Material: Iron, Silver / Lead Alloy, Bronze, Ivory, Paint, Lacquer, and Paste
Era: 69 to 79 AD
Culture: Roman / Roman Provincial
Style: Roman and Ancient Syrian, Anatolian, or Armenian
Origin: From a Dealer in Germany, purported to have originated in Germany
This is a Commemorative or Presentation Field Parazonium of General Titus Flavius Vespasian (9 TO 79 AD, Emperor from 69 to 79 AD) at the Siege / Battle of Gamala, it possibly once belonged to a Prefectus commanding a mounted or foot archer unit of Legion XV Apollinaris, or possibly to a Tribune of that legion (if it was a Tribune's then most likely it was one of the five of Equestrian rank). The pommel's art depictions show the Siege / Battle of Gamala (aka Gamal or Gamel, which is located on the Golan and is named after a Semitic word for Camel as the hilltop has two humps, this battle is aka the "Masada of the North") of the First Jewish Revolt , 66 to 73 AD* (this revolt was actually a rebellion and civil war at the same time, the Romans were territorial occupiers with a client Jewish King, Herod Agrippa II), it is also a salute to Vespasian's personal heroics and leadership at that siege / battle. This is significant as Vespasian was considered a "Savoir Emperor" (he was thought by the Romans to fulfill a prophecy in a passage of the Sibylline books, but he was also given a Messianic Jewish "Saviorship" by Josephus**) and it was at Gamala that his heroic action and level headed leadership did in fact actualize the meaning of the first word of that phrase. The Field Parazonium has inscriptions in both Roman and Greek. The type of miniature art seen is condensed and shows various aspects (including geographical) through the symbolic. It also has a lead wash layered with paint and lacquer. The art style is Roman mixed with Northern Germanic. This technique may be Northern Germanic, but it may also be of the Eastern Provinces, if so then it may have originated from the ancient Chinese, which can only be due to the opening of the Silk Road and/or interaction with the Sarmatian tribes (who had, or had once had contact with the Chinese), and, or the Parthians. According to artifacts this advanced technique appears in the 1st C. AD and disappears in the Mid to Late 2nd C. AD. The technique allows for a type of animation with art, which becomes active with sunlight or when brought close to firelight. The pommel on one side shows: legionaries, cavalry, archers, siege weapons, what appear to be Jewish Royal soldiers, and a wall opening near the pommel's top. There are scenes of individuals and groups (representing units) maneuvering, legionaries climbing (there are two instances that this is shown with shield's on their backs), siege ladders, and there is one area that shows all out fighting. On top of the pommel there is a scene of urban fighting on a hilltop top complex, battering rams, but it also shows house and roof top fighting. On the right arch there are the bind numbers and letters: X with a slanted V (if turned to the right this will make a letter M), then an A, and then a smaller P, under this is a large classic Roman letter V, next to this is a letter S that is part of the. This should be for Vespasian, but also the XV Apollinaris (Titus the son of Vespasian and another future emperor commanded this legion) and the V Macedonia (Vespasian had been in command of the V Macedonia). The other side of the pommel shows various figures, it hints of a patrolling, and a mopping up, but also of a legion that is maneuvering around the mountain as to arrive at the summit, and on the front on top of the wall, which should represent Legion X Fretensis. The large figures appear as a group of three females with hoods in a line (possibly with one being a male), the facial expressions hint that they may represent the rebels that jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the Romans. If this is tilted forward it will show two large legionaries, one is holding a ring, this has a rope attached to it, this appears to be attached to a large hooded figure that should represent Josephus. On the lower left there is a scene that may be of an underground area that has Jewish survivors of the siege / battle. Upon close examination it appears that there that there are in fact the faces of two woman, this is what was reported by Josephus. There is a slight enclave that has a wavy rectangular Roman shield on it that is somewhat horizontal, it has an X on it that may suggest the legionaries of the X. Another view shows a dark haired woman looking down, perhaps reading a reprieve, but this also appears as an amphora. Near this there is a line of non legionary figures that are bare headed and positioned as if passing by this spot, they may Jewish slaves that were former rebels, but there are also shapes of horse heads and round shields, they may in fact be Numidian (North African) Cavalry. Behind this scene to the upper right there are figures, including two that are on dromedaries (aka camels, highlighted in niello), most likely a reference to Gamala. The Greek inscriptions have not yet been reviewed, but inside the wall opening there are the letters FLA, this should be the abbreviation for Flavius or Flavian for General and later Emperor Vespasian. Over the wall opening there is a warrior holding a dagger (but from another view he is holding a bow), under him are the letters S and under this an A, the A appears as bind letters of an I , R and possibly a C, hence it could be identifying the warrior as a Sicari, this may suggest that a group of Sicari were at the rebel forefront in this battle. If this is turned to the right then it will show legionaries, legionary shields, possibly a legion's eagle, one shield has a distinct eagle head, it should be of the V Macedonia. Inside the pommel head's left ear it has a letter A and under this a letter N, this should be an abbreviation for "Augustus Noster" (Our Emperor). The hilt is curved to one side as to give a comfortable fit when worn in front on the upper middle and lower chest area. This feature shows that the pull with this is to; with the right hand grasp the grip with knuckles outward, then pull up and out to the right (in a semi circle), the Field Parazonium is thus poised like a pugio or gladius at the ready (or, perhaps for ceremonies it was with the point up, as a type of present arms). The pommel has combinations of the head of a wolf, boar, and possibly a calf. The other way around it shows a combination of a long grotesque styled human head and a ship's prow that is blended with an eagle. The grip is vertically