[strictly Samari'a], CITY OF (Heb. Shomeron', שֹׁמרוֹן, watch, so called probably from its commanding site, as well as by alliteration with its original owner's name; Chald. Shomra'yin, שָׁמרָיַן, Ezr 4:10,17; Sept., New Test., and Josephus, usually Σαμάρεια, as Ptolemy; but some copies of the Sept. often have Σαμαρία, and occasionally Σεμηρών or Σομορών; and Josephus once [Ant. 8:12, 1] Σεμαρεων), an important place in Central Palestine, famous as the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and later as giving name to a region of the country and to a schismatic sect. Its boundaries, however, seem never to have been very definitely fixed. SEE ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF.
I. History. — The hill of the same name, which the city occupied, was purchased for two talents of silver from the owner, Shemer (q.v.), after whom the city was named (1Ki 16:23-24), by Omri (q.v.), king of Israel, for the foundation of his new metropolis, B.C. cir. 925. The first capital after the secession of the ten tribes had been Shechem itself, whither all Israel had come to make Rehoboam king. On the separation being fully accomplished, Jeroboam rebuilt that city (1Ki 12:25), which had been razed to the ground by Abimelech (Jg 9:45). But he soon moved to Tirzah, a place, as Dr. Stanley observes, of great and proverbial beauty (Song 6:4), which continued to be the royal residence until Zimri burned the palace and perished in its ruins (1
Kings 14:17; 15:21, 33; 16:6- 18). Omri, who prevailed in the contest for the kingdom that ensued, after "reigning six years" there, transferred his court and government to a new site, being under the necessity of reconstructing somewhere, and doubtless influenced by the natural advantages of the position, and desirous of commemorating his dynasty by a change of capital. Samaria continued to be the metropolis of Israel for the remaining two centuries of that kingdom's existence. During all this time it was the seat of idolatry, and is often as such denounced by the prophets (Isa 9:8; Jer 23:13-14; Eze 16:46-55; Am 6:1; Mic 1:1), sometimes in connection with Jerusalem (especially by Hosea). Ahab built a temple to Baal there (1Ki 16:32-33); and from this circumstance a portion of the city, possibly fortified by a separate wall, was called "the city of the house of Baal" (2Ki 10:25). It was the scene of many of the acts of the prophets Elijah and Elisha (q.v.), connected with the various famines of the land, the unexpected plenty of Samaria, and the several deliverances of the city from the Syrians. Jehu broke down the temple of Baal, but does not appear to have otherwise injured the city (ver. 18-28). Samaria must have been a place of great strength. It was twice besieged by the Syrians, in B.C. 901 (1Ki 20:1) and in B.C. 892 (2Ki 6:24,20); but on both occasions the siege was ineffectual. On the latter, indeed, it was relieved miraculously, belt not until the inhabitants had suffered almost incredible horrors from famine during their protracted resistance. The possessor of Samaria was considered to be de facto king of Israel (15:13, 14); and woes denounced against the nation were directed against it by name (Isa 7:9, etc.). Although characterized by gross voluptuousness, as well as other sins incidental to idolatry, its inhabitants did not entirely lose that generosity which had early characterized Ephraim, in evidence of which note the event that happened during the reign of the last but one of its kings (2Ch 28:6-15). In B.C. 720 Samaria was taken, after a siege ser (or, rather, by his successor Sargon), king of Assyria (2Ki 18:9-10), and the kingdom of the ten tribes was was demolished by the condestroyed. The city doubtless queror. Col. Rawlinson, indeed, has lately endeavored to show that Samaria was not at once depopulated (Athenoeum Lond.], Aug. 22, 1863, p. 246); and this was doubtless true as regards the country around; but his application of the argument to the city itself (evidently in order to square with the hypothesis of a twofold invasion of Judah also during the reign of Hezekiah [q.v.]) is based upon reasons so obviously inconclusive that they need not be here examined in detail. SEE SAMARITAN. Samaria is only called Beth-Khumri in the earlier cuneatic inscriptions (q.v.), but from the time of Tiglath-Pileser II the term used is Tsamirin (Rawlinson, Hist. Evidences, p. 321). The people are figured on the Egyptian monuments among the captives with the hieroglyph Asmori attached (Wilkinson, Anc. Egyptians, 1, 403). SEE CAPTIVITY, ASSYRIAN.
