Tag Archives: Byzantine Empire

Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East, vol. 3

H. Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research, vol. 3 (2003).

1. Yoram Tsafrir and Boaz Zissu, “A Hiding Complex of the Second Temple Period and the Time of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt at ‘Ain-‘Arrub in the Hebron Hills”: Between the two Jewish revolts, Judeans dug tunnels between disused underground installations (like cisterns, columbaria, etc.) in order to use them as hiding places in the case of Roman assault. Bar Kokhba was possibly born about 2 km south of ‘Ain-‘Arrub, ‘Ain-‘Arrub may also be the Kiryat ‘Arbayyah mentioned in one of Bar Kokhba’s letters.

2. Alla Kushnir-Stein, “New Inscribed Lead Weights from Gaza”: An edition of 7 previously unpublished lead weights from Roman Gaza. Five bear the Phoenician mem (the first letter of the name of Marnas, who was the patron deity of Gaza).

3. Doron Bar, “Was There a 3rd-c. Economic Crisis in Palestine?”: Even though the Western Roman Empire saw an economic crisis between 235 and 284 CE, archaeological evidence shows that Palestine experienced a period of growth then. The rabbinic writings record nothing that unambiguously points to economic decline in the 3rd century.

4. Zeev Weiss and Rina Talgam, “The Nile Festival Building and Its Mosaics: Mythological Representations in Early Byzantine Sepphoris”: The two artists who created the mosaics were probably from Alexandria. The main mosaic shows scenes from the Nile Festival, which was still practiced in Egypt (although in a Christianized form) as late as the 7th century. The Nile scenes were chosen for the main mosaic “because of [the Nile’s] fertility, abundance, and prosperity, the exotic appeal of the theme, and the decorative value of the composition” (72). Similarly, another mosaic shows Amazons dancing, not as part of a ritual (as in Callimachus’ Hymn to Artemis), but as part of a banquet. The mosaics are another example (along with the mosaics at Madaba, for instance) of Byzantine culture not being afraid of Classical themes.

4a. Leah Di Segni, “Appendix: Greek Inscriptions in the Nile Festival Building”: Editions of and commentaries on the Greek inscriptions from the mosaics at the Nile Festival building.

5. Douglas R. Edwards, “Khirbet Qana: From Jewish Village to a Christian Pilgrim Site”: Kh. Qana was inhabited off and on from the Neolithic through the Ottoman periods. Its population grew from the 1st century BCE through the Roman period, and it flourished during the Byzantine period, after Christian pilgrims identified it with Cana of Galilee in the 5th century. A shrine was built in a series of caves on the south slope of the hill, which “saw considerable foot traffic” (126), as evidenced by the high polish on the steps leading into the shrine and on the top of the altar inside one of the caves.

6. Cèsar Carreras Monfort and David F. Williams, “’Carrot’ Amphoras: A Syrian or Palestinian Connection?”: Opens the question whether carrot amphorae, which are only found at sites from the western Roman Empire, may have been produced in Syria or Palestine, owing to similarities in fabric between carrot amphorae and Syrian-Palestinian ceramics and that they typically contained dates of a type produced near Jericho.

7. Peter Fabian and Yuval Goren, “A New Type of Late Roman Storage Jar from the Negev”: Elusa jars were produced at a single site (Elusa) and used all over the Negev during the late Roman period.

8. Yizhar Hirschfeld, “Deir Qal’a and the Monasteries of Western Samaria”: “The monasteries of W Samaria have a number of common characteristics. They are all coenobia with walls generally enclosing a church, refectory, and living quarters. They are all built of large ashlars, usually with dressed margins, and decorated with crosses and classical motifs. It is a compact group, with a distance of no more than 2-3km between them” (187), founded near a Christian pilgrimage route to Jerusalem, probably after the Samaritan revolt (529/530) was put down and Christian sites were rebuilt with tax revenue.

9. Zbigniew T. Fiema, “Late-Antique Petra and Its Hinterland: Recent Research and New Interpretations”: “The most important conclusion derived from recent archaeological work and the Petra papyri is that Petra continued to exist through the 6th c.” (213). It was capital of Palaestina Tertia through the 6th century, and the Petra papyri attest to the administrative infrastructure there. The church (specifically the bishop) was an integral part of government in Byzantine Petra. However, Petra’s residents also held to traditional Nabataean practices. Residents of Petra spoke pre-Islamic Early Arabic, and Greek was the language of the administration. The settlement grew smaller from the 3rd century to the 6th century; an earthquake in 363 accelerated the process. During the same time, Petra “lost its importance as a major market for goods exchanged between regions” (225), though local trade still occurred. As in Palestine, Petra saw an economic downturn in the 5th century. Petra’s economy rallied briefly in the early 6th century, before a collapse in the mid-to-late 6th century. By the 6th century, major trade routes had shifted away from Petra. The population may have ruralized by the 7th century, since the Crusaders found the area inhabited by small villages.

