Sepphoris, located in the heart of Lower Galilee, was a main urban center in the Roman period. It is first mentioned by Flavius Josephus (Ant. 13.338) as a Jewish-Hasmonean town, and was later taken over by Herod the Great. During the Great Revolt, Sepphoris eventually took a pro-Roman side and received the name Eirenopolis, city of peace, as appears on its coins (Josephus, J.W. 3.30), and later in the second century it was renamed Diocaesarea (Strange 2015: 22–23). Throughout the Roman period Sepphoris was populated by Jews; it was the home of Jewish sages and of Rabbi Judah, the patriarch who compiled the Mishnah. Alongside the Jewish community of the city there was also a Roman-pagan population, as can be inferred from a Roman temple in the center of the city and a Roman-style mansion with a Dionysiac mosaic on the top of the hill (Weiss 2010, 2015). Furthermore, rabbinic sources attest to a Roman castra inhabited by gentiles in the city (Miller 1984: 31–45). The end of the Roman period in Sepphoris was marked by rapid Christianization of the city, which reached its peak in the fifth century CE; the Roman phase ended with a severe earthquake in 363 that damaged its buildings.
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1. IAA license A-8217/2018, NPA permit A013-18. The excavations were conducted on behalf of the IAA by Tsvika Tsuk, Iosi Bordowicz, and Dror Ben-Yosef, with the aid of Achia Kohn-Tavor. The excavations were carried out by workers and volunteers. Photography by Tsvika Tsuk and Achia Kohn-Tavor, surveying by Slava Pirsky and Sergei Alon, numismatics by Danny Syon. The bull figurine was restored by Orna Cohen, photographed by Tal Rogovski, and the metallurgy analyzed by Sariel Shalev. We wish to thank the Rakefet Foundation for funding the project and the Zippori National Park director Meital Aharon and her team for their support. 2. Samples for Carbon-14 analysis were pulled from the plaster of both phases, and dated by Elisabetta Boaretto to the fifth century CE. This date contradicts the plaster style of the lower level and the date of the finds coming from it.
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