Ring sheds light on Jewish soldiers in Roman army

Roman bronze ring – £22,000 at Pax Romana.

A Roman bronze ring offered for sale by Pax Romana (15% buyer’s premium) in London on November 24 appears to shed light on a little known aspect of the imperial army: the contribution of Jewish soldiers.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Terence Ryle

To the bezel is the Star of David while the shoulders are inscribed Ves-Pas (for the emperor Vespasian who ruled from 69-79) and Legio VII (Seventh Legion).

Evidence suggests that Jews served in the imperial army from the beginning of the Pax Romana under Augustus (27BC-14AD) to the ascent of Christianity in the 5th century.

The First Jewish Revolt (66-70) itself – including the Roman army’s capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70AD – was thwarted with the aid of Tiberius Julius Alexander, an Alexandrian Jew who as Prefect of Egypt employed his legions in Judea. Many other Jews were hired as foot soldiers, leaving inscriptions or symbols on their tombstones and sarcophagi.

This ring, described by the auction house as unique, came for sale from a private collection in London that had been formed in the 1970s on the UK and European art market. It was estimated at just £500-700 but found plenty of admirers before the gavel fell at £22,000.