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Aerial View of Tel Megiddo area Fig. 2

Map of greater Megiddo/Legio site with geographical and main archeological features discussed in the text.

Tepper et. al. (2016)

Transliterated Name Source Name
Kefar ʿUthnai Hebrew כפר עותנאי
Legio Latin
Caporcotani Latin in the Tabula Peutingeriana Map
Legionum ? Latin
al-Lajjun Arabic اللجّون

Tepper et. al. (2016:91) report that historical evidence and archaeological surveys conducted over several decades in the Legio-Megiddo region in the Jezreel Valley, Israel indicate the presence of the Roman VIth Ferrata Legion at the site of el-Manach Hill from the early 2nd century CE to its final abandonment by late 3rd to early 4th century CE.


Textual sources indicate that in the early 2nd century CE the Roman VIth Ferrata Legion was deployed to Judaea to replace the IInd Traiana Legion, which had been briefly stationed there. Epigraphic evidence and historical sources date the establishment of their camp to the beginning of the 2nd century CE (Tsafrir et al. 1994: 170). The castra (legionary base)1 of the VIth Ferrata was located near the Jewish-Samaritan village of Kefar ‘Othnay in the “Great Plain” (Mega Pedion in Greek and Campus Maximus in Latin), at the site of Legio south of Tel Megiddo2 in the Jezreel Valley (see Figs. 1–2). The site is adjacent to the Qeni Stream (Nahal Qeni), which flows from the hills in the west to the valley in the east and provides water year-round. The geographical position is unique, at the convergence of three distinct landscapes: the Manasseh Hills, the Samaria Hills and the Jezreel Valley. In the Early Roman period an imperial road (cursus publicus) passed through the area, leading from Caesarea Maritima on the coast to Scythopolis (Beth She’an) in the Jordan Valley. With the establishment of the legionary base, it became the starting point (capita viarum) for the Roman imperial roads in the northern part of the country. Within a short time six principal Roman roads were constructed from the legionary base to Ptolemais (Akko), Diocaesarea (Sepphoris), Scythopolis, Neapolis (Samaria-Sebaste) and two roads to Caesarea.

Based on inscriptions from milestones along the road to Scythopolis, Roll and Isaac first suggested that the castra of the VIth Legion was located on the broad hill of el-Manach northwest of the modern Megiddo Junction (Isaac and Roll 1982: 79–80, 86; see also Tsuk 1988–89). Tepper’s 2002 archaeological survey around the hill demonstrated the unique location of the base at the precise location of a large bend in the Qeni Stream, and revealed a variety of Roman artefacts. These included Roman pottery, coins, inscriptions, and VIth Legion Ferrata imprinted roof tiles, among other finds (Tepper 2002; 2003; 2007: 57–71). Further, Tepper suggested that the rectangular shape of the topography seen on the northern side of el-Manach Hill in Gottlieb Schumacher’s map were remains of the ramparts of the base (1908; Fig. 3).

In 2010, the Jezreel Valley Regional Project (JVRP)3 began investigations at Legio, with the primary goal of verifying the presence of the Roman VIth Legion and its chronology, as well as of better understanding of the regional impact of its presence in the valley in the 2nd–3rd centuries CE. In 2010 and 2011 the JVRP conducted ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic (EM) resonance surveys at el-Manach providing further evidence for the location of the legionary base (Pincus et al., 2013). On the basis of these and earlier surveys, as well as with aerial photography and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) topographical data, the JVRP conducted an archaeological excavation for two weeks in 2013.4

1. The Latin castra has been translated into English variously as ‘camp’, ‘fort’, or ‘fortress’ regardless of the structure’s intended period of use. Noting the inconsistency, Webster argued for a more precise use of ‘camp’ specifically for such temporary encampments as campaign or marching camps, ‘fort’ for a more permanent establishment for single units, and ‘fortress’ for permanent legionary bases (Webster 1998: 167). Here, we have chosen ‘legionary base’ since ‘fortress’ over-emphasises the defensive apparatus at the expense of the administrative and settlement components of the base. Thanks to Prof. Benjamin Isaac for discussions on this matter.

