Hippos-Sussita (Israel) : Archaeologists Uncover Roman Theater, Bathhouse
Source - http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/roman-theater-bathhouse-hippos-sussita-04580.html
A team of archaeologists from the the University of Haifa has discovered a large theater and a public bathhouse at the archaeological site of the ancient city of Hippos-Sussita in Israel.
Roman theater at Hippos-Sussita; the results of the trial excavation: semicircular passage between the lower and upper seating arrangements (praencinctio) and entrance to a vaulted corridor (vomitorium). Image credit: Michael Eisenberg, University of Haifa.
Sussita, or as it was known by its Greek name, Antiochia-Hippos, was founded after 200 BC, when the Seleucids seized the Land of Israel from the Ptolemies.
In the Roman period, Hippos was an important city in the Golan and the area to the east of the Sea of Galilee, and belonged to the Decapolis, a group of 10 ancient Greek cities that was formed after the Roman conquest in 63 BC.
Over the past two years, the University of Haifa team has repeatedly been amazed by the astonishing findings uncovered outside the city walls — not something that would usually be expected.
In 2015, they found a bronze mask of the god Pan, and a year later they located a monumental gate on which the mask must have been placed.
These findings led the team to assume that the gate formed the entrance to a large compound, perhaps a ritual site devoted to Pan or Dionysus, who were often worshipped together.
“First we found the mask of Pan, then the monumental gate leading to what we began to assume was a large public compound — a sanctuary,” said Dr. Michael Eisenberg, an archaeologist at the Zinman Institute of Archaeology and the Department of Archaeology at the University of Haifa and head of the Hippos Excavations Project.
“And now, this year, we find a public bathhouse and theater in the same location, both facilities that in the Roman period could be associated with the god of medicine Asclepius or with gods of nature such as Dionysus and Pan.”
Dr. Eisenberg and colleagues located the public bathhouse relatively easily, although they have only exposed a small part of its extensive and rich compound.
They noticed a basalt depression covered in a huge layer of debris and suggested that this could be the site of the theater.
After excavating for several days, two findings were uncovered that prove almost beyond doubt that this is indeed the theater: (i) a passageway limited by a semicircular wall built of basalt ashlars, that served as a divide between the lower and upper blocks of seats; and (ii) one of the vaulted corridors that crossed the seating area, allowing the audience to reach their blocks of seats (the vomitorium).
A small excavation revealed the foundations of several rows of seats, though needless to say the seats themselves have long since vanished.
Hippos-Sussita’s monumental gate is dated to the early 2nd century CE, and the test excavation suggests that this is also the period when the theater itself was built.
“The monumental gate, which we almost completed excavating this year, probably bore the bronze mask of Pan that was found in one of the gate towers. All these findings suggest that this was a large sanctuary outside the city – something that completely changes what we knew about Hippos and the surrounding area until now,” Dr. Eisenberg said.
“If our hypothesis is correct, it is quite possible that thousands of visitors to the theater came not to see the latest show in town, but to take part in rituals honoring one of the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon. They watched and listened to the priests here until they entered a state of ecstasy and catharsis.”