The city of Caesarea Philippi, located at the site now called Bāniyās in northern Israel, is situated at the junction of three landscape units. North of it, Mount Hermon rises to a peak of 9,232 ft (2,814 m) above sea level and is made up of limestone and dolomite. The Mount Hermon slopes north of Bāniyās are very steep and covered with Mediterranean forest of oak and pistachio trees. East of the site, the lower slopes of Mount Hermon are milder, made of sandstone and soft limestone.
South of the city are the Golan Heights, a plateau covered with thick layers of basalt, with volcanic ash cones rising above it and reaching to a height of 3,976 ft (1,212 m) above sea level. The northern Golan is dominated by the Har Odem lava flow. The lava flow spreads from Har Odem and covers vast areas, the edge of it reaching the area of the city. The lava flow is very rocky and covered with a dense forest of oaks.
The Saar River begins in Marge Yaאafuri, near the Druse village of Majdel Shams, then cuts through the geological border between the basalts of the Golan and the sedimentary rocks of Mount Hermon. Along the course toward Bāniyās the river is occasionally deep and canyon-like, with two waterfalls. Its lower part, upon entering Bāniyās, creates a shallow canyon.
West of the city extends the northern Hula Valley, between the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee. The valley is part of the Syrian–African rift, with its northern part reaching an altitude of 656 ft (200 m) above sea level. Streams of the Jordan tributaries cross it on their way to Lake Hula, and this has created a wide area of swamps in the southern part of the valley.
Caesarea Philippi was built on a plateau at an altitude of 984 ft (300 m) above sea level, on both sides of the boundary between the Golan and Mount Hermon. The northern part was built on sedimentary rocks (limestone, conglomerate, and travertine), while the southern part was built on the edge of the Odem basalt flow. The northern part of the city was built in the bottom of a spur of Mount Hermon and cut by a lofty cliff. A large karstic cave is located at the foot of the cliff, and beneath it is a large spring, the second largest source of the Jordan. In ancient times the cave was deeper than it is today and full of water. Josephus described the location before the city was established as
"near the source of the Jordan, at a place called Paneion. At this spot a mountain [Mount Hermon] rears its summit to an immense height aloft; at the base of the cliff is an opening into an overgrown cavern; within this, plunging down to an immeasurable depth, is a yawning chasm, enclosing a volume of still water, the bottom of which no sounding-line has been found long enough to reach. Outside and from beneath the cavern well up the springs from which, as some think, the Jordan takes its rise. (J.W. 3.404–406)"
The Bāniyās plateau is on the natural route toward Damascus. South of it, Hula Lake, the swamps, and the steep slopes of the Golan Heights made the transition to the east very difficult. North of Bāniyās the ridge of Mount Hermon blocks the way. The Bāniyās plateau has moderate slopes and allows a convenient way toward Damascus. Before the establishment of the city, the road probably passed a short distance south of the spring, in the section where the slopes are more moderate and run along a number of small springs. In this section settlement remains from the Bronze and Iron Ages were found. After the foundation of the city, during the Roman period, the road passed through it.
The Hellenistic Period.
The site of Bāniyās is adjacent to a rich spring, in a fertile agricultural zone, with a moderate climate and astride an important road. It is therefore surprising that for many generations there was no settlement at the site. In the excavations of the temples, a few sherds dating to the Iron Age and the Persian period were found; these, however, do not prove occupation at the site.
The area in the center of which the Paneion is situated was dominated in the third century B.C.E. by nomadic or seminomadic tribes, and only a few permanent settlements existed in the vicinity of Bāniyās, among them Tel Anafa and Bethsaida. In this period, the Jordan River marked the eastern limit of the settled zone as permanent settlements did not yet exist on the Golan and Mount Hermon. This picture is supported by finds from Bāniyās, and it appears that the cave was a sacred site for the nomads. A permanent settlement did not spring up beside it.
In 200 B.C.E. Antiochus III and the Ptolemaic general Scopas engaged in battle. That campaign, in which the Seleucid army defeated the Ptolemies and which ushered in the Seleucid domination of Palestine, was conducted at Paneion (Πάνιον; Polybius, Histories 16:18–19), identified with the cave dedicated to Pan at Bāniyās. This source indicates that the place was sacred to Pan well before the battle, already in the third century B.C.E.
