previous next


A city on the W shores of the Sea of Galilee, founded ca. A.D. 18 by Herod Antipas, who named the city after the reigning emperor. According to Josephus the city was established on the site of an ancient necropolis, an act contrary to Jewish law, which considers such a site ritually unclean (AJ 18.36-38; BJ 2.168). According to the same authority (Vit. 69.134,278,296; BJ 2.641), it had the status of a polis, and had an archon, a Council of Ten, and a Senate of Six Hundred. It soon developed into the most important city of its district. After Herod Antipas' death Tiberias became part of the domain of King Agrippa I, and later of Agrippa II, who held it until his death. After crushing of the Revolt of A.D. 66, the Romans made Tiberias autonomous and conferred on it the right of minting coins. On its coins appears the title Tiberias Claudiopolis Syriae Palaestinae. According to Jewish sources and others, Herod Antipas built a fortress at Tiberias and a wall was later built around it. Within the city were a stadium, a Hadrianeum, a forum, and numerous synagogues. An aqueduct conveyed water to the city from springs 15 km away. A bridge connected Tiberias with its S suburb Hamtha, or Hammath, where there were hot springs (Plin. HN 5.45). The Romans built a temple dedicated to Hygieia, and the Jews built a synagogue there. Tiberias was still a famous city in the 4th c. (Eus. Onom. 16.1). The city is frequently mentioned by writers in the Byzantine period.

Tiberias was never abandoned, and for this reason the remains of the earlier period lie deeply buried. Surface survey has shown that the city of the Roman period occupied an area of ca. 80 ha as against the 14 ha of the mediaeval town. The perimeter of the walls was 4 km and some remains of the wall and of one gate are still seen today. Excavation of the S gate (1973-74) has not yet been published.

During the last two decades excavations have uncovered remains of a Roman basilica, a bath, and buildings of the Byzantine period. Between 1961 and 1963 the synagogue of Hammath, close to the hot springs, was excavated. The earliest remains found in that area were of a building of the Hellenistic period, of which little remained. Above this were remains of a large Early Roman building, possibly a palaestra, or a gymnasium. The earliest remains of a Jewish prayer house date from the first half of the 3d c. A.D., when a basilican building was constructed. In the early 4th c. this was replaced by a basilica of four aisles, still with no apse. The floors of the side aisles were decorated with mosaics of geometric pattern, while the floor of the second aisle from the W was divided into three mosaic panels, in which were depicted two lions standing at either side of several dedicatory inscriptions, a zodiacal circle with Helios riding the celestial carriage in its center, and a Torah Shrine flanked by two seven-branched candlesticks and other Jewish symbols. The workmanship of this mosaic pavement is by far the best in synagogual art. The synagogue was rebuilt in the Byzantine period and again in the Ommayad period.


M. Avi-Yonah, “The Foundation of Tiberias,” Israel Exploration Journal 1 (1950-51) 160-69; id., The Holy Land from the Persian to the Arab Conquests (536 B.C. to A.D. 640). A Historical Geography (1966); M. Dothan, “Hammath-Tiberias,” Israel Exploration Journal 12 (1962) 153-54.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: