March 18, 2005 and May 18, 2006
Altitude 98 m/322 ft below sea level, population 15 000
Bet Shean (the Biblical Bethshan) lies on the river Harod 26km/16 miles south of the Sea of Galilee, in the Eastern part of the Jezreel plain, which carefully regulated irrigation has made a fertile agricultural area. According to the Talmud “If the garden of Eden is in Israel, then its gate is in Bet Shean”. In addition to such interesting remains as the Roman theater there is evidence that the history of the site goes far back beyond Roman times into the fourth millennium B.C. It also has associations with King Saul.
Pictures from above and close ups. Please scroll threw.
01. The Theatre
02. The Western Bathroom
04. The Sigma
05. The Byzantine Agora
06.The Roman Temple
07. The Northern Street
08. The Nymphaeum
09. The Tell Bet Shean
10. The Valley Street and the central Monument
11. The Silvanstreet
12. The East Bathroom
13. The Public Restrooms
14. The Sacrifice Area
15. The interrupted bridge and the City Gate
16. The Amphitheatre and its surrounding
Bet Shean from “above the hill top”. Pics taken from Tel Bet Shean.
Silvanstreet (left) (11), right of it is the Valley Street (10), The Nymphaeum (08), behind the Silvanstreet is the Eastern Bathhouse (12)
Behind the palm trees: The Nymphaeum (08) and the Roman Temple. The Palladiusstreet (03).
Left: The Theatre (01), in front of it is the Sacrifice Area (14), and the Public Restrooms (13).
On the right hand side you can see the Palladiusstreet (03).
The Western Bathhouse (02)
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01 The Theatre
02 The Western Bathhouse
This Byzantine bathhouse, covering 9 dunams, contains hot and tepid bathing halls with a heating system (hypocaust). Its walls were coated with colored plaster and its floors were paved with marble slabs and mosaics. The main structure opens on all sides outo rooms and exedras. Frequent changes made to the building, with the funding of the province’s governors, are documented in Greek dedicatory inscriptions.
Model of the bathhouse
The bathhouse compound comprised a number of buildings, of which the bathing halls were the central feature.
The compound included a swimming pool, massage rooms, public latrines, and other conveniences.
Some of the facilities faced and open courtyard (palaestra) paved with mosaic floors.
Bath and toilet accessories: Oil flask, pair of striglis for scraping the oil, sweat and dirt from the skin, Patera - pouring dishes tha were used for splashing cold water over the body in order to close the pores after the heat of the bath. Toiletry set for personal hygiene: ear scoop and nail cleaner.
The bathhouse toilets - for the convenience of its visitors, the bathhouse provided pools towels, ramains of the seats are visible here. Toilet tissue was a soft leaf attached to a twig. A channel of running water under the seats afforded drainage.
The 150 meter long colonnaded street crossed the city from the slopes of the Tel to the theater. Originally built during the Roman period, the street was renovated at the beginning of the Byzantine period. On its northwest side is a covered portico which opens onto a row of shops whose facade was faced with marble. A dedicatory inscription from the 4th century C.E. found in the portico mosaic, recounts the construction of the portico in the days of Palladius, governor of the province. Thus the road came to be named Palladius Street by excavators. On the opposite side of the street, a two-story row of shops was erected on an ancient foundation from the Roman period.
A Greek inscription found in the mosaic pavement. It reads: In the time of Palladius son of Porphyrus, the most magnificent governor, the work of the stoa together with the mosaic pavement was made.
04 The Sigma
A semicircular concourse of the Byzantine period, referred to as the Sigma in an inscription found at the site, surrounded by rooms opening into it. Several of the rooms were paved with colored mosaics displaying geometric, plant and animal motifs as well as Greek inscriptions.
One mosaic medallion depicts Tyche, guardian goddess of the city, wearing a crown of city walls and holding a cornucopia.
05 Byzantine Agora (on the left side in the pic below)
A councourse surrounded by porticoes at the center of the city, built in the Byzantine period which served as a commercial center.
The western portico is paved with mosaics depicting animals.
06 Roman Temple
The semicircular temple, built in the 2nd century C.E. and destroyed during the Byzantine period was in the classical style. The structure’s adornments, imposing in size and ornate in style, were found collapsed nearby. Its facade consisted of four columns surmounted by capitals, supporting an ornamented gabled roof to a height of about 15 meters. Two collapsed columns were found in the ruins left by the earthquake of 749 C.E.
07 The Northern Street
A colonnaded street on the Roman period, leading to the northwest city gate. A staircase ascended from the street to Tel, which served as the Acropolis of the city. On the other side was a resplendent passage to a large Roman compound, surrounded by columns (a temple?). During the Byzantine period, most of the columns were taken down and a public building paved with mosaics was erected on the spot.
08 Gateway to Paradise
The summer months pulsate with heat in the Bet Shean Valley. at its heart, in the ancient city of Bet Shean were discovered the remains of bathhouses, fountains, (2nd Century C.E., remodeled in the 4th century) and ornamental tools - echoes of a past rich in water resources. Ancient Bet Shean was situated in surrounding blesses with an abundance of natural springs. The ripple and flow of water, the splashing of the fountains and the shimmer of clear pools refreshed the burning air for the Roman and Byzantine residents of the town, and enabled them to reap the soil’s bounty. Ashtori Hafarti, who lived there in the 14th centruy, hundreds of years after the batthouses and foutains were destroyed in an earthquake, named the city “gateway to paradise”.
09 Tel Bet Shean
Some twenty settlement strata were uncovered on the Tel the most ancient dating from the Neolithic period (5th millenium B.C.E.) and the most recent, from medieval times. Discovered among the remains of the walled Canaanite city were five temples, one constructed on top of the other, public and residential buildings, a governor’s house and basalt monuments with inscritptions from the period of Egyptian rule. A citadel as well as residential and administrative buildings erected by the kings of Israel were destroyed in the Assyrian conquest. The Tel was resettled during the Hellenistic period. A temple of Zens, some of whose column drums and Corinthian capitals can be seen, was built in the roman period. During the Byzantine period, a round church was constructed on the summit and in the Medieval period the Tel was surrounded by a wall. The top of the Tel provides a vantage point over the city and it surroundings.
view to Jordan
11 Silvanus Street
Originally, the street was a Roman road flanked on one side by a monumental colonnade. A marble-reveted pool was built parallel to the road. During the Byzantine period, this Roman road was overlaid by a new street, and a new hall was erected on top of the pool, its ceiling supported by the colonnade. This street was named “Silvanus Street” by the excavators after a lawyer named Silvanus, mentioned in inscriptions as having been involved in the hall’s construction. In the Early Muslim period, this hall fell into disuse, and was prelaced by stores fronted by a portico of columns and arches. The earthquake of 749 C.E. leveled columns and structures along the street. A segment of the store’s facade has been restored and reconstructed, but the portico’s arches still lie in the heap of ruins.
12 Eastern Batthouse
It was built in the Roman period and renovated during the Byzantine period. A caldarium and hypocaust were uncovered on it eastern side. On the western side, excavation revealed a square structure with 4 pillars adorned with niches at its corners, supporting a stone vault. Cold water pools attest to its apparent function as a frigidarium (cold water bath hall).
13 Public Toilets
Built next to the bathhouse for the benefit of theater visitors and bathhouse users, the structure encloses a courtyard decorated with columns.
14 Sacred Compound
The compound of the 1st to 2nd centuries C.E., comprises a temple, altars and Nymphaeum. The temple was built on a square raised podium with a stairway leading up to it. The altars are engraved with inscriptions.
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