Scythopolis/Nysa (Beit Sh’ean)

Scythopolis/Nysa (Beit Sh’ean) is one of the oldest cities in Israel. It is located in the Galilee region in northern Israel where the Harod Valley and Jordan Valley meet, just 27 kilometres south of the Sea of Galilee and 5 kilometres east of the Jordan River. Beit Sh’ean is one of Israel’s largest archaeological sites.

Coordinates: 32° 30′ 0″ N, 35° 30′ 0″ E

Scythopolis

Beit She’an was first settled in the 5th millennium BC on a mound south of the Harod Stream, in the heart of a region of great fertility and abundant water and at a major crossroads. During the Late Bronze Age (16th – 12th centuries BC), the Egyptians made Beit She’an the centre of their rule over Canaan. A basalt tablet from Seti I (1290–1279 BC) was found in the city with the name of Beit-Shean. A Canaanite city was later constructed on the site of the Egyptian centre, followed by Israelite rule and the Philistines during the Old Testament period. Beit Shean is mentioned in the Bible several times and is best known as the site where King Saul and his sons were hung from the city walls.

The city was later expanded into a large Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine city under the name of Scythopolis or Scythopolis-Nysa. The name derived from the Greek myth according to which Dionysus buried his nurse Nysa in the city where he settled with his Scythians personal guards. Scythopolis became the largest of the cities in the regional alliance known as the Decapolis and reached its zenith after the Bar Kocha revolt under Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD) and Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD). Temples, bathouses, a theatre, an amphitheatre and other monumental buildings were constructed. During the 4th-7th century Scythopolis continued to prosper but the pagan structures were converted to other uses since the majority of the population was Christian.

Scythopolis on the Tabula Peutingeriana.

The large city was leveled by a massive earthquake in the 8th century AD and was in ruins until recent archaeological excavations uncovered eighteen layers of remains dating from the late Neolithic period (4500 BC) through the 12th century AD. The ancient city ruins are now protected within a national park, known as Bet She’an National Park.

PORTFOLIO

The Roman theatre, built at the end of the 2nd century on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre, which could seat about 7,000 spectators.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators. It is the best-preserved ancient theatre discovered in Israel.
The Roman theatre had eight arched entrances called vomitaria which led to the seating area.
The Roman theatre had eight arched entrances called vomitaria which led to the seating area.
The reconstructed section of the scaenae frons, the decorated background of the stage comprises a row of marble and granite columns.
The reconstructed section of the scaenae frons. The 21 metre high stage building was comprised of a two-storey structure of white marble columns and two-storey lateral structures of red granite columns.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators.
The Roman theatre, built at the time of the Severan emperors on the remains of a 1st century AD theatre. It could seat about 7,000 spectators.
Palladius street, the 150-meter colonnaded street crossing the city from the slopes of the Tel to the theatre, built during the Roman period and renovated at the beginning of the Byzantine period.
Palladius street, the 150-metre colonnaded street crossing the city from the slopes of the Tel to the theatre. It was built during the Roman period and renovated at the beginning of the Byzantine period.
Colonnaded portico along Palladius street paved with intricate mosaics and lined with marble-faced shops.
The colonnaded portico along Palladius street paved with intricate mosaics and lined with marble-faced shops.
Corinthian capital bearing the head of Dionysus, the god of wine and the patron of the city. According to myth the city was founded by Dionysus who lived in the city. His wet nurse Nysa who breast-fed him was buried in the city, so it was named Nysa-Scythopolis.
Corinthian capital bearing the head of Dionysus, the god of wine and the patron of the city. According to myth the city was founded by Dionysus who lived in the city. His wet nurse Nysa who breast-fed him was buried in the city, so it was named Nysa-Scythopolis.
Statue of Dionysus, from Beit Sh'ean/Scythopolis, 2nd century AD, Israel Museum.
Statue of Dionysus unearthed at Beit Sh’ean/Scythopolis, 2nd century AD, Israel Museum.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Mosaic with representation of Tyche, goddess of fortune, found in the semicircular exedra off Paladius Street at Scythopolis (Beit She'an). Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Mosaic with representation of Tyche, goddess of fortune, found in the semicircular exedra off Paladius Street at Scythopolis (Beit She’an). Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
Statue of Tyche holding the cornucopia, unearthed in Beit Sh'ean/Scythopolis, 3rd century AD, Israel Museum.
Statue of Tyche holding the cornucopia, unearthed in Beit Sh’ean/Scythopolis, 3rd century AD, Israel Museum.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Exedra (semi-circular building) with twelve small rooms and a portico opening onto a courtyard built in the 6th century AD on the western side of Palladius Street.
Steps on Palladius Street leading to the Western Bathhouse.
The entrance gateway leading to the Western Bathhouse.
The Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
The Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
Remains of two pools in the Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
Remains of two pools in the Western Bathhouse built in the 4th century AD.
The colonnaded exercise yard of the Western Bathhouse had a mosaic pavement decorated with geometric pattern.
The colonnaded exercise yard of the Western Bathhouse had a mosaic pavement decorated with geometric pattern.
Scythopolis.
Scythopolis.
Silvanus Street crossing the city in a north-south direction.
Silvanus Street crossing the city in a north-south direction.
The ruins of the Round Temple attesting to the ferocity of the 749 AD earthquake.
The ruins of the Round Temple attesting to the ferocity of the 749 AD earthquake. The Temple was perhaps erected for the worship of Dionysus or his wet nurse, Nysa.
The ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum originally built in the 2nd century AD.
The ruins of the Roman Nymphaeum originally built in the 2nd century AD.
Overview of Silvanus Street.
Overview of Silvanus Street.
View on the Tel from the Agora.
View on the Tel from the Agora.
The public latrines with open courtyard paved and a mosaic floor.
The public latrines of the Northern Bathhouse with an open courtyard paved with mosaic floor.
Overview of Scythopolis from the top of the Tell.
Overview of Scythopolis from the top of the Tell.
On the top of the hill are the ruins of an Egyptian governor’s house dating back to the 12th century BC. During the late Bronze period and the beginning of the Iron age the city became as a centre of the Egyptian imperial administration in northern Canaan.
The Egyptian governor's house. Above the doorpost (lintel) of the house was a stone tablet bearing the name and title of the governor: Ramses-Weser-Khepesh. The inscription attests to his high rank:
The Egyptian governor’s house. Above the door of the house (lintel) was a stone tablet bearing the name and title of the governor: Ramses-User-Khepesh. The image depicts the governor kneeling before the name and attributes of Pharaoh Ramses III.
Basalt statue of Ramses III depicted seated on his throne, found at Beit She'an, 1184-1153 BC. Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.
Basalt statue of Ramses III depicted seated on his throne, found at Beit She’an, 1184-1153 BC.
Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.
The Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accommodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The Hippodrome, constructed in the 2nd century AD. It was used for horse and chariot races. It was later converted into an amphitheatre which hosted gladiatorial combats. The amphitheatre ceased to function in the 2nd half of the 4th century AD because the city’s Christians disapproved of the activities that took place there.
The Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accomodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The Hippodrome/Amphitheatre, situated beyond the city limits, there was probably ten or twelve rows accommodating 5,000-7,000 spectators.
The ruins of the Roman bridge, a triple arched bridge crossing the Nahal Harod.
The ruins of the Roman bridge, a triple arched bridge crossing the Nahal Harod.

See more images of Scythopolis on Flickr

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2 thoughts on “Scythopolis/Nysa (Beit Sh’ean)

  1. Pingback: ‘Hadrian: An Emperor Cast in Bronze’ exhibition in Jerusalem | FOLLOWING HADRIAN

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