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SAMARIA, SEBASTE (Σαμάρεια, Σεβάστη), the Hebrew SHOMRON, the capital city of the kingdom of Israel, and he royal residence from the time of Omri (cir. B.C. 925), of whom it is said that “he bought the hill Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria” (Heb. Shemeron). (1 Kings, 16.24.) Mr. Stanley thinks [p. 2.888]that Omri built it merely as a palatial residence (Sinai and Palestine, p. 240); but Dr. Robinson perhaps more justly concludes that it was chosen as the site of the capital, and remarks that “it would be difficult to find in all Palestine a situation of equal strength, fertility, and beauty combined.” (Bibl. Res. iii. p. 146.) Its great strength is attested by the fact that it endured a siege from all the power of the Syrian army under Hazael, in the days of Jehoram (cir. B.C. 892), little more than 30 years after its first foundation, and was not taken notwithstanding the frightful effects of the famine within the walls (2 Kings, 7.24--8.20); and when subsequently besieged by the Assyrians (cir. B.C. 721) it was only reduced after: siege of three years (18.9, 10). After the captivity it was taken by John Hyrcanus, after a year's siege, when he is said to have sapped the foundations of it with water and destroyed all traces of a city. It was subsequently occupied by the Jews until Pompey restored it to its own inhabitants. It was further restored by Gabinius. (J. AJ 13.10.3, 15.4, 14.4.4, 5.3, 13.10.3, 15.4.) It was granted to Herod the Great by Augustus on the death of Antony and Cleopatra, and was by him converted into a Roman city under the name of Sebaste ==Augusta, in honour of his imperial patron. (Ant. 15.3. § § 3, 7, 8.5, B. J. 1.20.3.) The town was surrounded with a wall 20 stadia in length: in the middle of the town was a temple built in honour of Caesar, itself of large dimensions, and standing in a temenos of 1 1/2 stadium square. It was colonised with 6000 veterans and others, to whom was assigned an extremely fertile district around the city. (B. J. 1.21.2.) Dr. Robinson imagines that it was in this city that Philip first preached the Gospel, and that the church was founded by the apostles St. Peter and St. John (Acts, 8.5, &c.); but considering the absence of the article in the original, supplied in the English translation, and comparing the passage with the identical expression in St. John (4.5), it is more probable that the same town is intended, viz. Sychar, or Neapolis, the chief seat of the Samaritan worship. Nor does the expression in Acts (8.14), that “Samaria had received the word of God,” militate against this view; for here also the country may be very well understood, and it is well remarked by Dr. Robinson that “it is sometimes difficult to distinguish whether, under the name Samaria, the city or the region is meant.” (Bibl. Res. iii. p. 146.) It is most probable, however, that the sacred writers would have used the classical name then in vogue had they had occasion to mention the city. Septimius Severus placed a colony there in the beginning of the third century (Ulpian, quoted by Robinson, l.c. p 148, n. 1), and it was probably at that time an episcopal see; for its bishop, Marius or Marinus, was present at the Council of Nicaea and subscribed its acts. (Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, vol. iii. col. 549--552.) The tradition which assigns Sebaste as the place of St. John Baptist's imprisonment and martyrdom is first found in St. Jerome (Comment in Osee, 1.5), who also places there the tombs of Obadiah and Elisha (Comment. in Abdiam, 1.1, Epitaph. Paulae, 100.6,) and militates against Josephus, whose statement, however, is inadmissible. [MACHAERUS] The modern village which represents in its name and site the magnificent city of Herod the Great is situated on an isolated hill 6 miles N. of Nablû‘s, reckoned by Josephus a day's journey from Jerusalem (Art xv<*> 11.) The, village occupies only the eastern extremity of the hill, and stands at the height of about 926 feet above the sea. Its only conspicuous building is the ruined church of St. John, overhanging the brow of the eastern declivity: at the further extremity of the hill, are the remains of an ancient gateway, and near it stand 60 columns in situ, the commencement apparently of a colonnade which extended the whole length of the hill, for at some distance eastward 20 more still stand, and others, whole or in fragments, lie prostrate over the whole hill, while the débris of the buildings have raised the surrounding valleys, remarkably fulfilling the prophecy of Micah (1.6): “I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, as plantings of a vineyard; and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof.” At about half its height the hill is girt about with a distinct belt of level ground, while similar terraces, not so well defined, may be traced above and below, which it is thought may have once served as the streets of the city. (Ritter, Erdkunde Palästina, iii. pp. 661--666.) Coins of the city are quoted by Vaillant, Noris, Eckhel, and others, chiefly of the earlier emperors.


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