Shomron / Sebastya / Sebastia

SHOMRON – SAMARIA , established as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel during the reign of Omri circa 879 B.C. Prior to the Omride period the site appears to have been the center of an extensive wine and oil production area, which may have accounted for its choice as the new capital. Apparently the origin of the name of the site was from Shemer the eponymous owner of the land that Omri purchased for two talents of silver.

The Israelite Palace

An Israelite Chalice cult

During the reign of the last king of the northern kingdom-Hoshea, the Assyrians invaded in 722/721 B.C. (initially under Shalmaneser V and finally under Sargon II) when they established complete control over the capital city and the remainder of the northern kingdom. In addition, the inhabitants of Samaria were deported to Assyria. New inhabitants were brought in (from Cuthah and the Syro-Mesopotamian area) and they formed a new Samaritan population, also known as Cuthim. The city together with the neighboring highland area became known as Samerina and was ruled by an Assyrian governor. There are only meager remains from the succeeding Babylonian period and it was only in the Persian period, in the mid 5th century, that the city reemerged in importance. 

An Israelite Jug – Iron Age II

Samaria became a Hellenistic town in 332 B.C. and thousands of Macedonian soldiers were settled there following a revolt by the Samaritans. Three round towers dating to that period have been excavated  and a later, massive, fortification wall with square towers. These fortifications were breached during the destruction of the city by John Hyrcanus in 108 B.C. Traces of the destruction wrought by Hyrcanus were found by the excavators, but the city was apparently resettled under Alexander Yannai.

The Hellenistic Tower

In 63 B.C. Samaria was annexed to the Roman province of Syria. In 30 B.C. the emperor Augustus awarded the city to Herod the Great who renamed it Sebaste in honor of Augustus (“Sebaste” is the feminine form of Gr. Sebastos = Augustus).

The Roman Wall

The Colonnaded Street

A Roman Silver Denarius

The Basilica

A Roman Lead Weight

The Roman Theater

The Augusteum

consisting of a temple and a large forecourt built over the Omride palace at the summit of the acropolis.


The city was rebuilt without any major changes in the 2nd century A.D. by Septimius Severus when the city was established as a colony. Samaria has been associated with John the Baptist, whose body was believed to be buried there.

The Byzantine Church

A Byzantine Oil-Lamp