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date: 04 December 2020

Eleutheropolislocked

  • Dov Gera

Extract

Eleutheropolis (Arabic Beit Jibrin; Hebrew Beth Govrin, Beit Guvrin) is situated in Judea’s Shephelah on the southwesterly road from Jerusalem to Ascalon. This area was known as Idumaea in the Hellenistic period, the city of Maresha being an important centre. Presumably, the destruction of Maresha by the Parthians in 40bce pushed the city’s survivors to resettle some 2 km to the north and to form the village of Beth Govrin. A locality of that Semitic name, Βαιτογαβρεῖ (ἢ Βαιτογαβρά), Baetogabrei or Baetogabra, is attested in the 2nd century ce (Ptol. Geog. 5.16.6). In 199/200ce, when traveling through Syria Palaestina to Egypt, the emperor Septimius Severus refounded Beth Govrin as a polis, naming it Lucia Septimia Severiana Eleutheropolis. The city’s coins, all issued under the Severans starting with Septimius Severus’s own reign and extending to that of Elagabalus (Aurelius Antoninus (2)), disclose Eleutheropolis’s original pagan character, for they portray various deities including Tyche, Zeus Heliopolitanus, and a river god.

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