Ancient History of Scythopolis

During the Hellenistic period it had a Hellenised population and was called Scythopolis, probably named after the Scythian mercenaries who settled there as veterans, and Greek mythology has the city founded by Dionysus and his nursemaid Nysa buried there; thus it was known as Nysa-Scythopolis. Beit She'an is mentioned in 3rd-2nd centuries BC written sources describing the Syrian Wars between the Ptolemid and Seleucid dynasties, as well as in the context of the Hasmonean Maccabee Revolt, who ultimately destroyed the polis in the 2nd century BC.[3] In 63 BC it was taken by the Romans, refounded, and made a part of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of ten cities that were centers of Greco-Roman culture, an event so significant that it based its calendar on that year. Pax Romana favoured the city, evidenced by its high-level urban planning and extensive construction including the best preserved Roman theatre of ancient Samaria as well as a hippodrome, cardo, and other trademarks of the Roman influence. Mount Gilboa, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) away, provided dark basalt blocks as well as water via an aqueduct. Many of the buildings of Scythopolis were damaged in the Galilee earthquake of 363, and in 409 it became the capital of the northern district, Palaestina Secunda.[3] During the 4th-7th century Byzantine period, Beit She'an was primarily Christian, as attested to by the large number of churches, but evidence of Jewish habitation and a Samaritan synagogue indicate established communities of these minorities. The pagan temple in the city centre was destroyed, but the nymphaeum and Roman baths were restored. Many dedicatory inscriptions indicate a preference for donations to religious buildings, and many colourful mosaics, such as that featuring the zodiac in the Monastery of Lady Mary, or the one picturing a menorah and shalom in the House of Leontius' Jewish synagogue, were preserved. A Samaritan synagogue's mosaic was unique in abstaining from human or animal images, instead utilising floral and geometrical motifs. Elaborate decorations were also found in the settlement's many luxurious villas, and in the 6th century especially, the city reached its maximum size of 40,000 and spread beyond its period city walls. [Wikipedia]

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