The natural environment of Bāniyās is perfect for the cult of Pan. God of shepherds, half goat and half man, Pan was believed to have lived in caves in uninhabited areas. It is not known how this cult came to Bāniyās since there were no Hellenistic settlers in this area. The identification of the cave with the cult of Pan relies on the name Paneion and the worship of Pan in the area centuries later. Josephus does not mention the cult of Pan in the description of the cave quoted or in his description of the foundation of the city. Since the area near Bāniyās was not settled in the third century B.C.E., the cave was most likely used as a place of worship by the shepherds in the area. Excavation near the cave produced an assemblage of vessels and two retaining walls dated to this period, probably lining paths leading to the cave. No evidence was found for any permanent structures.
During the second half of the second century B.C.E., the nomads started to become sedentary. Dozens of sites dated to this period have been located in the northern Golan, the foothills of Mount Hermon, and the northern Hula Valley, though the upper elevations of Mount Hermon were not yet occupied. The settlers constructed small hamlets, in the pattern of previous nomadic tent camps, and used rough local pottery, mainly handmade pithoi (large storage jars). This ware, called “Golan ware,” is typical of these settlement sites and quite rare elsewhere. Bāniyās itself, however, failed to produce Golan ware in the Hellenistic period.
The correspondence of time and space between the settlement sites and the subsistence area of Itureans, as gleaned from the written sources, indicates that the settlers were part of the Iturean entity. The absence of Golan ware at Bāniyās is clear testimony that the Itureans did not reside there, though their sites were found a short distance away.
The Early Roman Period.
With the dissolution of the Seleucid Empire, the Itureans became independent under Ptolemy, son of Menneaus (r. 85–40 B.C.E.). Once their country was subdued, Ptolemy submitted to the Romans and continued to rule as their vassal (Josephus, Ant. 14.38–39). His son, Lysanias, was beheaded by the Romans for supporting the Parthian invasion (39 B.C.E.; Josephus, Ant. 15.91–92); and his domain was leased to Zenodorus, probably an heir to the Iturean royal line.
Zenodorus controlled a vast area that included the northern Golan, the Bashan, the Auranitis, and the Trachonitis. Beside the northern Golan, in which there already existed a sparse settlement of Itureans, the other countries were still devoid of permanent occupations. Despite his vast domain, Zenodorus’s income was relatively low. In order to increase his gain, Zenodorus employed bandits (ληστης) to raid the villages and caravans in the Valley of Damascus. As punishment, Augustus took all the unsettled territories from Zenodorus and placed them under the rule of Herod (23 B.C.E.; Josephus, Ant. 15.343–348; Strabo, Geogr. 16.2, 20). Zenodorus was left with the northern Golan, the northern Hula Valley, and some part of the Lebanon Bekáa, which were settled by the Itureans. Only after Zenodorus’s death in 20 B.C.E. were these areas also given to Herod (Josephus, Ant. 15.271–272). The surveys and excavations at Bāniyās failed to produce finds that can be dated to the first century B.C.E.; therefore, it appears that during Herod’s regime there was no permanent settlement at the site.
As a token of gratitude for Augustus’s gifts, Herod dedicated a temple to him. According to the description of Josephus (Ant. 15.363–364, J.W. 1.400), the edifice was built near the sources of the Jordan. Josephus cites the spring, the cliff, and the cave but makes no mention of any settlement at the site. Three buildings have been identified with the Augusteum—at the mouth of the cave, on the Western Terrace just above the cliff, and at Hurvat ʾOmrit only 2.5 miles (4 km) southwest of Bāniyās. Without deciding between the various proposals for the temple, the finds at Bāniyās certainly indicate that in Herod’s time no significant settlement existed in this place.
After Herod’s death, his son Philip inherited the Golan, Batanaea, the Auranitis, and the Trachonitis (Josephus, Ant. 17.189, 318–319). Until the days of Herod most of these territories were under the dominion of nomads. Suppression of the bandits and military settlement of Babylonians, headed by Zamaris (Josephus, Ant. 17.23–28), brought stability and security to the land for the first time. Following that, settlement had begun in Batanaea, the Auranitis, and the Trachonitis, a process which accelerated in the days of Philip.
