A city in Idumaea, 40 km NW of Jerusalem, which began to flourish
after the destruction of its rival Marissa by the Parthians
in 40 B.C. Pompey conquered it in 64 B.C., and settled
veterans of his legions there. Septimius Severus made it
a polis in A.D. 200, and conferred ius italicum on its citizens; he also changed its Semitic name, Beth-Gubrin, to
Eleutheropolis, the city of the free men. At that time it
began to mint coins, dated by its own history. The city
appears on the Peutinger Table
, and its first bishop
participated in the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Eleutheropolis ruled over a large area, including most of
Idumaea and reaching the Dead Sea near Engeddi. There
were many Jewish villages in the S part of its territory.
In the early Arab and mediaeval periods it lost its importance. The site has been little explored. Among the
few finds are the remains of a Late Roman villa decorated with mosaics of hunt scenes, and a marble capital
with a representation of a seven-branched candlestick,
probably from a synagogue of the Byzantine period.
F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine
II (1938) 272; UNESCO World Art Series, Israel Ancient
; M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land
96, 115, 159-62.