10. David Stacey, “The Later Synagogues at Hammath Tiberias and Problems of Dating the Islamic Phases and Pottery”: A review of Moshe Dothan (ed. By Barbara L. Johnson), Hammath Tiberias vol. 2: The Late Synagogues.

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Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East, vol. 2 (1999)

H. Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research, vol. 2 (1999)

1. Elise A. Friedland, “Graeco-Roman Sculpture in the Levant: The Marbles from the Sanctuary of Pan at Caesarea Philippi (Banias)”: Marble statues are foreign to the Levant; most Levantine sculpture is made of limestone or basalt, and the foreign-style statues represent “the varying degree of assimilation to and/or adoption of mainstream Graeco-Roman culture from province to province and site to site” (8). The Banias marbles were most likely carved in western Anatolia and then brought to Banias. They were not part of a single installation; rather, they were installed over time, as donors provided funds, thus attesting to a trade route linking Anatolia and Banias and the Hellenization at Banias.

2. Zeev Weiss, “Adopting a Novelty: The Jews and Roman Games in Palestine”: More than 30 theaters probably existed in Roman and Byzantine Palestine. Entertainment there consisted mostly of mime and pantomime performances. Hippodromes first appeared in the Herodian period, but most were built in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The hippodromes housed games in honor of Caesar and local deities, chariot racing, combat sports (“wrestling, boxing, and pankration (a combination of the two)” [38]). Games typically involved foot races, jumping, discus, javelin, and the pentathlon. Amphitheaters were first built in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. They housed gladiatorial games. The rabbis condemned games and spectacles and the buildings where they took place. However, the rabbis represent the minority view; based on archaeological and textual evidence, “it is clear that Jews did frequent games and spectacles from the 2nd c. onwards” (44).

3. Stephen Tracy, “The Dedicatory Inscription to Trajan at the ‘Metropolis’ of Petra”: A new edition of the inscription to Trajan at Petra, accompanied by an epigraphical commentary. It named Petra a metropolis, making Petra “the titular first city of the province” (56) and showing how important Syria and Arabia were to Trajan.

4. Leah Di Segni, Gideon Foerster, and Yoram Tsafrir, “The Basilica and an Altar to Dionysos at Nysa-Scythopolis”: The basilica was one of the first buildings in the settlement in the Naḥal ‘Amal valley, which began in the late 1st century BCE or 1st century CE. The altar is a portable “polygonal monolithic block altar” (69); it has six sides, three of which bear the face of a deity. It also carries an inscription dated to 141/2 CE, showing that the altar was a votive offering to Dionysus, the patron god of Scythopolis. The top of the altar was subsequently broken away and the base was used as a statue by Christians in Late Antique Scythopolis.

5. David Kennedy, “Greek, Roman and Native Cultures in the Roman Near East”: A review of Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East 31 BC – AD 337 (1993).

6. Garth Fowden, “’Desert Kites’: Ethnography, Archaeology, and Art”: The “desert kites” here are maṣāyid (sg. miṣyada), large stone traps that the Syrian Bedouin used to hunt gazelles. Similar structures first entered use around the 7th millennium BCE. A Safaitic inscription, dating to the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE, shows one in use. An 8th-century CE fresco from Quṣayr ‘Amra (located near a large group of maṣāyid) also shows a similar scene.

7. Zvi Uri Ma’oz, “The Synagogue at Capernaum: A Radical Solution”: The Capernaum synagogue, which is lavishly decorated and built of imported stone, does not fit its first-century context, which was a poor part of town. Instead, it is possible that the synagogue was purpose-built near Peter’s house in the 5th century, as a pilgrimage site, using stone imported from synagogues elsewhere in Galilee.

8. Leah Di Segni, “Epigraphic Documentation on Building in the Provinces of Palaestina and Arabia, 4th-7th c.”: Lists different building projects attested epigraphically for Late Antique Palestine and Arabia:

  • Sacred buildings
  • Defensive works and forts
  • Public inns and burgi (guarded roadhouses)
  • Fortifications in cities
  • Baths
  • Waterworks
  • Stoas and piazzas
  • Civil basilicas

9. Benjamin Isaac, “Inscriptions and Religious Identity on the Golan”: A review of Robert C. Gregg and Dan Urman, Jews, Pagans and Christians in the Golan Heights: Greek and Other Inscriptions of the Roman and Byzantine Eras (1996).

