Feb 18, 2008

Six more Roman Miles to Livias

In January I visited the Mt Nebo Interpretation Display, Jordan. While walking around the room I spotted this pillar and the sign that read “The Sixth Milestone of the Roman Esbus-Livias Road.” Now that caught my attention because I believed that Scott Stripling and I had discovered Livias and now we had some hard evidence that could locate our site. Another point of reference is in the writing of Eusebius who specifically mentions the VIth and VIIth mile markers in his Onomasticon (136.5; 77.11; 48.3; 12.20; 16.24). Eusebius writes that Mount Nebo “is shown at the VIth Mile of the city of Esbus” (Onomasticon, 136.5) and use of the road was “for him who goes to or goes up from Livias to Esbus of Arabia” (Onomasticon, 16.24). This road ran between Livias and Esbus (Hesban) and was used by pilgrims traveling from Jerusalem via Jericho and the Jordan River to reach Mt Nebo (sanctuary of Moses). The pilgrim Egeria used this road after stopping in Livias to travel up to Mt Nebo. The VIth mile marker was the point where one could either climb to the top of Mt Nebo or turn north and visit the Springs of Moses. She writes:

We began to hasten in order to reach mount Nebo. As we went, the priest of the place, i. e. Livias, whom we had prayed to accompany us from the station, because he knew the places well, advised us, saying: “If you wish to see the water which flows from the rock, which Moses gave to the children of Israel when they were thirsty, you can see it if you are willing to undertake the labour of going about six miles out of the way.” When he had said this, we very eagerly wished to go, and turning at once out of our way, we followed the priest who led us ( McClure, and Feltoe, Egeria, pp. 20–21).

The Mount Nebo Interpretation Display reads: “The Sixth Mile, near the Roman fortress of al-Mahattah, at Sarabit half way between Esbus [Hesbon] and Livias.” The Italian group which constructed the museum on Mount Nebo states that the mile marker was between Hesban and Tall Rama. But as a good friend David Maltsberger describes Tall Rama it is “a wart on the buttocks of the valley.” It is so small you can hardly see it driving by. Compare this to the largest site on the Jordan Valley. Just look at google earth for the Kefrein dam and your site is huge compared to Tall Rama.

The Inscription on the milestone reads:

IMP(erator) CAESAR M(arcus)



MAX(imus) BRITANNIC(us) MAX(imus)

PONTIFEX MAS(imus) TRIB(unicia)

POT(estatis) XVI IMP(erator) IT CO(n)S(ul) IIII

P(ater) P(atriae) PROC(onsul) VIAS ET


A HESB(unte) M(illia passuum) VI

The display at the Mt Nebo Interpretation center reads “The works were carried out by order of the governor Furnius lulianus in 213 AD, at the time of Emperor Caracalla.”

Tall el-Hammam is exactly 12 Roman miles from Hesbon, it is exactly 6 Roman miles from the VIth Roman mile marker. Tall el-Hammam is exactly where Livias is said to be not at Tall Rama. There is a map and alot more evidence in our forthcoming article.

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