erio) Cons]tanti[o]
4 [Pio Felici In]vict[o]
[Aug(usto) et Gal(erio) Val(erio)] Maxi-
[miano Pio Felici In]victo
[Aug(usto) et Flav(io)] Val(erio) Seṿ[e]-
8 [ro nob(ilissimo) C]aes(ari) et
[Gal(erio) Val(erio) Maxim]ino nob(ilissimo)
[C]aes(ari).

  • 7 Kennedy 1982, p. 162, no. 28. The inscription was published with improved readings by Marcillet-Jau (...)
  • 8 Bisheh 1993, p. 49-50; Kennedy 1997, p. 86; Arce, Feissel & Weber 2014, p. 19-26.

5The names of Diocletian and Maximian have to be restored in the beginning of the text. Only one milestone was known in Qasr al-Hallabat up to now. It is a small black basalt column on a base with a Latin inscription in honour of the emperors of the first Tetrarchy (293-305 ad). David Kennedy found its two fragments in 1978, the upper part “some 200 m. beyond the fort wall on the E. slope of the hill near the perimeter fence,” the lower “inside the fort in the rubble of Room 12” 7. We may not set aside the possibility that this monument and the new one come from elsewhere, and especially from the site of Umm al-Jimal, which has long been supposed to have been used as a quarry to complete the late mansion in Hallabat 8. Nevertheless, the presence of a Late Roman quadriburgium in Hallabat, the discovery of at least one fragment of milestone out of the Umayyad residence, and the identification of the route running from Umm al-Jimal to Hallabat are also worthy of consideration. All this supports the idea that the two milestones found in Hallabat actually stood in situ or in the immediate surroundings at a time when the route was surely open and maintained, i.e. in the Tetrarchic period.

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Bibliographie

Arce (I.), Feissel (D.) & Weber (T. M.) 2014 The Edict of Emperor Anastasius I (491-519 ad): An Interim Report, Amman.

Bader (N.) 2009 Inscriptions de la Jordanie 5/1 : La Jordanie du Nord-Est (IGLS XXI, BAH 187), Beyrouth.

Bauzou (T.) 1998 « Le secteur nord de la via nova en Arabie de Bostra à Philadelphia », J.-B. Humbert & A. Desreumaux (éd.), Khirbet es-Samra 1 : La voie romaine, le cimetière, les documents épigraphiques, Turnhout, p. 101-255.

Bisheh (G.) 1993 « From Castellum to Palatium: Umayyad Mosaic Pavements from Qasr al-Hallabat in Jordan », Muqarnas 10, p. 49-56.

Kennedy (D.) 1982 Archaeological Explorations on the Roman Frontier in North-East Jordan, Oxford.

Kennedy (D.) 1997 « Roman Roads and Routes in North-East Jordan », Levant 29, p. 71-93.

Kennedy (D.) & Al-Husan (A. G.) 1996 « New Milestones from Northern Jordan: 1992-1995 », ZPE 113, p. 257-262.

Marcillet-Jaubert (J.) 1980 « Recherches au Qasr el Hallabat », ADAJ 24, p. 121-124.

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Notes

1 Bauzou 1998 offers a comprehensive study on the northern section of the via nova and its milestones.

2 On the network of Roman roads in North-East Jordan, see Kennedy 1997, with useful maps and air photographs. The route in question here is discussed at length on p. 81-88.

3 Bauzou 1998, p. 214-218, nos. 121-128 (via nova), p. 251-252 and no. 132 (Sabha); Bader 2009, p. 100, no. 122 (Umm al-Jimal).

4 Kennedy & Al-Husan 1996, p. 259-262, nos. 6-18.

5 Kennedy & Al-Husan 1996, p. 261-262, nos. 11-12 (AE 1996, 1621-1622).

6 Bauzou 1998, p. 251.

7 Kennedy 1982, p. 162, no. 28. The inscription was published with improved readings by Marcillet-Jaubert 1980, p. 122-123.

8 Bisheh 1993, p. 49-50; Kennedy 1997, p. 86; Arce, Feissel & Weber 2014, p. 19-26.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1.
Légende Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): front
Crédits © J. Aliquot
URL http://journals.openedition.org/syria/docannexe/image/3095/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/, 247k
Titre Figure 2.
Légende Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): left side
Crédits © J. Aliquot
URL http://journals.openedition.org/syria/docannexe/image/3095/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/, 346k
Titre Figure 3.
Légende Milestone no. 1, DoA Mafraq (inv. 197): right side
Crédits © J. Aliquot
URL http://journals.openedition.org/syria/docannexe/image/3095/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/, 395k
Titre Figure 4.
Légende Milestone no. 2, Qasr al-Hallabat
Crédits © J. Aliquot.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/syria/docannexe/image/3095/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/, 430k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Julien Aliquot et Abdel Qader Al-Husan, « East of the Via Nova in Roman Arabia: Two Tetrarchic Milestones from Northern Jordan », Syria, 92 | 2015, 361-364.

Référence électronique

Julien Aliquot et Abdel Qader Al-Husan, « East of the Via Nova in Roman Arabia: Two Tetrarchic Milestones from Northern Jordan », Syria [En ligne], 92 | 2015, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2017, consulté le 20 octobre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/syria/3095 ; DOI : 10.4000/syria.3095

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Auteurs

Julien Aliquot

CNRS, UMR 5189 HiSoMA, Lyon, France

Articles du même auteur

Abdel Qader Al-Husan

Department of Antiquities, Mafraq, Jordan

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Droits d’auteur

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