10. Jodi Magness, “Redating the Forts at Ein Boqeq, Upper Zohar, and other sites in SE Judaea, and the Implications for the Nature of the Limes Palaestinae”: Based on pottery finds and coins, “the forts at Upper Zohar and Ein Boqeq were constructed and initially occupied around the middle of the 6th c.” (198), not the 4th or 5th. The structures on the east side of Mount Hebron date from the 1st century BCE–2nd century CE. The 4th-century limes, then, was an administrative area, not a fortified border.

11. Mark Whittow, “Rome and the Jafnids: Writing the History of a 6th-c. Tribal Dynasty”: A review of Irfan Shahīd, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, parts 1 and 2 (1995).

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Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East, vol. 1 (1995)

J. H. Humphrey, ed., The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research, vol. 1 (1995).

1. Alla Kushnir-Stein, “The Predecessor of Caesarea: On the Identification of Demetrias in South Phoenicia”: The city of Demetrias, attested only on coins, was the Seleucid name for the city of Strato’s Tower, a well-established polis that Octavian gave to Herod, who renamed it Caesarea.

2. Yosef Porath, “Herod’s ‘Amphitheatre’ at Caesarea: A Multipurpose Entertainment Building”: The building that Josephus calls an “amphitheatre” is closer in form to a hippodrome; “in Herod’s day there was no clear functional distinction between the institutions that we call today the canonical amphitheatre, stadium, and hippodrome” (25).

3. Yizhar Hirschfeld, “The Early Roman Bath and Fortress at Ramat Hanadiv Near Caesarea”: The city was a Hasmonean fortified village (a chorion), which Herod inherited, and which persisted as a Judean fort until the Great Revolt. The bath was a public bath near Caesarea that was in use by Jewish residents from the end of the 1st century BCE until the 67 CE revolt. In the Byzantine period, an aqueduct ran from the spring (at that point considered magical) to Shuni, where it was used for the Maiumas (Shuni’s water festivities).

4. Boaz Zissu, “Two Herodian Dovecotes: Horvat Abu Haf and Horvat ‘Aleq”: The towers at these two sites were columbaria that also probably functioned as watchtowers. Pigeons were raised as a source of food and fertilizer, and were very valuable. Columbaria are attested in Roman and Jewish literature.

5. Adam Zertal, “The Roman Siege-System at Khirbet al-Hamam (Narbata)”: The tel (located in northwest Samaria) was partially surrounded by a circumvallation wall with three (possibly four) Roman camps situated along it. The siege ramp made partial use of the road that ran into the town. Narbata was an influential regional capital. In 66 CE, Jews from Caesarea garrisoned themselves in the city, prompting the Roman general Gallus to lay siege to (and defeat) the city before heading to Jerusalem.

6. Benny Arubas and Haim Goldfus, “The Kilnworks of the Tenth Legion Fretensis”: The site served as the Roman army factory for pottery, bricks, and roofing tiles when Jerusalem was rebuilt as Aelia Capitolina. It was in use from the 1st through 3rd centuries CE.

7. Rivka Gersht, “Seven New Sculptural Pieces from Caesarea”: 1) A male figure that is probably Antoninus Pius (r. 138-161; the first sculpture of a Roman emperor from Caesarea); 2) A 4th-century woman, a private individual; 3) Aphrodite; 4) The base of a standing male; 5) The base of a standing figure; 6) and 7) Fragment of two garland sarcophagoi.

8. Moshe Fischer, with Antje Krug and Ze’ev Pearl, “The Basilica of Ascalon: Marble, Imperial Art, and Architecture in Roman Palestine”: The monumental decorations of the basilica show various deities. Four pilasters show Victory in various poses. Another shows Isis and a priest of Sarapis, “who seems only just to have emerged from childhood” (136). The building also likely housed Roman imperial cult.

9. Yoram Tsafrir, “The Synagogues at Capernaum and Meroth and the Dating of the Galilean Synagogue”: The synagogue at Capernaum was built in the 3rd century, during the time that the Galilean style of synagogue flourished. The synagogue at Meroth is in imitation of the Galliean-style synagogue and dates to the late 4th or early 5th century.

10. Ze’ev Weiss and Ehud Netzer, “New Evidence for Late-Roman and Byzantine Sepphoris”: During the Byzantine period, Sepphoris was a flourishing city. Most of the population was probably Jewish. One house (the “Nile festival house”) contains several mosaics, one of which commemorates the flooding of the Nile. At the intersection of the cardo and decumanus, under Bishop Eutropius, “the sidewalks were renovated and repaved with mosaics that featured geometric designs, and some changes were made to the entrances of the shops” (171); Eutropius also built a church. Several synagogues were also built in the city; one contains an ornate mosaic floor, the features of which all point along the axis that leads to Jerusalem. The city burned down toward the end of the Byzantine period.

