Beth Shean belonged to a league to ten cities referred to in the New Testament as the Decapolis. These were situated in the northern part of the Jordan Valley and in Transjordan, and the Gospels use the name equally for the towns and for the whole region. We are told that when Jesus told the man exorcised of devils to “Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, … Mark 5:19-20
Beth Shean was an important town in Biblical times. King Saul’s decapitated body was hung on its walls after his defeat at the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31).The city grew to prominence during the reign of King Solomon who rebuilt its great walls. The high tel or mound dates from this time, and excavations revealed a wealth of finds and information from the period.After the conquest of Alexander the Great in 333 BC, Beth Shean was renamed Scythopolis in honor of the mercenaries who came from Scythia, by the Black Sea.
Together with the other cities of the Decapolis, Beth Shean became an important center of Hellenistic Culture. Later, the cities flourished under Rome which granted them special status. They were allowed to mint their own coins and had a rare degree of autonomy. Beth Shean’s large theatre and its many fine mosaics are evidence of how much the city prospered during this time.
*And his fame went throughout all Syria: …. and there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:24-25
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