The ancient city of Sepphoris is known and referred to as the “Jewel of the Galilee.” It is located in the Lower Galilee region and is roughly four miles from Nazareth. The Roman Emperor, Herod Antipas, selected Sepphoris to be his Galilean capital in 4 BC; he rebuilt it and decorated it.
The name Sepphoris comes from the word Zippori, which is a variation of the Hebrew word for bird. The Talmud speculates that this site was given this name because it sits on the hillcrest, like a bird.
Even though Sepphoris is not mentioned in the Bible, we can presume that Yeshua and his father Joseph traveled here for trade, due to its close proximity (roughly an hour walk) to Nazareth. Joseph may have even helped build up the city in 4 BC, since he was a carpenter.
This site is worth visiting due to its archeological remains and its intricate mosaics. Here are a few of the archeological finds you don’t want to miss while visiting the site.
The main road in Sepphoris was built during the time of the Romans. The road runs north to south and is made of carved limestone. Today, visitors can walk on this road and witness the ancient wagon grooves worn into the stone and the fallen colonnades that once lined it.
Sepphoris’s colorful mosaics make the city uniquely beautiful. They were laid between the 2nd and 7th centuries AD during the Roman and Byzantine time periods. Here are two specific mosaics you don’t want to miss while visiting:
The Nile House – This house gets its name from the large Nile scene mosaic covering its floors. The mosaic has detailed pictures of hunting, celebrating, and animal fighting along the Nile river in Egypt. This is one of the most impressive mosaics in Israel.
The Dionysus House – This house was built in the 3rd century AD, and potentially belonged to a rich ruler. The dining room has an intricate mosaic with scenes from the life of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and merrymaking. The most noteworthy aspect of this mosaic is the depiction of a woman who has become known as the “Mona Lisa of Galilee.”
A Jewish synagogue from the 5th century AD was found at Sepphoris. The synagogue also has a detailed mosaic picturing a Zodiac wheel with the Hebrew months and biblical scenes. This synagogue is proof of Jewish inhabitance during the time of the Romans. The Jewish people living here sided with the Romans and supported Emperor Vespasian during the first Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. This choice saved the city from being destroyed.
Originally posted at Sar-El Tours.