2. Since 2005, Tel Megiddo has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. The JVRP is a long-term, multi-disciplinary survey and excavation project investigating the history of human activity in the Jezreel Valley from the Paleolithic through the Ottoman periods. The JVRP survey is directed by Matthew J. Adams (W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research) with Jonathan David (Gettysburg College), Margaret Cohen (Penn State University), and Robert Homsher (Harvard University) as assistant directors ( The University of Hawai’i Manoa and the University of Oklahoma are consortium members of the project. In addition to the excavations at Legio, the JVRP is currently conducting a high-resolution archaeological survey of the valley and excavations at Tel Megiddo East (Adams et al. forthcoming), in addition to archaeological and historical studies of the broader region.

4. The JVRP Legio excavations operate under the auspices of the JVRP, American Archaeology Abroad, the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research, and the University of Hawaii, with the cooperation of the Tel Aviv University Megiddo Expedition. Yotam Tepper, Jonathan David, and Matthew J. Adams directed the 2013 excavations (permit G-59/2013). Assistance was provided by Robert S. Homsher (field archaeologist; geoarchaeologist), Melissa Cradic (field archaeologist; education program coordinator); Adam Prins (field archaeologist; LiDAR and Structure for Motion specialist); Nick Kraus (field archaeologist); Nadia Knudsen (field archaeologist; archaeological illustrator); Katie Hunt (osteologist; archaeological illustrator; photography; RTI); Stephanie Steinke (field archaeologist; multispectral imagery analyst); Becky Simon (registrar); Jen Thum (registrar; RTI); Margaret E. Cohen (office manager); Viv Pierce (office assistant); Tricia Colletto (field staff); Yuval Lopane, Yoav Lopane, and Moshe Lopane (metal detector survey); Donald Tzvi Ariel (numismatist); Benjamin Isaac (epigrapher); Sapir Heed (artist); JVRP students, youth from Moshav Yodfat, and members of the Regavim community at Kibbutz Megiddo. Codifi database technology was provided by the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA), Michael Ashley and Tyler Wilson. We thank them all.


Greek and Latin geographical and administrative sources as well as rabbinic literature mention the presence of three settlements in the vicinity of Legio in the Roman and Byzantine periods: the Jewish village of Kefar ʻOthnay, a Roman legionary base known as Legio, and the city (polis) of Maximianopolis (Tsafrir, Di Segni and Green 1994: 170, 182).

The earliest citations of Kefar ʻOthnay appear in the compilations of Jewish law, the Mishnah and Tosefta. While the historicity of the anecdotes in these sources is debatable, several observations on the content of the references to Kefar ‘Othnay are helpful. In the late 2nd century Tosephta Parah, a certain Rabbi Eliezer ben Shemaiah, from Kefar ‘Othnay is said to have solicited advice from Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai (Tos. Parah 10.2). The latter died at the end of the 1st century CE, which may indicate that the village had been established by then. In the early 3rd century Mishna Gittin, the town is described as being on the southern border of the halacha (Jewish religious law) governing the Galilee (M. Gittin 7:7). Rabbi Gamliel (late 1st/early 2nd centuries CE), judged a case at Kefar ‘Othnay involving Cuthean (Samaritan) witnesses to divorce documents, who were probably residents of the village (M., Gittin 1:5; Tos. Gittin 1:8), and a generation later, his son, Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel, named the village as a place where one could find Samaritan-grown vegetables (Tos. Demai 5:25). Based on these rulings, as well as some archaeological data, it appears that the village population was at least in part Samaritan during the 2nd–4th centuries CE (see also Oppenheimer 1991: 26–28).