fluted like a column (but there is no capital, therefore I assume that the Roman owner had been of Equestrian rank), there is as a ring / collar around the top of the grip (on the neck of the pommel's head). There is intricate miniature work of silver / lead alloy, bronze, ivory, and paste. The bronze grip and iron guard shows intricate work with the remnants of ivory and paste. It is very likely that it had been gold and silver gilded. The guard is made of iron and coated in lead, this is very unusual for a Roman blade weapon. The style and decorative motif of the guard is Syrian, ancient Anatolian, or Armenian, the work shows various art depictions (or remnants of these), some are inlaid. Of note are those seen on the wedge on the top and bottom, these show scenes of a mountain god or goddess, or one on each, this may be of one mountain or duel mountains, duel mountains are mentioned in many ancient myths and legends. This may eventually explain why the guard is made of iron. The blade has the impressions of the design work that had been on the sheath (there may or may not be engravings on the blade itself). These show different types of sea tritons, sirens, and sea serpents that meet at the blade's middle, this most likely represents a sea straight. If the dagger (on the front side only) is turned upside down then the sea creature's heads in the middle will turn into a cock's head with two eagle heads (the eagle's most likely being a male and a female, as eagles mate for life) in front of it, the cock is most likely a reference to worship of the rising sun, this may be a reference to the god Apollo, but also to the land of Anatolia, as it is the meaning of that name), the double headed eagle is also a distinct theme of ancient Anatolia. The blade is shaped like the actual Parazoimun that is either held or carried, but with a very distinct difference in that there is an extremely sharp curved portion on one side near the guard (this appears to be an expertly crafted addition), it can be expected that it had been razor sharp in antiquity. This feature may have been designed for close combat with a horizontal back slash or a thrust back slash, but if so then it should be more curved and much longer. Speculation is that it may have had a utility use for cutting rope (suggesting a connection with cavalry, or the nautical, or immunes as engineers?), the Field Parazonium Knife (of the Marcel Julsing Collection) that is shown with the Parazonium in this collection validates that these were made for utility as well as weapons of status and war. It also could have been symbolic of a trophy of a Sicari (or in imitation of a local warrior cultic initiation practice (a hint at what this practice may be is the large hooded figure in front that makes the first hump, the wall on top can appear as if it is his arm inserted into the second hump, this will soon be explained), if so then this would explain the iron guard.
*The siege at Gamala began for the Romans in 67 AD when General Vespasian arrived with three legions; the V Macedonia, the X Fretensis, and the XV Apollinaris along with their auxiliaries and allies, previously for seven months Jewish Royal forces had been conducting the siege, apparently they stayed until the city was taken. The Romans tried to coax the defenders into surrendering but this was turned down. Vespasian's forces attacked up the mountain. Upon entering the city the rebels fierce resolve and the layered apartment type buildings proved to be to much for their force, they found themselves trapped and being cut to pieces. Vespasian upon realizing that his forces were in jeopardy left his command position and went forward (apparently with a very small guard force), he then found himself trapped near the heights of the city. In response he organized the legionaries around him into a shield testudo (tortoise), fought off all attackers, and then began a withdrawal. It can be assumed that this disciplined action inspired others to do the same. The legionaries that survived then made their way to the safety of their camps, there were no prisoners taken on either side. It is evident that Vespasian had made an error in letting inexperienced Legatus Legionis's (a Legatus Legionis commanded a legion of 5,500, he was equivalent to a modern Regimental Colonel, but with the status of a Brigadier General) lead the attack as Vespasian was a battle hardened General with a reputation for excellence and fairness (therefore he was a realist). He then waited for his son Titus who commanded the XV Apollinaris to arrive back from an emissary, shortly thereafter he ordered another attack, this time the legions prevailed. According to Josephus 4,000 rebels died in the fighting, and another 5,000 killed themselves by throwing themselves off a cliff, or cliffs (a different translation is that they fell while fleeing), there were only two survivors found hiding in a cellar. Josephus may have been a lot of things that are less then admirable (a General that turns can never be redeemed), but he does not appear to have been a liar or an exaggerator, the coincidence of the two survivors at Gamala and Masada (and five children at Masada) may have been due to his influence. If this is associated with Gamala, then in symbolism the two women may symbolize the two humps of a camel (or the covenant of Moses, or a sacred mountain with twin peaks, or all of those), the camel's humps representing nourishment (food and water) for survival during a crises. In Josephus's writings it is apparent that he never considered himself a traitor, but rather still the aristocrat he thought of himself a loyal Jew who disagreed with the conduct of the rebellion.
** Titus Flavius Josephus, (aka Flavius Josephus, but usually known as just Josephus, 37 to after 100 AD) was a Romanized Jewish writer who was a former Jewish rebel General that had surrendered (under very usual circumstances) at Jotapata. Previous to this he had among other things been in charge of fortifying Gamala. He was either a Pharisee or an Orthodox Aristocrat Priest. After his capture he predicted that Vespasian would become the long awaited Jewish Messiah, of sorts (as Vespasian had been sent by Nero as a Special General to Judea, he was in fact Judea's primary military leader), for this he was given a reprieve and made a historical scribe by the General and later Emperor Vespasian). Most historians give Josephus's writings some cautious credence, others dispute the details of his claims as exaggeration, or even fiction.
Copyright 2007 David Xavier Kenney.
Revised June and Dec. 2007