After this capture Samaria appears to have continued, for a time at least, the chief city of the foreigners brought to occupy the places of the departed natives, although Shechem soon became the capital of the Samaritans as a religious sect. From this it would seem that the city of Samaria had meanwhile been but partially rebuilt. We do not, however, hear especially of the place until the days of Alexander the Great, B.C. 333. That conqueror took the city, which seems to have somewhat recovered itself (Euseb. Chronicles ad ann. Abr. 1684), killed a large portion of the inhabitants, and suffered the remainder to settle among their compatriots at Shechem (q.v.). He replaced them by a colony of Syro-Macedonians, and gave the adjacent territory (Σαμαρεῖτις χώρα) to the Jews to inhabit (Josephus, c. Ap. 2, 4). These SyroMacedonians occupied the city until the time of John Hyrcanus. It was then a place of considerable importance, for Josephus describes it (Ant. 13:10, 2) as a very strong city (πόλις ὀχυρωτάτη). John Hyrcanus took it after a year's siege, and did his best to demolish it entirely. He intersected the hill on which it lay with trenches; into these he conducted the natural brooks, and thus undermined its foundation. "In fact," says the Jewish historian, "he took away all evidence of the very existence of the city." This story at first sight seems rather exaggerated, and inconsistent with the hilly site of Samaria. It may have referred only to the suburbs lying at its foot. "But," says Prideaux (Connection, B.C. 109, note), "Benjamin of Tudela, who was in the place, tells us in his Itinerary (no such passage, however, exists in that work) that there were upon the top of this hill many fountains of water, and from these water enough may have been derived to fill these trenches." It should also be recollected that the hill of Samaria was lower than the hills in its neighborhood. This may account for the existence of these springs. Josephus describes the extremities to which the inhabitants were reduced during this siege, much in the same way that the author of the book of Kings does during that of Benhadad (comp. War, 1, 2, 7 with 2Ki 6:25). John Hyrcanus's reasons for attacking Samaria were the injuries which its inhabitants had done to the people of Marissa, colonists and allies of the Jews. This confirms what was said above of the cession of the Samaritan neighborhood to the Jews by Alexander the Great. The mention of Marissa in this connection serves to explain a notice in the earlier history of the Maccabees. The Samaria named in the present text of 1 Macc. 5:66 (ἡ Σαμάρεια; Vulg. Sanaria) is evidently an error. At any rate, the well known Samaria of the Old and New Testaments cannot be intended, for it is obvious that Judas, in passing from Hebron to the land of the Philistines (Azotus), could not make so immense a detour. The true correction is doubtless supplied by Josephus (Ant. 12:8, 6), who has Marissa (i.e. Mareshah [q.v.]) a place which lay in the road from Hebron to the Philistine plain. One of the ancient Latin versions exhibits the same reading, which is accepted by Ewald (Gesch. 4, 361) and a host of commentators (see Grimm, Kurzg. exeg. Handb. on the passage). Drusius proposed Shaaraim; but this is hardly so feasible as Mareshah, and has no external support.
After this demolition (which occurred in B.C. 129), the Jews inhabited what remained of the city; at least, we find it in their possession in the time of Alexander Janneeus (Josephus, Ant. 13:15, 4), and until Pompey gave it back to the descendants of its original inhabitants (τοῖς οἰκήτορσιν). These οἰκήτορες may possibly have been the Syro-Macedonians, but it is more probable that they were Samaritans proper, whose ancestors had been dispossessed by the colonists of Alexander the Great. By directions of Gabinius, Samaria and other demolished cities were rebuilt (ibid. 14:5, 3). But its more effectual rebuilding was undertaken by Herod the Great, to whom it had been granted by Augustus, on the death of Antony and Cleopatra (ibid. 13:10, 3; 15:8, 5; War, 1, 20, 3). He called it Sebaste, Σεβαστή = Augusta, after the name of his patron (Josephus, Ant. 15:7, 7). Josephus gives an elaborate description of Herod's improvements. The wall surrounding it was twenty stadia in length. In the middle of it was a close, of a stadium and a half square, containing a magnificent temple dedicated to the Caesar. It was colonized by 6000 veterans and others, for whose support a most beautiful and rich district surrounding the city was appropriated. Herod's motives in these arrangements were probably, first, the occupation of a commanding position, and then the desire of distinguishing himself for taste by the embellishment of a spot already so adorned by nature (ibid. 15:8, 5, War, 1, 20, 3; 21, 2).
