Sepphoris was a great urban center of the Galilee
during the Roman
periods, with a population of 30-40,000 people. It had a theatre
, eighteen synagogue
s, a council chamber, an archive, two marketplaces, a city wall, and an extensive aquaduct
system. Archaeological excavation conducted over the past fourteen years proved that Sepphoris was indeed a sophisticated urban metropolis. Those excavations have uncovered the theatre, a reservoir, colonnaded streets, and a basilica
s. The citadel
is the most conspicuous building there today. It was a schoolhouse in modern times until 1948; today it serves as the park's visitor center.
The site of ancient Sepphoris was located near Nazareth in the northern part of Israel, in the heart of the lower Galilee. It is 18 miles (30 km) west of the Mediterranean Sea, and the same distance west of Galilee. The site of Sepphoris was situated on a hill in a mountainous plain, at a 938 ft. elevation. Its location on two major routes enabled the city to benefit from trade and commerce. The entire surrounding area was and is known for its prosperous agriculture, owing to fertile land, rich soil, and abundant rainfall.
Sepphoris is a Greek word, and is the name used by archaeologists today. Babylonian texts called it by its Hebrew equivalent because it perched on a mountain like a bird. The Romans changed the name in the second century CE, and over the 11th to 13th centuries, or the Crusader period, the name was changed again. Over the next few centuries a large Arab village was on the site but was captured, and its residents banished, during Isreal's war of independence in 1948. In 1949 a cooperative farming village was established with the ancient Hebrew name.
The archaeological date in conjunction with the historical records provide a detailed picture of Sepphoris and its people, esp. during the Roman and Byzantine periods. It was first settled in the 7th or 6th centuries BCE, near the end of the Iron Age II period. Many IA2 pottery remains were found. The earliest mention of Sepphoris in historical records date to the beginning of the 1st century BCE, and it was a major stronghold in the Galilee by the 1st century BCE. The Romans divided Palestine into five administrative districts, or councils, and Sepphoris was named the capital of the Galilee district, and remained the capital through Herod's reign. Herod the Great had a number of building projects, including hippodromes, palaces, temples, and gymnasiums. Riots broke out in Sepphoris after his death, and the city came under the rule of Herod's son, who restored the city to its former status as capital.
In 66 CE the first Jewish war broke out against Rome, and the residents of Sepphoris took a pro-Roman position. It was one of the few cities that avoided destruction. The second Jewish war against Rome was 132-135 CE, but the position that Sepphoris took is unclear. A number of changes took place in Sepphoris after this revolt. First, the devastation of Judea, or southern Palestine, caused refugees to settle in Sepphoris. The local Jewish city council was ousted, and a gentile administration appointed in its place. The name of the city was changed again. At the neginning of the first century, Sepphoris was moved, the council returned to Jewish control, and the city became a center of Jewish learning. In 324 CE Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman empire, thus marking the beginning of the Byzantine period. The city began its decline during the middle of the Arab period.
Excavations were done in 1931 by the University of Michigan, and in 1975 by Tel Aviv University. The University of South Florida began their excavations in 1985. During the 1990s there were four separate archaeological teams excavating at the site: USF, Duke, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. The three areas of focus were the citadel, the basilica, and the 4500-seat theatre.
The basilica was 131 x197 ft (40 x 60 m). It had a central courtyard and plaster rooms with red, black, and green paintings. There was a drainage system under all of the mosaic floors, which were cleaned by conservationists in 1995. The enclosed bath complex dated from the Byzantine period, and held 1,145,000 gallons of water. The tunnel to the city was not found. An excavation at a Roman villa uncovered a Dionsysiac mosaic on the floor, as well as a Nile festival mosaic. Other objects uncovered by the excavations included Roman pottery, lamps, glass, a salt grinder, coins, gold jewelry, gold headpieces, a bronze incense burner and other pagan worship objects. Amulets and one dice found were dated to the Byzantine period.
This w-u was the result of notes taken from an archaeologist's lecture in 1997 or so, but I don't know who it was, unfortunately.