"Ancient Maresha and Eleutheropolis (City of the Free)": the impact of change and of Roman occupation on the cities, the hinterland and the people

Jean Margaret Swanson

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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In this thesis I have explored a particular section of the history of Israel – the period from 500 BCE to 650 CE (which encompasses the periods of sovereignty of the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman authorities), and a particular section of the land – the ancient Biblical Tel Maresha and the nearby town of Beit Guvrin, which became the Roman city of Eleutheropolis. The evidence consists of literary records and archaeological exploration reports together with first-hand research, combined to provide insights on the lives of the people of this time, both urban and rural, their homes, foods, customs, beliefs, and if/how these changed as one conqueror succeeded another. Whilst the background to the thesis necessarily includes more ancient historical data, the emphasis is on the late Hellenistic and the Roman periods – 1st c BCE to 7th c CE – taking into account the various influences already present and the way in which these were affected by new ideas. Maresha was of significant importance in the early history of Judaea. It was located at the junction of a number of major roads, close to the main trade route which led from the north all the way to Egypt and less than a day’s journey from the major Mediterranean ports of Gaza and Ascalon. During the Roman period, as first Beit Guvrin then Eleutheropolis, it became a major city, its Greco-Roman name conferred by Emperor Septimius Severus, who raised its status as the main administrative centre for the entire region. Agricultural production was prolific and varied and many small manufacturing entities were established. The thesis begins with an Introduction (Chapter One), setting the historical timeline of events leading to the period under research. Chapter Two examines the natural environment of the region, including its climate, landscape and land use. It also includes a report on the infrastructure of the area, particularly the road system.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


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