Goddess of Fortune 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Summertime and the living is easy – or at least it was a couple of
years ago, judging by two finds revealed by archeologists this week.
the eastern shores of Lake Kinneret, a fresco of Tyche, the Greek
fortune, was uncovered along with a figure of a maenad, one of the
Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry, while in Gush Etzion a
has been restored at King Herod’s private theater at Herodion National
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The box, situated at the center of the theater’s upper section,
used to be fully open to the stage and offered the best seats in the
reserved for the king and his guests.
The excavation of the box was
conducted by Prof. Ehud Netzer, under the auspices of the Hebrew
Jerusalem Institute of Archaeology.
Netzer was immediately struck by an
intricate pattern of wall paintings and plaster moldings in a style
Israeli art at that time.
“There should be no doubt whatsoever that the
box was decorated by Italian artists, sent to Herod probably by Marcus
who, before he visited the region in 15-10 BCE, had met with Herod on
Greek island of Lesbos; 15 BCE is also our dating of the theater, which,
course, is not coincidental,” Netzer told The Jerusalem Post on
Herod’s fascination with Italian art went hand in hand with his
love for the lavish lifestyle it symbolized, Netzer said.
was born a Jew, he came from the tribe of Edomites, who were forced to
under the Maccabees around 130 BCE.
“Herod therefore was kosher, but not
too kosher,” Netzer laughed, adding that “Herod’s compromise of the
can be seen in his decoration of the royal box, which contains scenes of
countryside, the Nile River, a large boat with sails, but also trees,
and human beings. Since Herodion was built in the countryside, I presume
Herod’s guests were of the liberal sort.”
The data accumulated during the
excavations indicate that the theater was used for less than 10
“It surprised us to discover that the glory of this impressive
building, which must have cost Herod a fortune, was in the end
Netzer said. “It seems to have been deliberately destroyed shortly
Herod’s death [in 4 BCE] in order to preserve the conic shape of the
hill that surrounds it. It is also quite possible that Herod did not
to enjoy the theater after his death, but that remains a pure
The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is restoring the site, which
should be reopened to the public next year.
Netzer revealed to the Post
that the royal box was actually discovered in 2008 together with the
but that the Hebrew University needed to find a sponsor who would make
a special protective structure is put around the room to ensure its
for future generations.
The Tyche fresco find announced by the University
of Haifa is believed to date to the beginning of the Byzantine period,
the 3rd and 4th centuries CE.
According to Greek mythology, maenads were
“groupies” who followed Dionysus while dancing furiously and carrying a
a phallic device that symbolizes sexuality and fertility.
Segal and Dr.
Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at
the University of Haifa said that although the private residence where
were dug up existed during the Byzantine period, when Christianity was
and wiped out idol worship, remnants of such beliefs remained.
residence is believed to have belonged to one of the city’s elites.
came across an inner courtyard with a fountain inside, and next to the
they found the fresco of Tyche, who they believe was revered by the city
their goddess of fortune.
Shortly thereafter, they uncovered the maenad
The Sussita excavations have been carried out for the past 11
years within the Sussita National Park, and are being assisted by the
Nature and Parks Authority.