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Beit Guvrin 1.JPG
Eleutheropolis is located in Israel
Location within Israel
LocationBeit Guvrin, Israel
Coordinates31°36′47.15″N 34°53′53.87″E / 31.6130972°N 34.8982972°E / 31.6130972; 34.8982972
Founded3rd century CE

Eleutheropolis (Greek, Ἐλευθερόπολις, "Free City"; Arabic: إليوثيروبوليس; in Hebrew, בית גוברין, Beit Gubrin) was a Roman and Byzantine city in Syria Palaestina, some 53 km southwest of Jerusalem. After the Muslim conquests, it became known as Bayt Jibrin or Jubrin (بيت جبرين).[1][2] Depopulated during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, its remains still straddle the ancient road connecting Jerusalem to Gaza, and are now located within the Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park.


The city was originally known in Aramaic as Beth Gabra, which translates as the "house of strong men".[2] Ptolemy referred to it as Baitogabra,[3] and in the Talmud it was known as Beit Gubrin.[2][4] According to historical geographer A. Schlatter, the name Betaris mentioned by Josephus should either be identified with Bittir, or else the T amended to Gamma so as to read Begabrin.[5][6] The name Eleutheropolis was given to the city by the Romans[7][8] at the beginning of the third century. The former city of Eleutheropolis was rebuilt by the Crusaders as Bethgibelin or Gibelin.[9][10] The medieval city was known in Arabic as Beit Jibrin or Jubrin (بيت جبرين), meaning "house of the powerful"[1] and reflecting its original Aramaic name.[2]


Background: Jewish/Idumean Betaris[edit]

In 68 CE, during the Jewish War, Vespasian slaughtered or enslaved the inhabitants of Betaris. According to Josephus: "When he had seized upon two villages, which were in the very midst of Idumea, Betaris, and Caphartobas, he slew above ten thousand of the people, and carried into captivity above a thousand, and drove away the rest of the multitude, and placed no small part of his own forces in them, who overran and laid waste the whole mountainous country."[11]

The settlement was demolished once again during the Bar Kokhba revolt, 132–135 CE.

Roman and Byzantine Eleutheropolis[edit]

'Sidonian' tombs unearthed at Beit Jibrin
Eleutheropolis as one of the town mosaics in the church of St. Stephen in Um er-Rasas, Jordan. Year 785

In the year 200, Roman Emperor Septimius Severus gave it the status of a city under a new Greek name, Eleutheropolis, meaning "City of the Free", and its inhabitants were given the ius italicum.[12][13][7][8] Coins minted by Septimius Severus bear the date January 1, 200, commemorating its founding[14] and the title of polis.

Eleutheropolis became one of the most important cities in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. The city was then inhabited by Jews, Christians and pagans.[15] Seven routes met at Eleutheropolis,[16] and Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, uses the Roman milestones indicating the city as a central point from which the distances of other towns were measured.[8] Eleutheropolis was a "City of Excellence" in the fourth century[17] and a Christian bishopric with the largest territory in Palaestina: its first known bishop is Macrinus, who attended the Council of Nicaea in 325.

Epiphanius of Salamis, the bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, was born at Eleutheropolis; at Ad nearby he established a monastery which is often mentioned in the polemics of Jerome with Rufinus and John, Bishop of Jerusalem.

Epiphanius mentions that Akouas, a disciple of Mani, had been the first to spread Manichaeism in Eleutheropolis and the rest of Palestine during the reign of Aurelian (270-275 AD).[18]

The Madaba Map (dated 542-570 CE) shows Eleutheropolis as a walled city with three towers, a curving street with a colonnade in the central part and an important basilica. In the centre is a building with a yellowish-white dome on four columns.[19] Eleutheropolis was last mentioned in the ancient sources by the near contemporary itinerarium of the Piacenza Pilgrim,[20][full citation needed] about 570.

At Eleutheropolis, according to the hagiographies, fifty soldiers of the garrison of Gaza, who had refused to deny Christ were beheaded in 638: later a church was built in their honor.[21] In 796, the city was again destroyed in civil warfare.[citation needed]

19th century identification[edit]

In 1838, American scholar Edward Robinson identified Bayt Jibrin as the site of ancient Eleutheropolis.[22] Eleutheropolis remains a titular see in the Roman Catholic Church.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p. 209-210.
  2. ^ a b c d Sharon, 1997, p.109
  3. ^ The Protestant Theological and Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia (1860) By John Henry Augustus Bomberger, Johann Jakob Herzog p 178
  4. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. "Eleutheropolis".
  5. ^ Schlatter, A. (1913). "Die hebräischen Namen bei Josephus". Beiträge zur Förderung christlicher Theologie (in German). Gütersloh: Bertelsmann. 17 (3/4)., s.v. Betabrin. Cf. The Jewish Wars Josephus Flavius IV:447. Note: Page 270 in the 1981 Penguin Classics edition.
  6. ^ Robinson, Edward & Smith, Eli (1856) J. Murray. p. 67
  7. ^ a b Biblical Researches in Palestine and the Adjacent Regions: A Journal of ... Edward Robinson, Eli Smith
  8. ^ a b c Macalister, Robert Alexander Stewart (1911). "Eleutheropolis" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 263.
  9. ^ Jean Richard (1921) "The Crusaders c1071-c1291" reprinted 2001 Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-62566-1 p. 140
  10. ^ The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Hamakor Press, Jerusalem 1972, p.276
  11. ^ "Josephus, De Bell. Jud., IV.viii.1". Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2005-05-08.
  12. ^ Negev, Avraham; Gibson, Shimon (2001). Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land. Continuum. p. 78. ISBN 978-0-8264-1316-1.
  13. ^ Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (28 February 2008). The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700. OUP Oxford. pp. 217–. ISBN 978-0-19-152867-5.
  14. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Eleutheropolis"
  15. ^ Zissu, B., Ecker, A., and Klein, E, 2017, "Archaeological Explorations North of Bet Guvrin (Eleutheropolis)", in: Speleology and Spelestology, Proceedings of the VIII International Scientific Conference. Nabereznye Chelny, pp. 183-203.
  16. ^ Amos Kloner, 1999. "The City of Eleutheropolis" Archived 2005-04-13 at the Wayback Machine: in The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, (Jerusalem) pp 244-246.
  17. ^ Kloner 1999
  18. ^ Lieu, Samuel N.C. Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China: a Historical Survey. Pages 68-69. Manchester University Press, 1985.
  19. ^ "Madaba Map Online". Christusrex. Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  20. ^ Anonymus Placentinus Itinerarium 32
  21. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia 1908, s.v. "Eleutheropolis"
  22. ^ Biblical researches in Palestine, 1838-52. A journal of travels in the year 1838. P. 57ff: Eleutheropolis 1856,
  23. ^ Eleutheropolis in Palaestina (Titular See)

External links[edit]