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Rachel Hachlili

[Beth She’arim]

Jewish necropolis near the town of Beth Shearim in the lower Galilee. In the early 3rd century ad the site became a noted centre of learning under the great scholar Rabbi Judah ha-Nassi (c. 135–217). His burial there made the site holy ground, and it became the chief burial place for Jews from the land of Israel and neighbouring regions. It was destroyed in ad 352. The necropolis consisted of catacombs, most of them of the 3rd and 4th centuries; they had courtyards in front and portals, with stone doors made to resemble wooden doors with nails. Each catacomb contained numerous tombs; some had several burial halls spaced out along corridors that were cut into the rock of the hillside. The tombs were mainly loculi [compartmented graves] or arcosolia [vaulted niches]. The dead were laid in arcosolia, coffins or decorated stone, marble or terracotta sarcophagi. On the walls were carved, painted or incised decorations; like those of the sarcophagi, they were in a popular style that combined Hellenistic and Oriental elements. Characteristic of the style are scenes from pagan mythology and Jewish motifs, such as the menorah, the Ark of the Scrolls and various ritual objects. Some of the catacombs belonged to one family, others were public. Burial at Beth Shearim was a commercialized public enterprise directed by a burial society, which may have sold burial places....

Article

Rachel Hachlili

[Capharnaum, Kafarnaum; now Kefar Nahum]

Town located on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret), Israel. Mentioned in the New Testament as a place visited by Jesus, it is traditionally held to have been the home of St Peter. Two synagogues have been identified in Capernaum, the second built on the remains of the first, as well as an octagonal area thought to be the site of a church of St Peter, built where his house was believed to have stood. The town was destroyed in the 7th century ad.

The earlier synagogue, dated to the 1st century ad, has been tentatively identified with the synagogue at Capernaum, the building of which is mentioned in Luke 7:5. Excavators have found a basalt cobbled pavement and several basalt walls, which run under the south wall and the east and west stylobates of the main hall of the later limestone synagogue. Benches along the walls are assumed, but no entrance has been found. The dating of the limestone synagogue is in dispute. In ...

Article

Malcolm A. R. Colledge, Joseph Gutmann and Andrew R. Seager

[now Qal‛at as Sāliḩīyah.]

Site of a Hellenistic and Roman walled city in eastern Syria, on a plateau between two gorges on the west bank of the middle Euphrates. The name combines elements that are Semitic (Dura) and Macedonian Greek (Europos). Dura Europos was founded by the Seleucids in the late 4th century bc at the intersection of east–west caravan routes and the trade route along the Euphrates. It was later a frontier fortress of the Parthian empire and after its capture in ad 165 fulfilled the same role for the Roman empire. After the Sasanian siege in ad 256–7 the city was abandoned. The results of excavations by French and American archaeologists in the 1920s and 1930s threw light on the process of synthesis between Classical and indigenous populations and cultures in Syria-Palestine during Hellenistic and Imperial Roman times. The excavated remains include a synagogue (see §3) with an important cycle of biblical paintings and an Early Christian meeting-house (...

Article

Margaret Lyttleton

(b c. 79 bc; reg 37–4 bc; d 4 bc). King of Judaea and patron. By a series of successful intrigues and pro-Roman policy, he established himself as the heir of the Maccabean kings and considerably extended their territory. He more or less re-established the ancient kingdom of Judah and achieved virtual independence. With the arrival in the East of the Roman general Pompey (66 bc), the balance of power changed and Rome began to absorb this territory. Herod, by skilful diplomacy and intrigue, maintained himself as king of Judaea, with independence in local affairs. He was a great admirer of Rome and Greco-Roman culture; he set out to make his towns and cities similar to the Hellenistic towns of the Roman Empire. The historian Josephus recorded that Herod erected a vast number of buildings both in his own kingdom and as far afield as the Dodekanese, Tyre and Beirut. He refounded the city of ...

Article

Masada  

Rachel Hachlili

[Heb. Mezadah]

Fortress on a flat-topped rock on the eastern side of the Judean Desert in Israel; to the east, the rock terminates in a sheer cliff 400 m above the Dead Sea. According to the Jewish Roman historian Josephus Flavius (ad 37–after 93), whose account of Masada is the only extant one, it was built (probably c. 37–31 bc) by Herod the Great. During the period of the Jewish War (ad 66–73), it was garrisoned by the Jewish Zealots, who made their last stand there against the Romans. Three years after the capture of Jerusalem, the defenders of Masada, having held the fortress during a three-year siege, destroyed themselves when it was about to fall.

Masada was encircled by a dolomite stone wall with casemates: the space between the two walls was partitioned into 70 compartments. Each of the four gates consisted of a room with an inner and an outer entrance and benches along the walls. Rising from small casemates, the 30 towers were built at unequal distances, according to the rock’s topography. An elaborate water-supply system consisted of numerous cisterns linked by channels; there were also several pools, some probably associated with ritual bathing....