Around 2–1 B.C.E., Philip founded his capital at Paneas. The city was named “Caesarea” in honor of Augustus and, in order to differentiate it from Caesarea on the Sea, was called “Caesarea Philippi.” Together with this, the early name of the site, Paneas, was retained. The site of the capital was not in the geographic center of Philip’s domain but on its northwestern border. The site had good conditions for settlement, but this was not the crucial argument for its selection. It seems that Philip chose an area that had already been settled for at least 150 years and was close to the kingdom of his brother, Herod Antipas.
The capital was erected on a virgin site, allowing Philip to build a planned town, without needing to take into consideration an old city and ancient buildings. A flat area, bounded on the south and west by the ravines of Nahal Saאar and Nahal Hermon, respectively, and on the north by the Bāniyās spring and the great cliff that contains the opening of the Bāniyās cave, was chosen for the civic center.
The terrace to the north of the spring was selected as the Sacred Precinct. A temple, possibly built already by Herod, stood at the entrance to the cave; and it is this temple which appears on the city coins struck by Philip. Public structures were erected in the area south of the spring, and the cardo (central north–south street) of the city was established. It is impossible to distinguish between the constructions of Philip and those of Agrippa II. Domestic quarters began to be built around the urban center; although their exact extent in the days of Philip is unclear, it appears that their construction began during his regime.
Agrippa I, who ruled Caesarea Philippi after Philip, sojourned there only a short time; but it is not clear if he built at the site and to what extent. His son, Agrippa II, ruled the domain of Philip for dozens of years (ca. 53–93 C.E.); and Caesarea Philippi was his unrivaled capital. During his regime the settlements in the eastern regions of the kingdom were economically more entrenched, and Agrippa II’s gain increased correspondingly. According to Josephus, Agrippa II embellished Caesarea Philippi; and there seems to be no doubt that he invested fortunes in it.
Caesarea Philippi was built as a Roman city. At the entrance of the cave was a public building, which was partly excavated by Zvi Uri Maאoz. The building consisted of two parallel walls, of which only the western one was preserved; and a series of semicircular and rectangular niches for statues were built along the wall. The facade and the eastern wall of the building were almost completely destroyed. The excavator identified the building with the tetrapylos temple, which was depicted on Philip’s coins, and believed this to be Herod’s Augusteum. Other scholars interpreted the building as a propylaion (fore-gate) in front of the cave.
East of the cave, on a higher terrace, the rock surface adjacent the cliff was flattened and a large niche, like an artificial cave, was cut into the cliff. Parallels to this cave from the first half of the first century C.E. have been found in Italy. On the terrace’s slope many imported and local pottery sherds, dated to the first centuries C.E. have been found. The large quantity of pottery indicates that there were ritual meals. It seems that the cult site dedicated to Pan was already built by Philip.
Excavations of the civic center revealed a large building complex containing halls, rooms, tunnels, and towers. The building was erected during the first century C.E. and was identified by its excavator, Vassilios Tzaferis, as the palace of Agrippa II. Not far away from the palace, a section of the cardo, a colonnaded street paved with basalt slabs, was unearthed. Remains of other public buildings were found in the civic center as well.
The city received its water from the copious spring, and that water was transferred to the various parts of the city by built canals and ceramic pipes. Domestic suburbs were built east and west of the city center. Most of them have not been excavated, but limited excavations and trenches in the various parts of the city have uncovered sections of wealthy buildings with walls covered in colorful frescoes and mosaic floors. Some suburbs were built on hills rising above spring level. Because of their location on the hills, it was impossible to direct water from the spring to those suburbs. To solve that problem, a 1.9 mile (3 km) long aqueduct was built, and through it water was provided from east of the city to the northern suburbs. The aqueduct, excavated by Moshe Hartal, was built in the first century C.E. and was in use until the fifth century.
The new city, which was founded by Philip and expanded by Agrippa II, attracted different population groups. Among its residents were Itureans, probably from the nearby villages and perhaps even more distant places. Indirect evidence for this is the appointment of Varus, a descendant of an Iturean royal family, as viceroy of Agrippa II during the beginning of the revolt against the Romans (Josephus, J.W. 2.481).
