Sebastia is located in the midst of the mountainous region of Sebastia, approximately eight kilometers northwest of Shechem/Nablus. This is a proclaimed National Park that covers an area of 714 hectares and is administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Situated on a hill that is 463 meters above sea level, Sebastia is on the main road that traverses the length of the mountain crest, leading north from Nablus to Jenin. The city of Sebastia was discovered there. It served as the capital of Israel during the period of the First Temple, and Sebastiye, an outstanding Roman bastion, was built upon its ruins in 30 B.C.E. at Herod’s orders.

ORIGIN OF THE NAME “In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years; six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the hill Sebastia 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, Sebastia ” 1 Kings XVI 23-25). Sebastia was built in 879 BCE and served as the capital of Israel until its destruction by the Assyrian army in 722 BCE. During the Hellenistic era. It became home to a Macedonian community called Sebastia. During the period of the Second Temple, Herod altered the name of the city, as is related by Josephus Flavius: “And when he Herod) went about building the wall of Sabastia, he contrived to bring thither many of those that had been assisting to him in his tvars, and many of the people in that neighborhood also, whom he made fellow citizens with the rest. This he did out of an ambitious desire to build a temple, and out of a desire to make the city more eminent than it had been before; but principally because he contrived that it might at once be for his own security, and a monument to his magnificence. He also changed its name (Sebastia), and called it Sebaste… Antiquities of the Jews 15).

Sebaste, the name given to that Roman city, is still used today to designate the Arab village located near Sebastye.

During the Hellenistic period, Sebastia was populated by soldiers who had served under Alexander the Great. The city became a Hellenistic center, apart from its surroundings, surrounded by walls with round towers, which were later exposed during excavations. The city was destroyed in 108 BCE by Jochanan Horkanus, the Hasmonean king.

The city was rebuilt during Pompey’s reign (57-63 BCE), and in 30 BCE, the city was presented to King Herod who changed its name to Sebaste. Herod rebuilt the Temple of Augustus at the crest of the hill, improved the city’s defenses and erected the stadium.

Omrl, king of Israel, built Shomron as the capital of the kingdom of Israel In 879 BCE, after he had reigned in Tirzah for six years. His son and successor, Ahab, who reigned In Shomron for 22 years, erected an altar to Baal and built a temple for him the house of Baal In Sebastia” Kings XVI 31-33). The worship of Baal in Sebastia was apparently the result of Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon. The prophet Elijah, who destroyed Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel, challenged Jezebel and the prophets of Baal (Kings XVI). A number of battles took place against the Aramaics during Ahab’s reign, during one of which Sebastia found itself under siege and starving, Ahab was mortally wounded during the decisive battle against the Aramaics – the battle of Gil’ad. His body was brought back to Sebastia, where he was buried, and his chariot washed in the pool of Sebastia (1 Kings XXI 33-38). The remnants of a pool that cannot be seen today were found in the northwestern corner of the palace, near the retaining wall, raising the possibility that this is the pool in which Ahab’s chariot was “washed”. Ahab’s son, Jehoram, was also forced to fight the Aramaics, and during his reign, Sebastia was under siege and suffered from starvation, to the point that, according to the description, mothers ate their sons, and even the dung of doves was very coveted (Kings 11, 6:24-30). Sebastia withstood the siege despite the shortage of food. Sebastia rose to greatness once again in the days of Jeroboam, the son of loash, who ruled Sebastia for 41 years and restored the borders of Israel from the approach to Hamath to the sea of the plain (Kings II. 14:23-26). Most of the remnants of the castle excavated close to the southern wall at the top of the hill apparently belonged to that period. The castles In Sebastia were used by kings of Israel until the destruction of the city, and the prophets of Israel protested against the prosperity and pleasure seekers, among them the prophet Amos, who even prophesized the destruction of the city: “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountains of Sebastia, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, thich say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink… I have overthrown you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and ye were as a firebrand pucked out of the burning, yet ye have not returned unto me, sayeth the Lord (Amos 4.1.11). After several war campaigns waged by the Assyrians, King Sargon Il besieged Sebastia. The city was destroyed in 722 BCE during the reign of King Hoshea, son of Elah. Thousands of Sebastia’s inhabitants were exiled to lands conquered by the Assyrian Empire, while members of other nations, exiled to Sebastia by the Assyrians, were settled there, including peoples from Babylon, from Cuthah (Cuthim) and from other places throughout the Empire (Kings II. 17:24-26). Under Assyrian and Babylonian rule and later, under Persian rule, Sebastia came to be regarded as the capital of the province.

An aqueduct supplied the city with water, bringing water from the wells of Nablus through Ein-Harun in the southeast. This is Sabastya’s main source of water to this day. The city was destroyed during the first revolt against the Romans (66-70 CE). The Roman city of Sebaste flourished once again during the period of the Emperor Septimus (2nd-3rd centuries CE), and even became a Roman colony. A theatre, a forum, a Basilica, a temple dedicated to the goddess Kora and a colonnaded street with shops (Decomanus maximus) that formed the main avenue of the city, were built in the city. During the Byzantine period, the city was the Bishop’s place of residence and a number of churches were built. commemorating the tradition of Sebastye as the burial place of John the Baptist. Another Christian tradition dating from this period even identifies the grave of the prophet Elisha. The city’s greatness began to decline during the Byzantine period. After the Arab conquest in 636 CE, Sebastye became a small village with a Crusader church dedicated to John the Baptist. After the Crusaders were banished from the city. this church became a mosque.

INTRODUCTION Sebastia is located in the midst of the mountainous region of Sebastia. approximately eight kilometers northwest of Nablus. This is a proclaimed National Park that covers an area of 714 hectares and is administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Situated on a hill that is 463 meters above sea level, Sebastia is on the main road that traverses the length of the mountain crest, leading north from Nablus to Jenin. The city of Sebastia was discovered there. It served as the capital of Israel during the period of the First Temple, and Sebastia, an outstanding Roman bastion, was built upon its ruins in 30 B.C.E. at Herod’s orders.

ORIGIN OF THE NAME “In the thirty and first year of Asa king of Judah began Omri to reign over Israel, twelve years; six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the hill Sebastia of Shemer for tavo talents of silver, and built on the

II, and called the name of the city which he built, after the name of Shemer, owner of the hill, Sebastia Kings XVI 23-25). Sebastia was built in 879 BCE and served as the capital of Israel until its destruction by the Assyrian army in 722 BCE. During the Hellenistic era, it became home to a Macedonian community called Sebastia. During the period of the Second Temple, Herod altered the name of the city, as is related by Josephus Flavius: And when he (Herod) went about building the wall of Sebastia, he contrived to bring thither many of those that had been assisting to him in his wars, and many of the people in that neighborhood also, whom he made fellow citizens with the rest. This he did out of an ambitious desire to build a temple, and out of a desire to make the city more eminent than it had been before; but principally because he contrived that it might at once be for his our security, and a monument to his magnificence. He also changed its name (Sebastia), and called it Sebaste…Antiquities of the Jews.15).

The initial archeological activities on the site were carried out in 1908-1910 by a delegation from Harvard University, headed by G. Schumacher, and later by G.A. Reisner and K.S. Fisher. The main archeological excavations on the site were carried out between 1931-1935 by scholars from Harvard, the British Fund for Archaeology in Israel, the British Academy, the British School of Archeology in Jerusalem and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The group was headed by Joe Crawfoot. His deputy was A.L. Sukenik. Limited excavations were carried out in 1965 and 1967, under the guidance of Z. Ziadin, of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. In 1968, a limited excavation was carried out on the west side of the Tel by G.H. Hennessy.

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