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5000 Years in 5 Minutes, Part 3: Roman and Byzantine Periods

Roman and Byzantine Periods

Beth-Shearn ancient theatre

The theater and city center of ancient Beth-Shean, which was massivly built in Roman Times

After the conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans, they changed its name to AELIA CAPITOLINA, and the name of the province to PROVINCIA SYRIA PALAESTINA. The Holy Land became very pagan, and pagan cities enjoyed massive Roman Imperial support.

church of nativity bethlehem

The main hall in the “Church of Nativity” in Bethlehem, believed to be over the spot where Jesus was born.

But in the 4th century the Roman Empire goes through an amazing process and what began as a Jewish Sect in Judaea, becomes the official religion of the whole Roman empire (!). The Holy Land enjoys much development. Its population grows, and sites related to Jesus and the New Testament attract many Christian pilgrims from all over the ancient world. 

capernaum synagogue

Ruins of the ancient synagogue found in Capernaum from the Byzantine Period

During that period, Judaism gradually recovers from the trauma of the destruction of its temple. Its Rabbis re-establish the Sanhedrin; the focus shifts to the Galilee; Synagogues replace the temple; and prayers replace sacrifices. The mishna and the Gmara is formed in that time. In the 7th century CE a new force rises. From the sands of Saudi Arabia the armies of Islam spread through the eastern Mediterranean, and in 638 CE Jerusalem is conquered. In general the land goes into economical decline, and many sites will be either destroyed or abandoned.


Trivia Question: Where can one see the best evidence of the Muslim conquest leading the a gradual abandonment of a site?

Answer: the site of Shivta is one of the most preserved sites in the world from Byzantine period, and it also bears much evidence of the Muslim takeover of the site that lead eventually to its abandonment. To review the evidence in detail, well, you might want to hire a guide..

On to the Crusades and the Islamic Periods