The tetrarchy of Philip had a mixed population: Syrians, Arabs, Itureans, and Jews. In 83–80 B.C.E. Alexander Jannaeus conquered the southern and center Golan Heights. He did not conquer the Iturean territory in northern Golan, probably because of the special relationship between him and the Itureans. Following the occupation, many Jews immigrated to the Golan. The center of the Golan, now called Gaulanitis, became the province most heavily populated by Jews; and their settlements there continued until the end of the Byzantine period. Jewish settlements were also established in southern Golan and the district of Hippos. In contrast, the Jewish population did not settle in the northern Golan; later called the district of Paneas, this territory remained under the control of the Itureans.
A second wave of Jewish settlement occurred during the days of Herod. After Herod had suppressed the bandits of the Trachonitis, he placed military settlements of Jews from Babylon in Batanea and granted them free soil and freedom from taxes. This attracted many Jews to settle in this territory after hundreds of years devoid of permanent settlements.
The two Jewish populations differed in their loyalty to the rulers. The Jewish settlers in Gaulanitis were an integral part of the Jewish community that settled in the Galilee at the same time. Since they did not receive anything from Herod, they remained loyal to the Hasmonean dynasty. The Jews of Batanea, however, were grateful to Herod and remained loyal to him and his successors. The difference between the two population groups became evident in the revolt against the Romans. Only the Gaulanitis Jews rebelled, especially in Gamla. The Batanea Jews, however, in addition to not rebelling, were the nucleus of Agrippa’s army and took part in suppressing the revolt.
In the district of Paneas there were no Jewish settlements, except for a small number at the edge of the western slope of the northern Golan. But the city itself had a Jewish community. The “boundary of Eretz Israel” (t. Sheb. 4:11), reflecting the territory settled by Jewish people during the Second Temple period, passes Tarnegola. The exact location of Tarnegola is unknown, but according to sources it was “above Caesarion,” that is, north or east of the city, leaving its district outside of the boundary. But the city itself was considered by religious law as part of the land of Israel.
Evidence of a Jewish community in Caesarea Philippi in the first century C.E. can be found in the description of events at the beginning of the revolt. Varus was fomented by the “Syrians in Caesarea” to act against the city’s Jews and close them into the city. He also tried to attack the loyal Batanea Jews, under a false claim that they wanted to rebel (Josephus, Life 11). The Jewish people were shut into the city, looked for purity oil, and bought it from a certain John for a very high price (Josephus, Life 13.74–75).
This event also highlights Caesarea’s third population group, called by Josephus “Syrians.” It seems that these were Semitic pagans who lived in the city. As the capital of the tetrarchy of Philip and his successors, Caesarea Philippi naturally attracted people from all over the tetrarchy; and perhaps they are the ones called Syrians.
The cemeteries around the city also indicate a mixed population. On the western slopes of the Bāniyās Plateau burial caves were found, which probably served the Jewish population. On the Hermon spur above the city and the hills above the northwestern suburb, very deep cist graves were found, their burial benches covered with heavy flagstones. Such tombs were not found at other places in Israel, though similar tombs are known from the Auranitis, in the east part of the tetrarchy of Philip. We can assume that these graves were of people from that region who lived in the capital and were buried according to their customs.
The city did not participate in the revolt against the Romans and, therefore, was not damaged. During the rebellion Agrippa II hosted Vespasian (Josephus, J.W. 3.443–444) and Titus and part of their army: “Titus, removing his troops from Caesarea-on-Sea, now passed to Caesarea Philippi so called, where he remained for a considerable time, exhibiting all kinds of spectacles. Here many of the prisoners perished, some being thrown to the wild beasts, others compelled in opposing masses to engage one another” (Josephus, J.W. 7.23–24). Agrippa II stayed loyal to the Romans and continued to rule his kingdom until his death in 93 or 100 C.E.
The Late Roman Periods.
