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The Southeastern Frontier
The Southeastern Frontier
Milestones on the Via Nova
Milestones on the Via Nova
The Central Sector
The Central Sector
The Southern Sector
The Southern Sector
Strategic Location of Watchtowers
Strategic Location of Watchtowers
The Northern Sector
The Northern Sector
Overview of el-Lejjun
Overview of el-Lejjun
Plan of el-Lejjun
Plan of el-Lejjun
‘Ain Lejjun
‘Ain Lejjun
The Bath at el-Lejjun
The Bath at el-Lejjun
The Apse of the Church
The Apse of the Church
Reservoir at el-Lejjun
Reservoir at el-Lejjun
Tribunal at el-Lejjun
Tribunal at el-Lejjun
Wall Tumble from Earthquake
Wall Tumble from Earthquake
Plan of Udruh
Plan of Udruh
Plan of Khirbet el-Fityan
Plan of Khirbet el-Fityan
S Wall of Khirbet el-Fityan
S Wall of Khirbet el-Fityan
Rujm Beni Yasser
Rujm Beni Yasser
Rujm Beni Yasser
Rujm Beni Yasser
Qasr Bshir
Qasr Bshir
Plan of Qasr Bshir
Plan of Qasr Bshir
Interior of Qasr Bshir
Interior of Qasr Bshir
NE Tower of Qasr Bshir
NE Tower of Qasr Bshir
Plan of Da’janiya
Plan of Da’janiya
Da’janiya
Da’janiya
Entrance to Da’janiya
Entrance to Da’janiya
Plastered Wall of Da’janiya
Plastered Wall of Da’janiya
Qasr Abu Rukba
Qasr Abu Rukba
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Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier

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1Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier. 23to the turn of the 5th century. It is 16.8
Gregory Linton, Ph.D. Karak Resources ha (41.5 acres) in size and rectangular in
Project. shape.
2Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier. 24The Northern Sector.
The Meaning of Limes Arabicus. 25el-Lejjun. Called Betthorus in Roman
3Annexation of Nabataea. The Romans writings Built around AD 300 beside ‘Ain
annexed the Nabataean kingdom in AD 106. Lejjun, most important water source on the
Perhaps the Nabataeans lacked a legitimate Karak Plateau Housed the Legio IV Martia
successor to the king. The Romans called 4.6 ha (11.4 acres) in size; rectangular
the region Provincia Arabia. The emperor in shape Semicircular corner towers; 20
appointed a legate, who governed from the U-shaped interval towers Gate in middle of
capital in Bostra. each wall.
4The Southeastern Frontier. 26Overview of el-Lejjun.
5Via Nova Traiana. The Romans improved 27el-Lejjun. Originally housed 2000 men
the security of the region. Trajan built Destroyed by earthquake in AD 363 Rebuilt
the Via Nova Traiana between AD 111 and to house only 1000 men Damaged by
114. It was a major road from Bostra (in earthquake in AD 505 Destroyed by
southern Syria) to Aila (on the Red Sea), earthquake in AD 551 Excavated by Parker
a distance of 267 miles. Its primary for five seasons between 1980 and 1989.
purpose was to facilitate transportation 28Plan of el-Lejjun.
for troops and government officials. 29‘Ain Lejjun.
6Milestones on the Via Nova. 30The Bath at el-Lejjun.
7The Severan Dynasty. During the 31The Apse of the Church.
Severan dynasty (AD 193-235), the Romans 32Reservoir at el-Lejjun.
strengthened their defenses. They 33Tribunal at el-Lejjun.
constructed forts at the northwest end of 34Wall Tumble from Earthquake.
the Wadi Sirhan. They repaired and 35Udruh. Located just east of Petra
improved roads. Similar to el-Lejjun in size (12 acres)
8Diocletian’s Reforms. Around AD 300, and design Housed the Legio IV Ferrata
Diocletian transferred the southern region Excavated by Alistair Killick, who dates
to the province of Palestine. Later in the it to the early 2nd century Dated by
century, it was detached from Palestine Parker to late 3rd or early 4th century.
and called Palaestina Tertia. The three 36Plan of Udruh.
provinces were administered by: a praeses, 37Aila. Located in modern ‘Aqaba Located
who had civil authority, and a dux, who at north end of Gulf of ‘Aqaba Intersected
had military authority. by several land routes Housed Legio X
9The Military Expansion. Diocletian Fretensis, which was transferred from
built fortresses, forts, and watchtowers Jerusalem Constructed in late 4th or early
along the fringe of the desert just east 5th century Excavated by Parker since
of the Via Nova. The term for this 1994.
north-to-south line of military 38Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier.
installations is limes Arabicus, which Castella in Arabia.
means “Arabian frontier.” This line of 39Forts in Arabia. Latin terms for forts
defense extended from south of Damascus to were castellum or castra. Forts filled in
Wadi al-Hasa. The zone south of Wadi the gaps between the larger fortresses.
al-Hasa was called the limes Palaestina. Their positions provided better
10The Central Sector. The region from observation of movements in the desert.
