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New Light on the Rehov Inscription: Identifying 'The Gate of Campon' at Bet Shean / עוד על כתובת רחוב — לזיהויו של פילי דקמפון בבית שאן

זאב וייס and Zeev Weiss
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך ע‎, חוברת א‎ (תשרי-כסלו תשס"א), pp. 35-50
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23601245
Page Count: 16
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New Light on the Rehov Inscription: Identifying 'The Gate of Campon' at Bet Shean / עוד על כתובת רחוב — לזיהויו של פילי דקמפון בבית שאן
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Abstract

The area surrounding ancient Bet Shean (Scythopolis) is described in a halakhic inscription incorporated into the mosaic floor discovered in the narthex of the synagogue at Rehov, lying ca. 5 km south of the city. The inscription enumerates sabbatical year and tithe laws in the cities and enclaves beyond the boundaries of Jewish settlement throughout Palestine, and largely repeats textual variants appearing in the Palestinian (Jerusalem) Talmud. The first part of the inscription is devoted to Bet Shean owing to its author's express concern with this region. It first lists the fruits forbidden in the sabbatical year in the district of Bet Shean and goes on to describe at length the city's boundaries while incorporating many diverse topographical details. The mosaic and its inscription belong to the third phase of the Rehov synagogue, which is dated to the end of the Byzantine period (sixth—seventh centuries CE). It appears, however, that the topographical reality of Bet Shean emerging from this inscription may in all probability be founded on an earlier, perhaps Roman, setting. The scholars who examined the Rehov inscription, as well as the archaeologists who recently unearthed Bet Shean's ruins, have studied the names of the gates mentioned in the inscription in an attempt to place some of them in the city plan. The remains discovered in the excavations of the last few years shed new light on the Rehov inscription, enabling us to identify, albeit with a large measure of caution, 'the Gate of Campon', as well as the structure given this name that marks the city's southern boundary. Naming the gate of a city after a nearby building, a road leading from it, or a settlement that could be reached from that direction was known in antiquity. It is in this spirit that one should understand 'the Gate of Campon', which was probably named as such after a specific building. The city's hippodrome, called campon in rabbinic literature, was built in Bet Shean next to the street or road that ran from the center of the city southward, toward the gate marking the city's boundary in this direction. Only the western part of the second-century CE hippodrome, constructed on an east—west axis, perpendicular to the road, was preserved. A section of the road running in a north—south direction was uncovered southeast of the hippodrome. In addition, the remains of a curved wall unearthed to the south of the city, close to the above-mentioned road that presumably ran in this direction, may somehow be connected with the city's southern gate, perhaps "the Gate of Campon" in the Rehov inscription. In light of the above, it appears that the route running toward the reconstructed gate and the road approaching it from the other side served not only those coming into the city from the south or leaving it in that direction, but also as a main thoroughfare to and from the hippodrome during games and festivals. This urban reality, which repeats familiar models in other cities of Roman Palestine, reinforces not only the full reconstruction of the remains, but also supports the proposed interpretation whereby 'the Gate of Campon' is named after the city's hippodrome discovered at Bet Shean. The monumental appearance of the hippodrome built beside the road leading southward undoubtedly left a great impression on those entering and leaving the city from this direction and thus gave the name to the gate located near it.

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