Following the death of Agrippa II, Herod’s descendants no longer ruled. Agrippa II’s kingdom was divided between the Roman provinces of Judea and Syria. The Golan, occupied by Jews, went to Judea. Syria acquired Batanaea, the Auranitis, and the Trachonitis, as well as the territory of Paneas in the northern Golan. The border between the chora of Paneas and the Jewish Golan became an interprovince boundary, different cultures developing on both sides of the border.
Toward the end of the second century C.E. the province of Syria was rearranged. Caesarea Philippi was transferred to the province of Syria-Phoenicia, and it adhered to that province through the end of the Byzantine period.
In the second and third centuries C.E. the cities in Batanea and the Auranitis flourished. Following the division of the kingdom of Agrippa II, Caesarea Philippi no longer served as the capital of northern Transjordan; and it seems that its connection with the eastern cities was very limited. Nevertheless, the city was in a period of extensive building activity in the second through the fourth centuries C.E., and during this period the city expanded and reached the peak of its urban area (185 acres [75 ha]).
The Palace of Agrippa was deserted in the third century C.E. and turned into a giant bathhouse, which served at least through the fourth century C.E. The domestic suburbs were also enlarged during this period and contained spacious buildings with mosaic floors. The aqueduct was still in operation and possibly underwent a basic refurbishing in the third century C.E. The ceramic repertoire gathered in all suburbs is dated mainly to this period.
Villas were established around the city, and their distance of no more than an hour’s walk from the center enabled their occupants to enjoy the natural surroundings while also benefiting from the services of the town. The pottery industry flourished during this period. In the area above the northwestern suburb a large amount of pottery, apparently wasters of a pottery kiln, was found.
The change in administration of the city brought a rush of pagan cults. In the second century C.E. three niches for statues were cut into the cliff near Pan’s artificial cave. Two Greek inscriptions engraved in the rock are dedicated to Pan, Hermes (his father), and the nymph Maia (Hermes’s mother). In the third century C.E. another inscription mentioned the nymph Echo. The cult of Pan had begun already in the third century B.C.E., but only in the second century C.E. was Pan introduced as the major god of the city. It was during this time that a change in the description of the god occurred. No more half goat, half man, Pan was depicted as a handsome young man leaning against a tree trunk and playing a syrinx. This figure first appeared on a coin of Agrippa II, dated to 88 C.E., and continued on coins of the second century C.E. At that time the town’s name changed to “Caesarea Paneas.”
In the third century C.E. a temple of Zeus was built. Remains of this temple were excavated east of the Pan and the Nymph yard. East of the temple of Zeus another niche with an open courtyard was established, and an inscription was found indicating that it was dedicated to Nemesis. The two eastern structures of the sacred precinct are not ordinary temples. One of them was identified by the excavator, Zvi Uri Maאoz, as a place where sacred goats, symbolizing Pan, were kept. The other structure was identified as a tomb for sacred goats. Goats are depicted on coins of the city, but it is unclear if these were living animals or sculptures.
In the ruins of the so-called Tomb of the Sacred Goats, many statue fragments were buried after the temples had gone out of use. The sculptures, probably from the temples, include statues of Athena, Zeus or Asclepius, Aphrodite, Hera, Artemis, Hermes, Hercules, and Pan. These findings suggest that a variety of gods were worshiped in the temples.
Eusebius (ca. 260–ca. 339 C.E.) described a unique ritual in Paneas:
“Near Caesarea Philippi, called Paneas by the Phoenicians, on the skirts of the mountain called Paneum, they point to springs believed to be the source of the Jordan. Into these they say that on certain feast days a victim is thrown, and that by the demon’s power it disappears from sight miraculously. This occurrence strikes the spectators as a marvel to be talked of everywhere” (Hist. eccl. 6:16).
The cultic center of the city became a pilgrimage site. Hundreds of small bowls, manufactured specifically for use in the temple, were found in the excavations. Soot marks on them indicated they were used as saucer lamps and as votive offerings in the temples.
After the failure of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, the Jewish community of Paneas grew when refugees from the destroyed settlements joined it. The new arrivals included rabbis mentioned in Talmudic literature: “It happened that R. Eliezer passed the Sabbath in Upper Galilee in the Sukkah of R. Johana son of R. Ilai at Caesarea [Philippi]” (b. Sukkah 27b).
