BAR 36:01, Jan/Feb 2010
Newly Discovered Roman Theater in Jewish City
The evidence of Hellenistic influence on Jewish culture isn’t just artistic and linguistic—it’s architectural, as well. Archaeologists at Tiberias, a Jewish city under Roman rule on the Sea of Galilee, have recently excavated a Roman theater dating to the city’s founding in 20 C.E. Experts from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) say the find suggests a somewhat surprising openness among the Jewish citizenry to adopt aspects of Hellenistic culture, especially since the population of Tiberias was decidedly more Jewish than multicultural neighbors like Sepphoris.
In its earliest stage, the theater was more than 150 feet in diameter and nearly 200 feet wide, with two blocks of seats. The theater was significantly expanded in the second or third century C.E. to seat more than 7,000 people. Four rows of seats in the first block have survived.