Monday, September 07, 2009

Herod’s Temple at Sebaste, Then and Now

King Herod built a magnificent temple in Jerusalem, but not as many people are aware that he built three other temples in the land of Israel, all to Gentile deities.  The ancient capital of the northern kingdom, Samaria, was renamed Sebaste by Herod in honor of Emperor Augustus, and he constructed a temple here dedicated to the emperor. 

Samaria/Sebaste was first excavated by Harvard University from 1908 to 1910 under the direction of George Andrew Reisner.  The photo below shows the foundations of Herod’s temple shortly after those excavations.

Samaria, Herodian temple remains, mat07375Remains of Herod’s Temple at Samaria/Sebaste.  Photo taken between 1908 and 1914.

Today this area is largely filled in and overgrown, with only a few walls and pillar bases visible.  The political situation today makes it difficult for most tourists to visit the site.

Samaria Herodian temple, tb070507748dxo
Herod’s temple foundations, view from northwest

Samaria Herodian temple, tb050106512ddd
Herod’s temple foundations, view from southeast

The first photograph is one of 600 high-resolution images in the newly released Northern Palestine CD, volume 1 of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. Photo: Library of Congress, LC-matpc-07375.

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  • We bring tourists to Tel Shomron (Samaria, Sebastea) several times a year.
    Next scheduled visit is on Hol HaMoed Sukkot, October 7, 2009

    Menachem Brody

    By Blogger Homesteader, at Mon Sep 07, 07:40:00 PM  

  • "The political situation today (2009) makes it difficult for most tourists to visit the site."
    It's true that Sebaste/Samaria is not on most tourists' radar but it is eminently possible to visit (2012) either on your own with a car or with a licensed guide. I was there in July and posted about my experience (with photos) at

    By Blogger Shmuel Browns, at Tue Nov 13, 03:28:00 AM  

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