The Talmudic literature described Panean as the source of the Jordan, “The Jordan issues from the cavern of Paneas” (b. Bek. 55a), and as a city that lies on the halachic border of Eretz Israel: “Said Moses before him: Lord of the world, since a decree has been made that I shall not enter the land either as a king or as commander, let me enter it by the cave of Caesarion below Paneas” (Mek. according to Rabbi Ishmael, Deut 3:27).
Because of the proximity of the border of Israel to the city and because its province was partly outside the boundary, it was necessary to determine the rules that would apply to fruits and vegetables grown in its field:
“Kinds of products which are forbidden in Paneas: walnuts, rice, sesame seeds, and cowpeas. Gamliel Zugga said: [Also] early-ripening Damascus plums. Said R. Jonah: That which you have stated applies [in the area] from Tarnegola [which is above] Caesarion northward, but [the area] from Tarnegola [which is above] Caesarion southward deemed to be like the Land of Israel” (y. Demai 2:1 [22c]).
Jews also told a legend that connected Emperor Diocletian with Paneas:
"Diocletian the king was originally a swineherd in Tiberias. When he came near a school, the children would go out and beat him up. After some time he was made king. He came and took up residence near Paneas and he sent letters to Tiberias just before the eve of Sabbath, giving the command: I command the rabbis of the Jews to appear before me on Sunday morning.…At the end of the Sabbath, when the session ended, he [the spirit] went out and set them before the gates of Paneas. (Gen. Rab. 63:7.7a–o)"
Caesarea Philippi held an important place in early Christianity. Jesus and his disciples came to villages in the territory of the city (Mark 8:27), where for the first time he was revealed to them as the Son of God. He promised Peter the keys to heaven and taught them who will be considered a true disciple:
"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matt 16:13–20)"
This event occurred in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, not in the city proper. The rural territory of the city, the northern Golan and northern Hula Valley, was settled mainly by Itureans. Only on the western edge of northern Golan did there exist a number of Jewish settlements, and it is possible that this was where Jesus is described as having walked.
There is no evidence of a community of Christians in the first centuries C.E. in Paneas, although there may have been one. According to surveys conducted in the northern Golan and Mount Hermon—the Paneas district—it seems that Christianity penetrated into this area relatively late.
The Byzantine Period.
Eusebius, who visited the city, did not mention a Christian community; but in 325 C.E. a bishop named Paneados from Paneas attended the Council of Nicaea. Eusebius was the first to describe a miraculous “statue of Christ”:
"The woman with a hemorrhage, who as we learn from the holy gospels was cured of her trouble by our Savior, was stated to have come from here. Her house pointed out in the city, and a wonderful memorial of the Savior conferred upon her was still there. On a tall stone base at the gate of her house stood a bronze statue of a woman, resting on one knee and resembling a suppliant with arms outstretched. Facing this was another of the same material, an upright figure of man with double cloak neatly draped over his shoulders and his hand stretched out on the woman. Near his feet on the stone slab grew an exotic plant, which climbed up on the hem of the bronze cloak and served as remedy for illnesses of every kind. This statue, which was said to resemble the features of Jesus, was still there in my own time, so that I saw it with my own eyes when I resided in the city. (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 7:18)"
The statue, probably of Roman origin, was identified with Jesus, despite the fact that it did not fit to the gospel story (Luke 8:43–48), neither in the place where the event occurred (Capernaum) nor in the details of the event. But it is a clear indication that the local fourth-century C.E. Christian community tried to tie its history back to the time of Christ himself and make it clear by visible evidence. This statue was frequently mentioned in Byzantine sources. In the fourth to sixth centuries C.E. the movement of pilgrims developed, and Paneas was found at the northern end of their route; it is no wonder that the main attraction in the city was the statue of Christ. Over time the statue was damaged, and the head was introduced into the church of the city.
In the city center, facing the temples, a large basilica with an apse to the east, probably a church, was built on the ruins of Roman public buildings. It was found in a very ruinous condition. Under the mosaic floor of the prothesis a fill with third- and fourth-century C.E. pottery was found. It thus seems that the church was built during the fourth century C.E. or later. Finds on the floor of the church were mixed and did not allow the dating of its destruction. No crosses and no other Christian symbols were found in the basilica; neither were they found anywhere else in Bāniyās, the northern Golan, and Mount Hermon. The few crosses which were found in this territory are attributed to the Ghassanids in the sixth century C.E.
