National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Gwyn Davies

Affiliation: Florida International University

Gwyn Davies is Associate Professor with the History Department of Florida International University, and holds his degrees from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London (Ph.D., M.Res., B.A.), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (LL.M.), and University College Wales (LL.B.).  He is the co-director of the Yotvata Roman Fort Project, Israel, and his areas of specialization include Roman siege works.  He has published extensively, and current projects include The 2003-2007 Excavations in the Late Roman Fort at Yotvata (with J. Magness, Eisenbrauns), and “Siege Warfare 27 BC- AD 295” in The Encyclopedia of the Roman Army (Wiley-Blackwell).


Competence in siege warfare was an important skill-set for the commanders of classical armies with many campaigns requiring the active reduction of strongly-held centers of determined resistance.  Among the challenges faced by assailants were the topographic and environmental factors that had to be addressed in order to mount an effective siege.  This paper will discuss how the landscapes of siege both informed the tactical approaches adopted by besiegers in the choice of siege structures and the modalities of assault and more broadly, in the logistical preparations necessary to prosecute these operations in the first place.

The final suppression of the First Jewish Revolt was achieved with the siege and capture of the two Herodian fortress-palaces of Machaerus and Masada.  The Roman siege operations at the two sites will be discussed both in the light of the archaeological evidence and the literary narratives provided by Josephus.  In each case, the surviving field works allow us to reconstruct plausible models of how the Roman siege system was deployed and how legio X Fretensis, the formation responsible for the prosecution of operations, reacted to the challenges inherent to the reduction of these two targets.

The lecture summarizes the 2003-2007 excavations carried out at the Late Roman fort at Yotvata in the Arava Valley Israel. Although the archaeological evidence presents some interesting problems over chronology, it now seems very likely that this quadriburgium was a tetrarchic foundation founded in the wake of the establishment of Aila as a legionary base and linchpin of the defensive configuration of Rome’s SE frontier.  The lecture will explore the fort’s place in the regional security regimen, the nature and role of its garrison as well as the occupational history of the site.

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