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Roman basilica erected by Herod rediscovered in Israel


ARCHEOLOGY - Identified in the 1920s, this ancient site has only just been cleared upstream of a tourist development program for Ashkelon National Park.

It would be the largest building of its kind in the region. Known for years by Israeli archaeologists but finally exhaustively excavated, the remains of a monumental Roman ensemble have resurfaced in recent years in Ashkelon National Park. Composed of a basilica - a long civil building intended for trade and justice - as well as an Odeon, this complex was adorned with columns and a coating of marble of a quality worthy of the best buildings of the Roman world. However, located more than 2000 kilometers from Rome, these buildings are only dated from the reign of Herod (37 - 4 BC), at a time when the Hebrew kingdom of Judea was not yet a province. imperial but a client-state under the influence, as these various vestiges eloquently demonstrate.

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115 meters long, 34 meters wide, this basilica was erected a few stone throws from the sea, towards the historic center of the ancient city, in a prime position which was to testify to the




the old Ashkelon.

Its dating to Herodian times could be confirmed by excavations, which were completed two years ago under the direction of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

These had for example revealed many coins minted with the effigy of Herod in the foundation layers of this set.

  • 1/7 - The tallest columns in Ashkelon Basilica were up to 13 meters high.

    Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 2/7 - View from the back of the odeon.

    Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 3/7 - Zenith view of the odeon.

    Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 4/7 - One of the statues that adorned the Roman basilica.

    Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 5/7 - Partly re-used in the Middle Ages, the sculpted decoration of the Roman period had been partially unearthed in the 1920s. Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 6/7 - Site overview.

    Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

  • 7/7 - Digital overprint of future developments and reconstructions of the site. Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Flanked by two side galleries,

"the central gallery was surrounded by rows of marble columns and capitals, which rose to an estimated height of 13 meters and supported the roof of the building,"

Israeli archaeologists said in a statement. Large quantities of marble remains - nearly 200 in total - have been discovered, in particular capitals and column shafts, some of which have been preserved thanks to their use in medieval artisan structures, which have since disappeared. One of the most important - and cosmopolitan - port centers on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean, Ashkelon imported from Asia Minor the blocks it was to adorn itself with, unlike the Syrian sites further north, which had a rear. country richer in marble.

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A partial reassembly to come

Thrown down by an earthquake in 363, the site was partially excavated in the 1920s during work carried out under the British Mandate by researchers from the Palestine Exploration Fund.

Led by archaeologist John Garstang, these excavations had unearthed several statues, the most beautiful of which represented the goddess of Victory, Nike, as well as the Greek deity of Fortune, Tyche.

This first site had been covered at the end of these first excavations, almost a century ago.

The goddess Nike, standing on a globe carried by the titan Atlas (above).

Emil Aladjem / Israel Antiquities Authority

“Garstang had already calculated the dimensions of the building,”

one of the excavation co-directors Rachel Bar Nathan

told The

Jerusalem Post


"He also suggested that the basilica dates back to the time of King Herod the Great, since historian Flavius ​​Josephus relates that the king built a colonnaded hall and other structures in the city



A hypothesis which has since been confirmed by recent excavations. Designed on a typically Roman model, the current state of the site is not to be attributed to Herod alone, as the Israeli archaeologist has indicated.

“The more grandiose elements, the marbles, the columns, were built later, around the 2nd-3rd century AD, at the time of the

Emperor Septimius Severus ” .

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A very close ally of Rome - to whom he owes his throne - Herod I, says the Great, was also steeped in Hellenistic and Latin culture.

A seasoned warlord but also a great builder, the King of Judea had undertaken a vast construction program using the most modern Roman technologies of his time.

In Jerusalem, the work of the Temple is coupled with the erection of a theater and an amphitheater.

It was the same in the rest of the kingdom, including Ashkelon, which he provided with thermal baths and a new palace.

So many projects that were undoubtedly praised and encouraged by Augustus in person, during his official visit to the region in 20 BC.

J.-C ..

Some 2000 years later, this set should again be the subject of work, although less monumental than those carried out under Herod and his more or less immediate successors. During its presentation of the results of the excavations, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced that the site of the Roman basilica and the odeon would be the subject of restorations and a partial reassembly, in the years to come, with a view to an upcoming opening to the public. A form of rehabilitation that the king builder would not deny.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2021-06-13

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