Bethshean (2)


We extract the following additional particulars from Porter's Handbook, p. 347:

"The ruins of Bethshean cover a space about three miles in circuit. No less than four streams flow through the site, so that the city must have consisted of several sections, separated by deep ravines and brawling torrents. Between the principal streams is a hill two hundred feet high, in form a truncated cone. From its southern base the ground ascends gradually for about half a mile, and on this slope the great body of the ancient city stood. Here also stands the modern village, grouped round a massive square tower, the style of whose masonry proclaims its Jewish or Phoenician origin. Scythopolis was a city of temples. It was a chief seat of the Philistine god Dagon. The remains of no less than four temples can be traced at the base of the tell, and several others are seen elsewhere. There are some thirty columns standing among the ruins, most of which appear to have lined the street which ran from the Gadara gate round the acropolis.

Bible concordance for BETH-SHEAN.

"The most perfect as well as the most interesting ruin of Bethshean is the Theatre, situated in the valley southwest of the tell. Though the outer walls are shattered and ruinous, the interior doors and passages are almost perfect. It is entirely built of basalt. In form it is semicircular, and its diameter measures nearly two hundred feet. Here, we are told, a number of Christians were massacred during the reign of Julian the Apostate.

"The citadel stood on the summit of the hill, and must have been a place of very great strength. The hill is a natural fortress, for a deep glen, called Wady el-Jalud, sweeps round its northern base, while another glen passes round the southern base, and the two meet on the east, thus almost surrounding it with an impassable moat. Its sides are steep, scarped, and in places almost perpendicular. A massive wall encircled the flat top, and its principal gateway was on the north-west. In its sides, which are of comparatively recent structure, may be seen fragments of Corinthian capitals and shafts of limestone. It was doubtless on the wall of this citadel that the Philistines hung up the bodies of Saul and Jonathan (1Sa 31:10); and one can understand from the position of the city how the daring inhabitants of Jabesh were able to carry off the bodies. They crossed the Jordan during the night, crept up Wady el-Jalud to the northern base of the tell, then clambered up its steep side, scaled the wall of the fortress, took down the bodies, and escaped.

"On the east and north of the tell there are extensive ruins, but now so overgrown with thorns, thistles, and rank grass that it is difficult to see them. On the north bank of the ravine, opposite the citadel, are a number of rock tombs and sarcophagi.

"The village is poor but populous, containing a colony of Egyptians brought hither by Ibrahim Pasha. They have a bad name, and deserve it; for they are given to pilfering, and open robbery when they can safely venture upon it. They are themselves frequently plundered by the wanderilng Bedawin." The following is the latest account (Conder, Tentwork, 2, 69):

"Beisan is a miserable hamlet of mud hovels, amid the ruins of the important town of Scythopolis, which was a bishopric from the 5th century until the change of the see to Nazareth, in the 12th century. The remains of a theatre, hippodrome, and temple, of fine structural tombs, and baths, with a crusading fortress and bridge, are among the best-preserved antiquities of western Palestine. Christian martyrs, in the 4th century, here fought wild beasts in the theatre; and the cages with the sockets of the iron bars, and the narrow passages from the outside, are still intact in the ruined theatre of black basalt."

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