Wadi al-Mujib to Wadi al-Hasa contained 40Khirbet el-Fityan. Located 1.5 km (1
four castella and a legionary camp. mi.) NW of el-Lejjun Built at same time as
11The Southern Sector. The region from el-Lejjun West curtain founded on Iron Age
Wadi al-Hasa to the Red Sea contained ten wall Square in shape; 0.6 ha (1.5 acres)
castella and a legionary camp. in size Rectangular towers in four
12The Size of the Expansion. S. Thomas corners, in middle of west and south
Parker estimates the early fourth-century walls, and flanking main gate in north
garrison of Arabia totaled 4,850 men. It wall Intervisible with surrounding
was reduced by 1,000 men by the end of the watchtowers.
century. The military buildup may explain 41Plan of Khirbet el-Fityan.
the dramatic increase in Byzantine 42S Wall of Khirbet el-Fityan.
settlements in the 4th and 5th centuries. 43Rujm Beni Yasser. Fortlet 1 km E of
13Notitia Dignitatum. The only literary el-Lejjun reconstructed from Nabataean
evidence for Roman military operations in structure.
Arabia is Notitia Dignitatum, which was 44Rujm Beni Yasser.
written around AD 400. It lists two 45Qasr Bshir. Cavalry outpost located 9
legions, eight equites (elite cavalry mi. NE of el-Lejjun Constructed between AD
vexillations), six alae (cavalry units), 293 and 305 Quadriburgium = square with
and five infantry cohorts. The forces were large corner towers 0.31 ha (0.77 acres)
referred to as limitanei, troops that in size; trapezoid in shape.
manned the limes. The location of only 4 46Qasr Bshir. Large corner projecting
of the 21 units have not yet been towers (12 m2) 3 stories high Contain slit
identified. windows Stables for animals on lower level
14Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier. around perimeter Barracks above the
The Purpose of Limes Arabicus. stables Housed 150 men.
15S. Thomas Parker’s Theory. Romans were 47Qasr Bshir.
concerned about Saracen raids on 48Plan of Qasr Bshir.
settlements and caravan traffic. The 49Interior of Qasr Bshir.
Romans located forts and watchtowers at 50NE Tower of Qasr Bshir.
the entrances to wadis, which provided 51Da’janiya. S of Wadi al-Hasa; W of
access to settlements to the west. The Desert Highway; NE of Udruh Constructed in
limes monitored the movements of the late 3rd and early 4th century 1 ha (2.47
Saracens and deterred them from raiding. acres) in size; square in shape Heavily
16Strategic Location of Watchtowers. plastered walls Main gate in E wall
17David Graf’s Theory. Graf is the Rectangular corner projecting towers Two
primary critic of the traditional theory. interval towers in each wall.
Gaps in the line of defense show that 52Plan of Da’janiya.
Romans were not concerned about raids from 53Da’janiya.
the desert. Romans were concerned with 54Entrance to Da’janiya.
pacifying a rebellious population. 55Plastered Wall of Da’janiya.
18Problems with Graf’s Theory. Military 56Humeima. Built in late 2nd century and
installations were not located in villages called Auara Located on Via Nova between
and cities but on the desert fringe. Graf Petra and Aila Built at north edge of a
provides little evidence that the large community Probably abandoned in 4th
population was rebellious. Gaps in the century 3 ha (7+ acres) in size;
line of defense occur in areas of rough rectangular in shape Gate in middle of
terrain, which provided natural defense. each wall Projecting rectangular corner
Graf discounts the literary evidence for and interval towers Housed 500 men
the threat of Saracen invasion. Excavated by John Oleson in 1990s.
19Philip Mayerson’s Theory. The limes 57Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier.
was not a line of defense to keep out the Watchtowers in Arabia.
Saracens. Saracens moved freely within the 58Watchtowers. Numerous watchtowers have
province. The limes was the furthest been identified. Roman reused existing
extent of the settled or inhabited region. Iron Age and Nabataean structures. They
The troops reacted defensively to also built new ones. They were built on
attacking forces and monitored movements top of hills and ridges. They could pass
of tribes. signals by means of smoke during the day
20Benjamin Isaac’s Theory. Romans were and by means of torches at night.
concerned with brigands and robbers who 59Qasr Abu Rukba.
were disrupting commerce. However, the 60Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier.
expense and effort of establishing so many The End of the Roman Frontier.
defenses suggests a greater threat. 61The Decline of Military Presence.
Military posts were located on the desert Romans diverted forces to other threatened
fringe, not in settlements and along frontiers in the mid-400s. In early 500s,
interior roads. Justinian turned over defense of
21Conclusions. Parker’s theory provides southeastern frontier to the Ghassanids, a
the most adequate explanation of the limes Christian Arab tribe. Around AD 530,
Arabicus. The forts may have served troops withdrew and the limes Arabicus
different purposes in different periods. ceased to exist.
They also may have served more than one 62Withdrawal of Troops. El-Lejjun,
purpose much of the time. Khirbet el-Fityan, Rujm Beni Yasser, Qasr
22Roman Forts on the Arabian Frontier. Bshir, and Da’janiya were abandoned at
Legionary Fortresses in Arabia. this time. Watchtowers provide no evidence
23Bostra. The northernmost fortress, of occupation in 6th or early 7th
constructed soon after AD 106, was in the centuries. By early 600s, fortified
capital of Bostra. It has not been frontier in Palestine and Transjordan no
excavated because much of it is located longer existed. This withdrawal led to the
beneath the modern city. It was manned by Muslim conquest in the 600s.
Legio III Cyrenaica from the 2nd century
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