The imperial cult meets judaism: The stepped pools adjacent to the augusteum at samaria-sebaste

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Excavations conducted in the first half of the twentieth century at Samaria-Sebaste uncovered an Augusteum, surrounded by additional Roman-period structures. A compelling hypothesis is that these buildings served as a royal compound belonging to Herod himself, although until now archaeological remains connecting the structures specifically to Herod have been lacking. Here I will examine the function and historical significance of eight stepped pools discovered throughout this compound. I will argue that these pools should be regarded as Jewish ritual immersion pools that date to the time of Herod the Great or his successors. This suggestion will lead us to explore the obvious question: How could Jewish ritual baths have coexisted in such close quarters with a pagan temple? I will suggest that this ostensibly surprising juxtaposition of ritual structures has much to teach us about the pervasiveness and tenacity of Jewish adherence to Torah Law at this time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-414
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Augusteum
  • Herod
  • Imperial cult
  • Judaism
  • Purity
  • Samaria-Sebaste
  • Stepped pools


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