Sepphoris (Σεπφώρις v.r. Σέφφορις), a town of Upper Galilee, not mentioned under this name in Scripture, but frequently by Josephus. It was garrisoned by Antigonus in his war with Herod the Great, until the latter took it early in his Galilaean campaign (Josephus, Ant. 14, 15, 4). It seems to have been a place of arms, and to have been occasionally the royal residence, for, in the troubles which arose in the country during the presidency of Varus, the robber chief Judas, son of Ezekias, seized the palace of Sepphoris, and carried off the arms and treasure which it contained (ibid. 17, 12, 5). It was subsequently taken and burned by Varus (ibid. 17, 12, 9). Herod the tetrarch (Antipas) afterwards rebuilt and fortified it, and made it the glory of all Galilee, and gave it independence (ibid. 18, 2, 1); although, according to the statement of Justus, the son of Pistus, he still maintained the superiority of his newly founded city, Tiberias; and it was not until Nero had assigned Tiberias to Agrippa the Younger that Sepphoris established its supremacy and became the royal residence and depository of the archives. It is termed the strongest city of Galilee, and was early taken by Gallus, the general of Cestius (War, 2, 18, 11). It maintained its allegiance to the Romans after the general revolt of Galilee (ibid. 3, 2, 4; 4, 1), but did not break with the Jewish leaders (Life, 8, 9). Its early importance as a Jewish town, attested by the fact that it was one of the five cities in which district sanhedrim were instituted by Gabinius (War, 1, 8, 5), was further confirmed by the destruction of Jerusalem, after which catastrophe it became for some years the seat of the Great Sanhedrim until it was transferred to Tiberias (Robinson, Bib. Res. 3, 202). It was subsequently called Diocoesarea, which is its more common appellation in the ecclesiastical annals; while Epiphanius and Jerome recognize both names. A revolt of the Jewish inhabitants in the reign of Constantius (A.D.
339) led to the destruction of the city by Constantius Gallus Caesar (Socrates, H.E. 2, 33; Sozomen, H.E. 4, 7). This town, once the most considerable city of Galilee, was situated, according to Jerome, ten miles west of Mount Tabor (Onomast. s.v. Θαβώρ; Procopius Gazaeus, Comment. in Lib. Judicum). It was much celebrated in the history of the Crusaders for its fountain, a favorite camping place of the Christians. It is still represented by a poor village bearing the name Seffurieh, distant about five miles to the north of Nazareth, retaining no vestiges of its former greatness, but conspicuous with a ruined tower and church, both of the Middle Ages; the latter professing to mark the site of the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, assigned by a late tradition to this locality. It became the see of a suffragan bishop under the metropolitan of Scythopolis (Le Quien, Oriens Christianus, 3, 713, 714), and there are coins still extant of the reigns of Domitian, Trajan, etc. (Reland, Paloestina, p. 199-1003; Eckhel, Doct. Vet. Num. 3, 425, 426). — Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v. A recent German writer (Lebrecht, in his pamphlet on the subject [Berlin, 1877]) maintains that this was the site of the Bether (q.v.) of the Talmud.