In Greek sources, Kefar ʻOthnay appears as early as the mid-2nd century in the Geographia of Ptolemy as Kaparcotnei - Καπαρχοτνεί (ή Καπαρναούμ) (Ptol. Geog. V. 16.4). Caparcotani, the name of the village in Latin, exists on the 4th century Tab. Peut. (Seg. X) (itself based on an earlier map) as a station on the imperial road between Caesarea and Scythopolis (Beth Sheʼan). Thus, the name of the nearby Jewish-Samaritan village appears to have been the preferred toponym at that time for the legionary base (Isaac 1992: 432–433). A 2nd century inscription from Antioch of Pisidia honouring the Roman officer Gaius Novius Rusticus, son of the consul Gaius Novius Priscus (consul between 165 and 168 CE), who served with the VIth Legion Ferrata, also refers to the name of the legionary base by the Jewish toponym LEG VI FER CAPARCOT (CIL III: 6814, 6816; see also: Levick 1958: 75–76).

The Roman settlement probably had its own toponymic identity, however. In the late 3rd century CE, Eusebius of Caesarea’s (260–340 CE) Onomastikon refers to a place called Legeon (λεγεων). Eusebius uses this site as a point-of reference to describe the locations of various other sites identified in the Bible, probably reflecting the site’s status of capita viarum in the Roman road system.5 The location of Tha’anch for example, is described as three Roman miles south of Legio, at the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley (Eus., On. 98, 10; 100, 6). In his Latin translation of Eusebius, Jerome (342–420 CE) describes Legio is an oppidum (civilian town), a term referring to a major settlement in a particular district (Hier: 1, 59; 20, 15). This suggests that the base had already developed into a civilian town by that time. In the early 4th century, the legion was redeployed from Legio to Transjordan (Kennedy and Falahat 2008: 150–169) and later moved to Egypt (see Ritterling 1925: 1953; Rea 1996: Vol. 63, 4359; Cotton 2000: 351–357; Tepper and Di Segni 2006: 7–16; Barnes 2008: 59–66).

The roughly contemporary list of legionary stations mentioned in the 4th century CE Notitia Dignitatum, has neither Caparcotani nor Legio (Notitia: 72–73), indicating that the VIth Ferrata was not involved in the deployments of Roman military forces in Palestine at that time (Tsafrir 1984: 362–371).

The town eventually was transformed into the city of Maximianopolis probably in the late 3rd or early 4th century CE, during the reign of the Tetrarch Maximian but before his abdication in 305 CE. In the early 4th century CE Itinerarium Burdigalense, Maximianopolis is indicated as 18 miles from Caesarea, along the Caesarea-Scythopolis road (Itin. Burd. 586.1; Wilkinson 1999: 26–27). The city is also listed as an episcopal see during the early Byzantine period (Fedalto 1988: 1036) and among the cities of Palestine in two administrative lists of the 6th and 7th centuries CE (Hier, 720, 10.; Georg. Cypr., 1, 1034).

After the Arab conquest of the region (634–640 CE), the Islamic settlement of el-Lajjun is mentioned in various sources, recalling the name of Legio, after the form of the name in Eusebius’ Onomasticon – Legeon. This toponym survived into the early 20th century as the Islamic period and the Ottoman period village and caravanserai (Le Strange 1965: 13, 15, 28, 492–493; Pringle 1993: 3–5; Petersen 2001: 201–202).

Maps, Aerial Views, and Drawings
Maps, Aerial Views, and Drawings


Normal Size

  • Fig. 31.1 - Map of Faults and Epicenters near Megiddo from Marco et. al. (2006)
  • Fig. 2 - Map of greater Megiddo/Legio site from Tepper et. al. (2016)
  • Fig. 3 - Schumacher’s survey map (1908) from Tepper et. al. (2016)


  • Fig. 3 - Schumacher’s survey map (1908) from Tepper et. al. (2016)

Aerial Views

  • Fig. 2 - Orthophoto of Legio showing structures from Tepper et. al. (2023)
  • Legio in Google Earth
  • Legio on


  • Fig. 4 - Artist’s rendering of the legionary base at Legio from Tepper et. al. (2023)

Notes and Further Reading
Wikipedia pages


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Tel Megiddo

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Jezreel Valley Regional Project (JVRP)

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