Sepphoris/Diocaesarea

Sepphoris, also known as Diocaesarea, lies 289 metres above sea level on a hill in the heart of the Galilee province, about 5 kilometers west of Nazareth. Its history can be traced back to the Persian period (ca. 539-332 BC) but the city started to grow during the Hellenistic period. Herod the Great built a royal palace here and, after his death in 4 BC, his son Herod Antipas made Sepphoris the capital of his government.

The city may have derived its name from the word tzippori, a variant of the Hebrew word for bird; tsippor. A passage in the Talmud seems to confirm this theory as the city is described as being “perched on the top of a mountain, like a bird”.

Coordinates: 32° 45′ 10.4″ N, 35° 16′ 46.2″ E

Josephus, the first-century Romano-Jewish historian, said that Sepphoris was the largest city in Galilee and stood as an exceptional strong fortress at the time of the First Jewish Revolt in 66 AD. Sepphoris was one of the cities that remained loyal to Rome. It refused to take part in the revolt and was spared destruction. After the suppression of the revolt in 70 AD, the city was transformed from a Galilean town into a Roman polis boasting governmental institutions and public buildings. Sepphoris even minted coins bearing the legend Eirenopolis “City of Peace” in honor of Vespasian.

Sepphoris reached its peak of 15,000-20,000 inhabitants by the 2nd century AD. Over the years, public and private dwellings embellished with colourful mosaics sprung up throughout the Roman city, including a temple, a forum, bathhouses, a theatre and a large water reservoir. Hadrian changes Sepphoris’ name to Diocaesarea (city of Zeus and Caesar) in 120 AD and the city was ruled by pagans until the 3rd century AD. In the following years, Diocaesarea continued to prosper while the city’s population included pagans and Christians living alongside the Jewish population. A number of churches were built in the Byzantine period and a total of 18 synagogues were referred by Talmudic sources (although only one synagogue, built at the beginning of the 5th century AD, has so far been discovered). Diocaesarea retained its urban plan throughout late antiquity and continued to flourish until the decline in the Early Arab period in the 7th century AD. In Crusader times, sections of the city and the fortress were rebuilt. The city was renamed “Le Sephorie”, preserving its ancient name.

Sepphoris was first excavated in 1931 by Leroy Waterman of the University of Michigan and major excavations were conducted during 1983-2003. Today the ancient site is a National park (Zippori National Park) and, even in ruins, a highly recommended archaeological site.

PORtFOLIO

View of the Cardo marked with ruts made by carriage wheels, it was the main road of the city which runs north to south.
View of the Cardo marked with ruts made by carriage wheels, it was the main road of the city which runs north to south.
View of the Cardo with porticoes along both sides that were adorned with geometrical mosaics.
View of the Cardo with porticoes along both sides that were adorned with geometrical mosaics.
The Forum, a large public building constructed in the Severan era (ca. 200 AD), it containeda peristyle courtyard surrounded by rooms adorned with colourful mosaics.
The Forum, a large public building constructed in the Severan era (ca. 200 AD), it contained a peristyle courtyard surrounded by rooms adorned with colourful mosaics.
The Forum, a large public building constructed in the Severan era (ca. 200 AD), it contained a peristyle courtyard surrounded by rooms adorned with colourful mosaics.
The floor of the large hall of the Forum was decorated with an overall geometric pattern of interlocking circles forming curvilinear squares, with a partially preserved square panel near the centre of the pavement. The entire mosaic exhibits a variety of motifs, such as birds, fish, a shallow basket full of fruits, a hare nibbling grapes as well as flowers and pomegranates.
The Nile Festival House located on the south side of the city and east to the Cardo, it was built in the 5th century AD and the entire building is paved with mosaics.
The Nile Festival House located on the south side of the city and east to the Cardo, it was built in the 5th century AD and the entire building is paved with mosaics.
The Nile Mosaic representing the celebration of the Nile, it is composed of a number of scenes, each of which depicting a different event, 5th century AD.
The Nile Mosaic representing the celebration of the Nile, it is composed of a number of scenes, each of which depicting a different event, 5th century AD.
Mosaic pavement depicting hunting Amazons in the Nile Festival House, early 5th century AD.
Mosaic pavement in the Nile Festival House depicting hunting Amazons, early 5th century AD.
A rearing centaur draped in an animal-skin cloak and holding a bowl in his hands.
Mosaic pavement depicting a Centaur draped in an animal-skin cloak and holding a shield or a dish with the Greek inscription “Helpful God”.
Geometric mosaic in the Nile Festival House.
Geometric mosaic in the Nile Festival House.
Geometric mosaic in the Nile Festival House.
Geometric mosaic in the Nile Festival House.
Mosaic pavement depicting a hunter holding a spear in the Nile Festival House, early 5th century AD.
Mosaic pavement depicting a hunter holding a spear in the Nile Festival House, early 5th century AD.
View of the Cardo.
View of the Cardo.
T-shaped mosaic in the triclinium of The House of Orpheus containing four panels arranged for viewing from the south.
T-shaped mosaic in the triclinium of The House of Orpheus containing four colourful panels. The larger panel depicts Orpheus the divine musician whereas the three others depict scenes from daily life – a banquet, two men embracing, and two rolling dice.
The Roman Theatre built on the northen slope of the hill in the early 2nd century AD, it could seat 4,500 spectators.
The Roman Theatre built on the northen slope of the hill in the early 2nd century AD, it could seat 4,500 spectators.
The stage building of the Roman Theatre and the stage itself are almost completely destroyed, yet its foundations remain.
The stage building of the Roman Theatre and the stage itself are almost completely destroyed, yet its foundations remain.
View over the Theatre built on the northen slope of the hill in the early 2nd century AD.
View over the Theatre built on the northen slope of the hill in the early 2nd century AD.
Dionysus Mosaic depicting scenes from the life of Dionysus and his cult, around 200 AD.
Dionysus Mosaic depicting scenes from the life of Dionysus and his cult, around 200 AD.
The "Mona Lisa of the Galilee" (possibly Venus), part of the Dionysus mosaic floor.
The “Mona Lisa of the Galilee” (possibly Venus), detail of the mosaic in the House of Dionysos depicting scenes from the life of Dionysos and his cult.
Residential houses around the Crusaders fortress, these are dwellings from the Hellenistic to Byzantine periods.
Residential houses around the Crusaders fortress, these are dwellings from the Hellenistic to Byzantine periods.
The subterranean water reservoir constructed in the 1st century AD, water entered the reservoir via a channel and lead pipe through wich the water flowed into a tunnel having six vertical shafts.
The subterranean water reservoir constructed in the 1st century AD, water entered the reservoir via a channel and lead pipe through wich the water flowed into a tunnel having six vertical shafts.
View of the Decumanus which functioned as the main artery by which one entered the city from the east.
View of the Decumanus which functioned as the main artery by which one entered the city from the east.

See more images of Sepphoris on Flickr

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