How long Samaria maintained its splendor after Herod's improvements, we are not informed. In the New Test. the city itself does not appear to be mentioned, but rather a portion of the district to which, even in older times, it had extended its name. Our version, indeed, of Ac 8:5 says that Philip the deacon "went down to the city of Samaria;" but the Greek of the passage is simply εἰς πόλιν τῆς Σαμαρείας. It is hardly safe to argue, however, either from the absence of the definite article, or from the probability that, had the city Samaria been intended, the term employed would have been Sebaste, that some one city of the district, the name of which is not specified, was in the mind of the writer (as Olshausen, Neander, De Wette, Meyer, etc.); for the genitive is one of apposition (Winer), πόλις being sufficiently defined by it (Hackett), and the city was well known in that day by this name (see Josephus, Ant. 20:6, 2). The evangelist would naturally have resorted first to the chief city, where also Simon Magus probably was. In ver. 9 of the same chapter "the people of Samaria" represents τὸ ἔθνος τῆς Σαμαρείας; and the phrase in ver. 25, "many villages of the Samaritans," shows that the operations of evangelizing were not confined to the city of Samaria itself (comp. Mt 10:5, "Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not;" and Joh 4:4-5, where, after it has been said, "And he must needs go through Samaria," obviously the district, it is subjoined, "Then cometh he to a city of Samaria called Sychar"). Henceforth its history is very unconnected, although it is occasionally noticed in the reigns of the Roman emperors (Ulpian, Leg. I. de Censibus, quoted by Dr. Robinson). Various specimens of coins struck on the spot have been preserved, extending from Nero to Geta, the brother of Caracalla (Vaillant, in Numism. Imper., and Noris, quoted by Reland; Eckhel, 3, 440; Mionnet, Med. Antiq. 5, 513). Septimius Severus appears to have established there a Roman colony in the beginning of the 3d century (Cellarius, Not. Orb. 2, 432). Eusebius scarcely mentions the city as extant; but it is often named by Jerome and other writers of the same and a later age (adduced in Reland's Palest. p. 979- 981). But it could not have been a place of much political importance. We find in the Codex of Theodosius that by A.D. 409 the Holy Land had been divided into Palestina Prima, Secunda, and Tertia. Palsestina Prima included the country of the Philistines, Samaria (the district), and the northern part of Judaea; but its capital was not Sebaste, but Caesarea. In an ecclesiastical point of view it stood rather higher. It was an episcopal see probably as early as the 3d century. At any rate, its bishop was present among those of Palestine at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, and subscribed its acts as "Maximus (al. Marinus) Sebastenus." The names of some of his successors have been preserved; the latest of them mentioned is Pelagius, who attended the synod at Jerusalem, A.D. 536. The title of the see occurs in the earlier Greek Notitioe and in the later Latin ones (Reland, Paloest. p. 214-229).
Jerome, whose acquaintance with Palestine imparts a sort of probability to the tradition which prevailed so strongly in later days, asserts that Sebaste, which he invariably identifies with Samaria, was the place in which John the Baptist was imprisoned and suffered death. (See below.) He also makes it the burial place of the prophets Elisha and Obadiah (see various passages cited by Reland, Paloest. p. 980, 981). Epiphanius is at great pains, in his work Adv. Hoereses (lib. 1), in which he treats of the heresies of the Samaritans with singular minuteness, to account for the origin of their name. He interprets it as שֹׁמרַי ם, φύλακες, or "keepers." The hill on which the city was built was, he says, designated Somer, or Somoron (Σωμήρ, Σωμόρων), from a certain Somoron the son of Somer, whom he considers to have been of the stock of the ancient Perizzites or Girgashites, themselves descendants of Canaan and Ham. But, he adds, the inhabitants may have been called Samaritans from their guarding the land, or (coming down much later in their history) from their guarding the law, as distinguished from the later writings of the Jewish canon, which they refused to allow. SEE SAMARITAN.
