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Eleutheropolis is located in Israel
Location within Israel
Location Beit Guvrin, Israel
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Type City
Founded 2nd century BCE
For the history of the site see in chronological order Maresha, Beit Guvrin, Eleutheropolis, Bethgibelin, Bayt Jibrin, Kibbutz Beit Guvrin and Beit Guvrin National Park

Eleutheropolis (Greek, Ελευθερόπολις, "Free City") was a Roman city in Israel, some 53 km southwest of Jerusalem. Its remains still straddle the ancient road to Gaza.

The city was originally known in Aramaic as 'Beth Gabra which translates as the "house of strong men".[1] The name Eleutheropolis was given to the city by the Romans[2][3] Josephus called it Betaris,[4][5] Ptolemy referred to it as Baitogabra,[6] and in the Talmud it was known as Beit Guvrin.[1][7] The former city of Eleutheropolis was rebuilt by the Crusaders as Bethgibelin or Gibelin.[8][9] The mediaeval city was known in Arabic as Beit Jibrin or Jubrin (بيت جبرين) meaning "house of the powerful",[10] reflecting its original Aramaic name.[1]


For earlier history, see the Bayt Jibrin page.

In the Jewish War (68 CE), 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 Romans gave the city a Greek name, Eleutheropolis, meaning “City of the Free."[2][3] Coins minted by Septimius Severus bear the date January 1, 200, commemorating its founding[12] and the title of Polis.

Eleutheropolis became one of the most important cities in Roman Palestine. Seven routes met at Eleutheropolis,[13] 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.[14]

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

The city was a "City of Excellence" in the fourth century[15] 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.

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.[16] Eleutheropolis was last mentioned in the ancient sources by the near contempory itinerarium of the Piacenza Pilgrim,[17] 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.[18] In 796 the city was again destroyed in civil warfare.

19th century identification

In 1838, American scholar Edward Robinson identified Bayt Jibrin as the site of ancient Eleutheropolis.[19] Eleutheropolis remains a titular see in the Roman Catholic Church.[20]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sharon, 1997, p.109
  2. 2.0 2.1 Biblical Researches in Palestine and the Adjacent Regions: A Journal of ... Edward Robinson, Eli Smith
  3. 3.0 3.1 1911 encyclopedia.org
  4. The Jewish Wars Josephus Flavius IV:447. Note: Page 270 in the 1981 Penguin Classics edition.
  5. Robinson, Edward & Smith, Eli (1856) J. Murray. p. 67
  6. The Protestant Theological and Ecclesiastical Encyclopedia (1860) By John Henry Augustus Bomberger, Johann Jakob Herzog p 178
  7. Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. "Eleutheropolis".
  8. Jean Richard (1921) "The Crusaders c1071-c1291" reprinted 2001 Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-62566-1 p. 140
  9. The Guide to Israel, Zev Vilnay, Hamakor Press, Jerusalem 1972, p.276
  10. Khalidi, 1992, p. 209-210.
  11. Josephus, De Bell. Jud., IV.viii.1
  12. Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Eleutheropolis"
  13. Amos Kloner, 1999. "The City of Eleutheropolis": in The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, (Jerusalem) pp 244-246.]
  14. Encyclopædia Britannica 1911: "Eleutheropolis"
  15. Kloner 1999
  16. http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/mad/legends/legends084.html Madaba Map Online
  17. Anonymus Placentinus Itinerarium 32
  18. Catholic Encyclopedia 1908, s.v. "Eleutheropolis"
  19. Biblical researches in Palestine, 1838-52. A journal of travels in the year 1838. P. 57ff: Eleutheropolis 1856,
  20. Eleutheropolis in Palaestina (Titular See)

External links