11. David Adan-Bayewitz, “A Lamp Mould from Sepphoris and the Location of Workshops for Lamp and Common Pottery Manufacture in the Northern Palestine”: Lamp and figurine workshops were predominately located in cities, as is the pattern in the broader Roman world, whereas other pottery was produced, by and large, in rural areas. Rural areas certainly had the raw materials to make lamps and figurines, so it is likely that the smaller items were in higher demand in cities than in villages.

12. Rachel Hachlili, “Late Antique Jewish Art from the Golan”: The motifs in the art of Late Antique Jewish Golan were those of Jewish art more generally. They include:

  • Menorah (more common in synagogues than private houses)
  • Animals (including eagles, a peacock, a few birds, lions and lionesses, fish, and a snake)
  • Human figures (including people and mythological figures)
  • Geometric designs (rosettes, vine scrolls, wreaths, stylized “Trees of Life”)
  • Local variations on classical column capitals (mostly Ionic)

Most of the sculpture is carved out of basalt, as was the local tradition. The styles were in use for a long time, and no chronology can be established. In synagogues, the Torah shrine followed the style of the aedicula, with “a stone platform with columns surmounted by a lintel usually decorated by a Syrian gable” (189), inside of which a wooden Ark was placed. The aedicula pointed towards Jerusalem.

13. Clive Foss, “The Near Eastern Countryside in Late Antiquity: A Review Article”: A review of one work on Byzantine Syria and two on the Byzantine Negev. Syria flourished in the Byzantine period until the late 6th century, when it collapsed due to plague and the Persian invasion. The Negev, on the other hand, saw a peaceful transition between the Byzantine and Arab periods

14. Peter Fabian, “The Late-Roman Military Camp at Beer Sheba: A New Discovery”: Previously thought lost, the Roman military camp was located at the center of Byzantine Beersheba. In the Roman and Byzantine periods, it was a major fort (likely a headquarters) guarding the roads from the northern Negev to the Gulf of Eilat.

15. David F. Graf, “The Via Nova Traiana in Arabia Petraea”: Petra, not the Roman provincial capital Bostra, was the head of the Trajanic road. Two routes exist between Petra and Ṣadaqa, both of which attest milestones, either of which could be the Trajanic road. The road then continues south from Ṣadaqa to ‘Aqaba, again attested by milestones as well as by preserved stretches of pavement,

15. [sic] J. Wilson and Eleanor E. Myers, “Low-Altitude Aerial Photography at Petra”: A collection of photographs taken from an unmanned, tethered blimp at Petra showing archaeological features that were not otherwise visible.

16. Zbigniew T. Fiema, Robert Schick, and Khairieh ‘Amr, “The Petra Church Project: Interim Report, 1992-1994”: The church at Petra was built in the late 5th century and was in use until the mid-6th century, when it collapsed and burned down. It was subsequently robbed. The church contained several mosaics and a library of papyrus scrolls dating from the 5th-6th century (the Petra Papyri). Excavation also recovered extensive finds (metal building materials, some pottery dating to the 5th-7th centuries, stone and marble furnishings, wall mosaics and plaster, glass windows panes and lamps, some epigraphic finds dating from the Nabatean period to the Byzantine period, and animal remains).

17. Jean-Pierre Sodini, “L’organisation liturgique des églises en Palestine et Judée”: A review of Yoram Tsafrir, ed., Ancient Churches Revealed (1993).

18. Leah Di Segni, “The Involvement of Local, Municipal and Provincial Authorities in Urban Building in Late Antique Palestine and Arabia”: In Late Antiquity, churches were built by bishops and priests, but also by village officials. Municipal and provincial authorities usually built civil buildings; work was overseen by various aristocrats and local and military officials. Funding for public buildings came from city or provincial treasuries.

19. Kenneth G. Holum, “Inscriptions from the Imperial Revenue Office of Byzantine Caesarea Palaestinae”: Editions of three of the six inscriptions from the imperial revenue office at Caesarea Maritima. One is the text of Rom 13:3 (“If you would not fear the authority, then do good and you will receive praise from it” [339]). The second mentions two classes of civil servants working in the same administrative bureau. The third mentions another officer in the same bureau. One of the officials named is a numerarios (an accountant in the civil administration), meaning that the bureau dealt with the revenue and expenditures of Byzantine Palestine.

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