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.”
Aerial view of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis). The amphitheater is located at the bottom of the left top corner of the photo. Highway 35 is on the right. Some ruins of Eleutheropolis can be seen on the south side (right) of the highway. If you have traveled in this area you may have stopped at the small gas station for a snack or a bite of lunch. The small road in the upper right corner leads to the entry to Maresha and the caves. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in April, 2016.
Marble bust of Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) displayed in Louvre. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
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.”
Ferrell Jenkins with a Roman Soldier at Bet Guvrin. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
As we approach the Roman amphitheater we observe that those still willing to gather in public are social distancing as they approach the entry.
The Amphitheater at Bet Guvrin has been decorated to remind us of the Roman period. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
Some fans can not resist giving their opinion to the others around them.
One fan turns to the other and asks if the monkey has been tested. The man behind wonders if he has been washed. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The amphitheater has been reconstructed with seating for various modern performances.
Inside the amphitheater we noticed that almost everyone was social distancing. We felt better about deciding to attend. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The gladiators are fighting viciously but still keeping their distance.
Even the gladiators keep their distance. Getting the virus could be worse than the sword or trident. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
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.
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