The city, along with Nablus, fell into the power of the Moslems during the siege of Jerusalem, A.D. 614; and we hear but little more of it till the time of the Crusades. At what time the city of Herod became desolate no existing accounts state, but all the notices of the 4th century and later lead to the inference that its destruction had already taken place. The Crusaders established a Latin bishopric at Sebaste, and the title was continued in the Romish Church till the 14th century (Le Quien, Oriens Christ. 3, 1290). Saladin marched through it in A.D. 1184, after his repulse from Kerak (Abulfeda, Annal. A.H. 580). Benjamin of Tudela describes it as having been "formerly a very strong city, and situated on the mount, in a fine country, richly watered, and surrounded by gardens, vineyards, orchards, and olive-groves." He adds that no Jews were living there (Itiner. [ed. Asher] p. 66). Phocas and Brocardus speak only of the church and tomb of John the Baptist, and of the Greek church and monastery on the summit of the hill. Notices of the place occur in the travelers of the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries; nor are they all so meager as Dr. Robinson conceives. That of Morison, for instance, is full and exact (Voyage du Mont Sinai, p. 230- 233). The description of Sandys, likewise, is quite circumstantial (see Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Palest. p. 117 sq.). Scarcely any traces of the earlier or later Samaria could then be perceived, the materials having been used by the inhabitants for the construction of their own mean dwellings. The residents were an extremely poor and miserable set of people. In the 18th century the place appears to have been left unexplored, but in the present century it has often been visited and described.
II. Description. — In the territory originally belonging to the tribe of Joseph, about six miles to the northwest of Shechem, there is a wide basin- shaped valley, encircled with high hills, almost on the edge of the great plain which borders upon the Mediterranean. In the center of this basin, which is on a lower level than the valley of Shechem, rises a less elevated oblong hill, with steep yet accessible sides, and a long flat top. The singular beauty of the spot may have struck Omri, as it afterwards struck the tasteful Idumaean (Josephus, War, 1, 21, 2; Ant. 15:8, 5). All travelers agree that it would be difficult to find in the whole land a situation of equal strength, fertility, and beauty combined. "In all these particulars," says Dr. Robinson, "it has greatly the advantage over Jerusalem" (Bibl. Researches, 3, 146). In the valley there is an abundance of excellent water all the year round, but on the hill itself there is not so much as a single fountain. This is its only and great disadvantage as a site for a city, and a most serious one it must have been, especially in the time of siege. This was a want which Samaria shared in common with the capital of Judah; but the deficiency in both cases was so amply supplied by cisterns under the houses and elsewhere that in the severe sieges we never read of either city suffering from a scarcity of water. SEE JERUSALEM. The hill of Samaria itself is of considerable elevation and very regular in form, and the broad deep valley in the midst of which it lies is a continuation of that of Nablas (Shechem), which here expands into a breadth of five or six miles. Beyond this valley, which completely isolates the hill, the mountains rise again on every side, forming a complete wall around the city (as referred to in 2Ki 6:17). They are terraced to the tops, sown in grain, and planted with olives and figs, in the midst of which a number of handsome villages appear to great advantage, their white stone cottages contrasting strikingly with the verdure of the trees. The hill of Samaria itself is cultivated from its base, the terraced sides and summit being covered with corn and with olive- trees. About midway up the ascent the hill is surrounded by a narrow terrace of level land, like a belt, below which the roots of the hill spread off more gradually into the valleys. Higher up, too, are the marks of slight terraces, once occupied, perhaps, by the streets of the ancient city. The ascent of the hill is very steep, and the narrow footpath winds among the mountains through substantial cottages of the modern Sebustiyeh (the Arabic form of Sebaste), which appear to have been constructed to a great extent of ancient materials, very superior in size and quality to anything which could at this day be wrought into an Arab habitation. The houses are all of stone, though erected with little or no regard to order and regularity. These, with their inmates, present the same unclean appearance that is met with among all the Felahin of the country; and the inhabitants are remarkably rude, but more industrious than most of their race. The view from the summit is most interesting. Beneath, to the north and east, lie its own immediate fertile valleys; and, turning westwardly, the eye wanders over rich plains to Sharon and the blue Mediterranean; and even in the present impoverished state of the country the scene fills the mind of the beholder with delight.
On the summit, the first object which attracts the notice of the traveler, and, at the same time, the most conspicuous ruin of the place, is the church dedicated to John the Baptist, erected on the spot which an old tradition (noticed above) fixed as the place of his burial, if not of his martyrdom. It is said to have been built by the empress Helena; but the architecture limits its antiquity to the period of the Crusades, although a portion of the eastern end seems to have been of earlier date. There is a blending of Greek and Saracenic styles, which is particularly observable in the interior, where there are several pointed arches; others are round. The columns follow no regular order, while the capitals and ornaments present a motley combination not to be found in any church erected in or near the age of Constantine. The length of the edifice is 153 feet inside, besides a porch of 10 feet; and the breadth is 75 feet. The eastern end is rounded, in the common Greek style; and, resting. as it does, upon a precipitous elevation of nearly 100 feet immediately above the valley, it is a noble and striking monument. Within the enclosure is a common Turkish tomb; and beneath it at a depth reached by twenty-one stone steps, is a sepulchre, three or four paces square, where, according to the tradition, John the Baptist was interred after he had been slain by Herod. There is no trace of this tradition earlier than the time of Jerome; and if Josephus is correct in stating that John was beheaded in the castle of Machaerus, on the east of the Dead Sea (Ant. 18:5, 2), his burial in Samaria is very improbable. SEE JOHN THE BAPTIST.
