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SAMARIA later SEBASTE Jordan/Israel.

The capital of Israel, built by Omri. In 332 B.C. the place was conquered by Alexander the Great, who settled thousands of Macedonian veterans there. The city was conquered several times by Hellenistic rulers, and in 108 B.C. by John Hyrcanus, who utterly destroyed it (Joseph. BJ 1.164). In 63 B.C. Pompey annexed Samaria to the Roman Provincia Syria (BJ 1.156), and it was rebuilt under Gabinius in 57 B.C. (BJ 1.166). In 30 B.C. Augustus gave Samaria to Herod, who rebuilt it and renamed it Sebaste in honor of the emperor. Josephus left a detailed description of the magnificence of the new city (AJ 15.217, 292, 296-97). Herod also settled foreign Veterans there so that Samaria had a mixed population. During the Great War of 66-70 Samaria was destroyed but was soon rebuilt. Septimius Severus raised it to the rank of colony in A.D. 200. In the Late Roman period Samaria declined. It was a rather small town in the Byzantine period. A popular Christian tradition placed the tomb of John the Baptist at Samaria, for which reason several churches were built there. After the Arab conquest of Palestine the city was completely deserted.

Samaria was extensively excavated in 1908-1910 and again in 1931-1935. In the Iron Age, Israelite Samaria consisted of a fortified acropolis, where stood the royal palaces, and the lower city. This was not materially changed in Hellenistic and Roman times. In the Early Hellenistic period the old walls of the acropolis were still in use, but huge round towers were added. One of these has a diameter of 19 m, and its 19 courses still rise to a height of 8.5 m. The tower is dated to the late 4th c. B.C. The gate was on the W, at about the same place as was the Iron Age gate.

About the 2d c. B.C. a new wall 4.2 m thick was built at the base of the acropolis, surrounding an area of 230 by 120 m. It was strengthened by rectangular towers. This is most probably the wall destroyed by John Hyrcanus in 108 B.C. In the Roman period the entire town was surrounded by a new wall, enclosing an area of ca. 68 ha. The city measured 1 km from E to W, and a little less than 1 km from N to S. The city gate, on the W, was protected by two massive round towers, 14 m in diameter, and still preserved to a height of 8-11 m. The square bases on which the towers stand are of the Hellenistic period. The gate is Herodian with some additions made during the reign of Septimius Severus. From this period dates the colonnaded street 800 m long, which connected the W and E gates. It was 12.5 m broad, and there were shops on both sides.

On the W part of the acropolis hill were discovered remains of a residential quarter, probably built during the reconstruction of the town by Gabinius. Above this quarter, which is on the highest part of the hill, Herod built the Temple of Augustus (35 x 24 m). In front of it was a spacious court resting on an artificial platform (87 x 72 m). The platform was supported by vaulted corridors. Its retaining walls were 15 m high on the N side. A broad flight of steps led from the court to the temple, which stood on a podium 4.5 m higher than the court. A portico led from the stairs to the temple, which had a wide nave and very narrow aisles. During the reign of Septimius Severus the temple was rebuilt on approximately the same plan. To this phase belong the broad flight of steps and the altar in the court in front of the temple. The torso of a large statue, probably of Augustus, was discovered close to the altar. North of the temple of Augustus another temple, dedicated to Kore, was erected. Only the foundations remain. In the fill of this building were found architectural fragments of an earlier temple, of the 3d c. B.C. An inscription from the fill helped to identify this earlier building as a Temple of Isis, probably destroyed by John Hyrcanus.

In the NE part of the town was a stadium, which, according to an inscription, was also connected with the cult of Kore. The building is only partly excavated. Two building phases were observed. To Herod's time belongs a Doric building, with painted plastered walls. The later building, of the 2d c. A.D., was of the Corinthian order. A statue of Kore and a dedicatory inscription were found in a nearby cistern.

On the NE slope of the acropolis was a theater with an outer diameter of 65 m. Sections of the scaenae frons, pulpitum, orchestra, and the cavea were unearthed. The scaenae frons was decorated with alternating round and square niches. The cavea consisted of two parts, of which the lower had 14 rows of seats, separated by flights of steps into seven cunei. The theater is dated to the early 3d c. A.D. To the E of the acropolis, at the base of the hill, lies the forum (128 x 72.5 m), also erected on a raised platform. There were colonnades on all four sides with 24 columns on the W, traces of most of which were discovered in situ. Adjoining the forum on the W lay a basilica (68 x 32 m) with a single nave and aisles on three sides. The columns were 6 m high. Some of these still stand with their capitals, which were of the Corinthian order. At the N end of the nave is a half-rounded niche with four benches.

The building in its present state dates from the 2d c. A.D., but there were also traces of an earlier basilica, of Gabinian or Herodian construction.

Under the S part of the forum was an acqueduct, bringing water from springs in the hills to the E of the city.

To the SE of the city a mausoleum of the Roman period was discovered. It is 5.5 m square and built of ashlar, with a single chamber inside (3.3 m square). Two sarcophagi in niches in the walls and five others standing on the floor were found. The building had a dome, which rose to the height of 5 m above the floor. In the portico in front of the mausoleum were placed two beautifully decorated sarcophagi. The mausoleum is dated to the late 2d or early 3d c. A.D. Other tombs were discovered to the E of the city, outside the walls.


G. A. Reisner et al., Harvard Excavations at Samaria (1908-10) I-II (1924); J. W. Crowfoot et al., The Buildings of Samaria (1942); id., et al., The Objects from Samaria (1957).


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