The Kitos Revolt and Roman Britain
Roman skulls found at Crossrail site in London
We're going to take a quick look at the puzzle of the skulls found in the remains of Roman London, and see if, perhaps, they relate in some way to the Kitos Revolt (Second Jewish-Roman War 115-117). I wrote of this war in my last post: Quietus as the monstrous fish (kitos)
Dominic Perring on the Mystery of the Crossrail Skulls21 April 2016
Dominic Perring will feature in the programme Mystery of the Crossrail Skulls to be broadcast on Channel 4 on 24 April.
The programme follows the investigation into dozens of Roman skulls found beneath Liverpool Street station in London during the Crossrail project.
Dominic will present some new arguments concerning the possible association of these Roman skulls with a forgotten rebellion of the Hadrianic period (circa AD 125/130), London's destruction in a great fire at this time, and the building of a new fort and vicus adjacent to the Roman city.
Dominic is the author of Roman London as well as publishing numerous articles on aspects of urbanisation in Roman Britain and elsewhere.
He was previously invited to comment in the media about a headless human skeleton uncovered as part of the Crossrail excavations in London.
Dozens of Roman skulls have been found beneath Liverpool Street station in London. Were they gladiators? Executed rebels? Or maybe victims of a massacre or an ancient grisly ritual?
Sunday 24 April, 8pm. Duration 46:45 23 days left
Many suggestions have been made to account for the skulls, some of which were placed in a grid pattern of pits, and others spaced at intervals in a ditch along a road leading into Roman London. Dating has not been exact, though placed in confidence to the period of Trajan/Hadrian.
The best explanation, it appears to me, is that there was a rebellion; the question then arises: against whom, by whom?
Roman wall and the west corner tower of Eboracum. The top half is medieval.
Founded in 71 CE, the name is thought to derive from the Brythonic word Eborakon, Place of the Yew Tree, when this tree was held sacred by the Druids.
We know of one rebellion in Roman Britain in this time-frame: that in northern Britain, in which the Roman city of Eboracum/York was attacked and the garrison annihilated in 115. This is proposed as the reason for the later construction of Hadrian's Wall (begun 122).
There is no record of a wider rebellion in Britain for that period, but that is not decisive: sometimes archaeology contradicts the known, historical record, or just fills in gaps.
Why now? Opportunity, perhaps:
"While the majority of the Roman armies were fighting Trajan's Parthian War on the eastern border of the Roman Empire, major uprisings by ethnic Judeans in Cyrene, Libya, Cyprus and Egypt spiraled out of control, resulting in a widespread slaughter of left behind Roman garrisons and Roman citizens by Jewish rebels. Some of the areas with the heaviest massacres were left so utterly annihilated that others were made to settle these areas to prevent the absence of any remaining presence."
|Mithraic Tauroctony scene, Eboracum|
Though there must have been Jews in Roman Britain, we have no record of a substantial population, certainly not sufficient to lead a revolt. But maybe, seeing the suppression of their religion after the First Jewish-Roman War, the holocaust which followed and their women sold into slavery, any in Britain may have found a ready ear amongst the Celts and druids.
If the date of the British revolt is a little later, then we have the Third Jewish-Roman War:
|Bar Kokhba's tetradrachm "to the freedom of Jerusalem"|
"The revolt erupted as a result of religious and political tensions in Judea. Simon bar Kokhba, the commander of the revolt, was regarded by many Jews as the Messiah, who would restore their national independence. Initial rebel victories over the Romans established an independent state of Israel over parts of Judea for over two years, as Bar Kokhba took the title of Nasi ("prince"). This setback however caused Roman Emperor Hadrian to assemble a large scale Roman force from across the Empire, which invaded Judea in 134 under the command of Roman General Julius Severus. The Roman army was made of six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions, which finally managed to crush the revolt."One thing is, I think, certain: we have a lot of decapitated skulls in London - maybe 6,000, and we don't know why.