ruins of Ahab's palace at
Sebaste (9th c. BCE)
The capitol of the
independent northern kingdom of Israel founded ca. 870
the Ephraimite ruler Omri on a mountain ridge 12 miles northwest
on the central route from Jerusalem
For more than 800 years it was known as Samaria & the
territory it controlled was eventually named for it. The city
was captured by Sargon II of Assyria (722
BCE), who deported
27,000 inhabitants & replaced them with captives from 5
Babylonian cities. Given its strategic location the city served
as the provincial capital of the region for 600 years under
Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, & Hellenistic empires.
made subject to Jerusalem after a year long siege
Hyrcanus (ca. 110 BCE)
who destroyed its fortifications. After Roman occupation, the
walls were restored by Gabinius.
The city sided with Herod
against the Hasmonean prince Antigonus,
who controlled Jerusalem (38 BCE).
Thus, Herod made it part of
his building campaign, enlarging it & rededicating it to the
[Sebastos in Greek]. Remains of the large [230' x 280']
Herodian temple to Augustus with part of a marble statue of the
emperor were uncovered in the modern excavations. According to
Acts 8, this thoroughly Romanized city was the center of the
first successful expansion of the Jesus movement among non-Jews.
As a monument to Roman domination, Sebaste was captured &
burned by Jews early in their war with Rome
(66 CE). Though
Roman forces under Vespasian
recaptured it (69 CE),
it was not restored until the end of the
2nd c. CE.
Later Byzantine tradition claimed it was the site of
the burial of Johanan the Baptizer.
For further information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:
Rousseau, John J. &
Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1995) pp. 240-244.
Buttrick, G. A., ed. Interpreter's
Dictionary of the Bible. vol. 4 (NY/Nashville: Abingdon Press,
1962) p. 182-188.
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