Along with the Christian community and its church, the pagan temples continued to operate. Excavations indicate that temples were used until the fifth century C.E. Even finds from the sixth century C.E. still indicate a use of the temple for worship, maybe in secret. It thus seems that a considerable pagan population continued to live in the city. A Jewish community in this period is not mentioned, but it likely continued to exist alongside the Christian and pagan ones.
In the fifth century C.E., the town was attacked. Everywhere in the excavated areas evidence was found for destruction and abandonment. In the civic center, a street and the shops flanking it were destroyed in a fierce fire dated to the first quarter of the fifth century C.E., after which the area was not rebuilt. At the same time, the bath inside the former palace of Agrippa II and the cardo were deserted. The church and the temples, as well as the aqueduct, also ceased to function. The cemeteries surrounding Bāniyās yielded no finds later than the fifth century C.E. The pottery industry of Bāniyās and Khirbat el-Hawarit also ceased production during this period.
In the southeastern suburb, a city wall, which surrounded the part of the town south of Nahal Saאar, was constructed during this period. This was the first city wall ever erected in Bāniyās, which strongly indicates a deterioration of the state of security. There is additional evidence of this state of affairs: the villas in the vicinity of the town appear to be have been deserted too, and a fort, el-Naqara, was constructed above the Saאar waterfall. A watchtower above the northeastern suburb was apparently built in the same period. The settlements on Mount Hermon were also affected, and there are almost no finds from this period. The northern Golan also witnessed a diminishing of the number of sites.
The fate of Paneas following the fifth century C.E. is not clear. It is still mentioned in texts of the period, but most of them only quote from earlier descriptions. The few eyewitness reports allude to the two sources Jor and Dan, which supposedly create the Jordan; but there is no description of the town. In this period the confusion between Paneas and Dan began; its exact location was forgotten. It stands to reason that the site was not completely deserted but was severely diminished in its urban space. However, surveys and excavations have failed as yet to locate the extent of the city from the Late Byzantine period. In all probability its remains are buried beneath the ruin of the medieval town. Another possibility is that the settlement moved to the southeastern suburb, which was surrounded by the city wall. However, the meager ceramic assemblage from this area does not support this suggestion either.
Only in two places did excavations reveal finds from the sixth and seventh centuries C.E.: in a pit dug into the ruins of the temples and in the northwestern suburb. In the last excavation a Roman colonnaded street was destroyed by fire in the fifth century C.E. Findings from the sixth century C.E. were found above the ash layer. Both excavations, however, failed to produce buildings from this period. The pottery found in both places strongly indicates that there was no continuity in the ceramic industry from the fifth to the sixth century C.E. Both excavations demonstrate that some population lived at Bāniyās at that period; however, its exact place of residence is not known.
The Early Islamic Period.
In the Early Islamic period the name of the site was changed to Bāniyās since the Arabic language does not have a letter P. The site was abandoned in the beginning of the Islamic period, and almost no evidence was found for settlement in the Umayyad period either. Correspondingly, the historical sources do not mention Bāniyās as a city in this period.
Only Yaאaqubi (891 C.E.) describes Bāniyās as the capital city of the Golan in the jund (district) of Damascus, clear evidence for the existence of the city at the end of the ninth century C.E. But its remains have not yet been identified in the surveys and excavations. It appears that the city was reerected above a part of the Roman urban center, where it remained as a town or village through the twentieth century C.E. Ninety-four years later (985 C.E.), Muqaddasi relates that the population of the city increased as a consequence of the immigration of refugees from Tarsus. Maאoz attributes the domestic structures covering the ruins of the temples to this period.
A Jewish community resided at Bāniyās in the eleventh century C.E. Letters from its dignitaries were found in the Cairo Geniza. Bāniyās was called in these letters Mivzar Dan, “the Fortress of Dan,” a name whose beginnings go back to the end of the Byzantine period. This period saw the fortification of the site: a fort was built within the city with a mosque in the center of it.
[See also BAR KOKHBA CAVES and Caesarea.]
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