Beit Shean Travel Guide

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Roman amphitheatre in Beit Shean

Roman amphitheatre in Beit Shean

Sigitas Zilionis

This park is one of the largest and unique ancient sites in Israel. It includes the mound of the city which stood here as early as the 5th millennium BCE, and the Roman-Byzantine and Arab "lower city", with its impressive remains.

Biblical Bet She'an is mentioned in connection with King Saul's famous battle on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines, who controlled the region in the 10th century BCE and defeated the Israelites in that battle, displayed the bodies of Saul and his sons on its walls. Since the Hellenistic period the city was called Scythopolis or Nisa-scythopolis, after the nursemaid of Dionysus (the wine god) traditionally believed to have been buried here. In the Roman period, Scythopolis was one of the "Decapolis" (federation of 10 cities). Its institutions and the lifestyle of its citizens manifested the city's pagan nature. Under Byzantine rule the city became the capital of 'Palestina Secunda' and most of its citizens were Christian.

Following the Arab conquest in the early 7th century, the town regained its original name. In 749 it was struck by a devastating earthquake, and was destroyed. The excavation work, exciting finds and the unique reconstruction efforts currently underway, are expected to make this park the finest tourist attraction in the country. The main findings unearthed include a large Roman theater, which was built in the 2nd century, ancient colonnaded streets paved with basalt stones, a huge bathhouse - spread over some 1.5 acres - the largest Byzantine bathhouse discovered in Israel, mosaic floors, the impressive remains of a Roman temple, a nympheum (water fountain), and a lot more.

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