Ancient Roman theater found in northern Israel may have been religious center

Discussion in 'Israel & Middle East News' started by Chris, Jan 10, 2017.

  1. Chris

    Chris Administrator Staff Member

    Ancient Roman theater found in northern Israel may have been religious center
    By Daniel K. Eisenbud
    10 January 2017 12:46
    "It is quite possible that thousands of visitors to the theater came not to see the latest show in town, but to take part in rituals honoring one of the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon."
    An image of the excavation site.

    A Roman amphitheater discovered during an excavation by the University of Haifa at Hippos, a site overlooking the Sea of Galilee, may support the hypothesis that the facility was used for religious ceremonies instead of entertainment. Hippos, which is situated on a prominent hill some two kilometers east of the Sea of Galilee within Sussita National Park, is operated by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

    According to the University of Haifa’s Dr. Michael Eisenberg, who heads the Hippos Excavations Project, the digs outside the city over the past few years “are falling into place like in a detective story.” “First, we found a mask of Pan, then the monumental gate leading to what we began to assume was a large public compound, a sanctuary,” he said this week at an annual research conference at the school’s Zinman Institute of Archeology. “And now, this year, we find a public bathhouse and theater in the same location – both facilities that in the Roman period could be associated with the god of medicine Asclepius, or with gods of nature, such as Dionysus and Pan.”

    During the Roman period, Hippos was an important city in the Golan Heights, and the area east of the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Kinneret. Over the past two years, researchers from the university’s Institute of Archeology have repeatedly been surprised by the unexpected findings uncovered outside the city’s walls.

    However, one feature that was missing in the excavated city, until now, was the theater – a public building capable of accommodating thousands of people, which served as the venue for the popular public shows. Eisenberg explained that “no self-respecting Roman city in this period could allow it self to remain without a theater.” However, until recently, no such structure was unearthed.


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