After the Parthians destroyed Maresha (40 B.C.), the city moved to a nearby village known as Bet (or Beth, or Beit) Guvrin. In A.D. 200, the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus established a Roman city and named it Eleutheropolis (A. Kloner, The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, I:195). Murphy-O’Connor says, “The prosperity of the city at this period is underlined by an oval amphitheatre.”
Before I move to the idea of a pandemic I should say that I really enjoy the artwork used in so many of Israel’s national parks. I even use one from the city of Avedat as the header for this blog.
There were plagues in the Roman Empire. The popular article by Caroline Wazer in The Atlantic discusses “The Plagues That Might Have Brought Down the Roman Empire” (March 16, 2016).
When Leon Mauldin and I visited the excavated ruins at Bet Guvrin in 2017 we enjoyed seeing many of the cutout figures adorning the ancient ruins. There were leaders from the Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, and the Mamluk period welcoming us.
Loosen your mind and let it fly as we enter this Israeli National Park, imagining there is a pandemic. I wanted to be friendly. At first I thought the soldier was welcoming me, but I think now that he may have been saying “stay two meters” from me. If we can’t control this thing we may have to begin wearing masks. None of us want that.”
As we approach the Roman amphitheater we observe that those still willing to gather in public are social distancing as they approach the entry.
Some fans can not resist giving their opinion to the others around them.
The amphitheater has been reconstructed with seating for various modern performances.
The gladiators are fighting viciously but still keeping their distance.
In a future post I plan to show you how the pandemic is affecting the archaeological work at the site.
When we are once again allowed to travel to Israel I think you may want to visit Bet Guvrin.