On approaching the summit of the hill, the traveler comes suddenly upon an area once surrounded by limestone columns, of which fifteen are still standing and two prostrate. These columns form two rows, thirty-two paces apart, while less than two paces intervene between the columns. They measure seven feet nine inches in circumference; but there is no trace of the order of their architecture, nor are there any foundations to indicate the nature of the edifice to which they belonged. Some refer them to Herod's temple to Augustus, others to a Greek church which seems to have once occupied the summit of the hill. The descent of the hill on the W.S.W. side brings the traveler to a very remarkable colonnade, which is easily traceable by a great number of columns, erect or prostrate, along the side of the hill for at least one third of a mile, where it terminates at a heap of ruins, near the eastern extremity of the ancient site. The columns are sixteen feet high, two feet in diameter at the base, and one foot eight inches at the top. The capitals have disappeared; but the shafts retain their polish, and, when not broken, are in good preservation. Eighty-two of these columns are still erect, and the number of those fallen and broken must be much greater. Most of them are of the limestone common to the region; but some are of white marble, and some of granite. The mass of ruins in which this colonnade terminates towards the west is composed of blocks of hewn stone, covering no great area, on the slope of the hill, many feet lower than the summit. Neither the situation nor extent of this pile favors the notion of its having been a palace, nor is it easy to conjecture the design of the edifice. The colonnade, the remains of which now stand solitary and mournful in the midst of ploughed fields, may, however, with little hesitation, be referred to the time of Herod the Great, and must be regarded as belonging to some one of the splendid structures with which he adorned the city. In the deep ravine which bounds the city on the north there is another colonnade, not visited by Dr. Robinson, but fully described by Dr. Olin (Travsels, 2, 371-373). The area in which these columns stand is completely shut in by hills, with the exception of an opening on the northeast; and so peculiarly sequestered is the situation that it is only visible from a few points of the heights of the ancient site, by which it is overshadowed. The columns, of which a large number are entire and several in fragments, are erect, and arranged in a quadrangle 196 paces in length and 64 in breadth. They are three paces asunder, which would give 170 columns as the whole number when the colonnade was complete. The columns resemble, in size and material, those of the colonnade last noticed, and appear to belong to the same age. These also probably formed part of Herod's city, though it is difficult to determine the use to which the colonnade was appropriated. Dr. Olin is possibly right in his conjecture that this was one of the places of public assembly and amusement which Herod introduced into his dominions. "A long avenue of broken pillars" (says dean Stanley), "apparently the main street of Herod's city, here, as at Palmyra and Damascus, adorned by a colonnade on each side, still lines the topmost terrace of the hill." But the fragmentary aspect of the whole place exhibits a present fulfilment of the prophecy of Micah (Mic 1:6), though it may have been fulfilled more than once previously by the ravages of Shalmaneser or of John Hyrcanus: "I will make Samaria as a heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof" (Mic 1:6; comp. Ho 13:16).
See Robinson, Researches, 3, 136-149; Olin, Travels, 2, 366-374; Buckingham, Travels in Palestine, p. 512517; Richardson, Travels, 2, 409- 413; Schubert, Morgenltnd. 3, 156-162; Raumer, Palastina, p. 144-148 (notes), 158; Maundrell, Journey, p. 78, 79; Reland, Paloestina, p, 344, 979-982; Vanl de Velde, Syria and Palestine, 1, 363-388; 2, 295, 296; Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 242-246; De Saulcy, Dead Sea, 2, 272 sq.; Hackett, Illust. p. 183 sq.; Schwarz, Palest. p. 149; Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 197 sq.; Porter, Handbook, p. 337 sq.; Ridgaway, The Lord's Land, p. 541 sq.; Conder, Tent Work in Palestine, 1, 88 sq. SEE SAMARIA, REGION OF.