later SEBASTE Jordan/Israel.
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
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
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
) I-II (1924); J. W. Crowfoot
et al., The Buildings of Samaria
(1942); id., et al., The
Objects from Samaria