Beit She’an, Israel – Stunning Greco-Roman Ruins and More!

floor mosaic of Tyche, patron goddess of Scythopolis (Beit She'an)

floor mosaic of Tyche, patron goddess of Scythopolis (Beit She’an)

About seventeen miles south of the Sea of Galilee is one of the world’s most extensively excavated Greco-Roman sites – Beit She’an (aka Scythopolis). Blessed with fertile land and abundant water, this strategic location at the convergence of the Jordan and Jezreel Valleys has been occupied at least since the 5th millennium BCE and holds remains from Canaanites, Egyptians, Philistines, Israelites, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines in 18 distinct layers. At its peak, as the main Roman Decapolis city, Beit She’an had a population of 40,000.

Ruins are scattered across a large area, including some right in the modern town, but the main concentration is in the National Park of Beit She’an just north of town. In the park, you’ll find a theater, rambling colonnaded streets, bath houses, a Roman temple, a Roman fountain and more. Just north of this Greco-Roman city is Tel Beit She’an (a tel is an artificial hill created by the accumulation of debris over centuries or millennia), with older remains from settlements of Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines and Israelites (from the reigns of David and Solomon), plus a few Greco-Roman remains. From the tel, you have long, lovely views of the Greco-Roman town below and the surrounding countryside.

Roman theater

Roman theater

Greco-Roman ruins of Beit She'an, with the biblical-era tel in the background

Greco-Roman ruins of Beit She’an, with the biblical-era tel in the background

Remains in the modern town include a Roman amphitheater, a Byzantine villa, a Crusader fortress and a Mamluke mosque.

At minimum, we recommend a couple of hours to explore this extensive site. If you’re especially into ancient ruins, you could easily spend double that. It gets very hot here, so do bring a hat and plenty of water and visit in the morning, if possible.

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