Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hadrian's and Antoninus Pius' Statues from 135 and 138 AD

I mentioned tonight in class a stone fragment in the southern wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem. This photo is the southern gate that contains the stone fragment from the base of a Roman statue. I did not realize this stone was there when I was photographing the gate. The stone and the inscription is in the blue box in the photo below.

The very top stone in the very upper right corner of this photo is a piece of stone from the base of a statue of Antoninus Pius that stood on the temple mound. The stone contains an inscription. Hadrian would have had the statue set on the temple mount along with the Temple of Jupiter that he built after his defeat of the Jews in 135 AD.

Hadrian’s inscription reads:


Translation of Latin:
To Titus Ael[ius] Hadrianus
Antoninus Aug[ustus] Pius

the f[ather] of the f[atherland], pontif[ex], augur.

D[ecreed] by the D[ecurions]

The Roman Temple of Jupiter was torn down by Constantine. The stones were used later by the Muslims to build the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This inscription was found and placed upside down to replace a broken stone above this gate.

Hershel Shanks (archaeologist and editor of Biblical Archaeology Review) says:
"Hadrian erected an equestrian statue of himself on the Temple Mount. The anonymous fourth-century pilgrim known only as the Bordeaux Pilgrim reports that he saw two statues of Hadrian on the Temple Mount when he visited the site. The Bordeaux Pilgrim probably mistakenly identified the second statue; Hadrian's successor, Antonius Pius (138-161 AD), probably added an equestrian statue of himself, which the Bordeaux Pilgrim saw. . . It is quite possible the the Bordeaux Pilgrim saw this inscription when it was part of a statue on the Temple Mount. But he misread it. Antonius had been adopted by Hadrian and named as his successor in 138 A.D. Thus, Antoninus's name included the name of Hadrian. The Bordeaux Pilgrim apparently looked only at the first two lines and concluded that it was a second statue of Hadrian. Both had a thick beard and looked much alike when they were older. (Notice the images of their statues below). Some modern scholars have made the same mistake and read the same inscription now in secondary use as referring to Hadrian instead of Antoninus. They apparently focused on the name Hadrianus, ignoring the following name, Antoninus.

Hadrian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Antoninus Pius

For more information or to see the photos I took of the southern side of the temple mount go to

Galyn Wiemers

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