Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tiberias

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From volume XXIII of the work.
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TIBERIAS, now TABARIYA, a city of Palestine, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Tiberias, occupies a narrow strip of plain under a hill in a feverish but fertile situation. Recent estimates place the population at from 2000 to 3000, about half the inhabitants being Jews, and many of the latter immigrants from Poland. The streets are indescribably filthy, and an Arab saying is that "the king of the fleas holds his court at Tiberias."The walls of the town and the castle on the north were in great part ruined by an earthquake in 1837, when half the population perished. The most interesting building is a very ancient synagogue by the lake, the lower story of which is said to have been unaffected by the earthquake. Outside the town are the plastered monuments ("whited sepulchres") of R. Akiba and Maimonides. Half an hour to the south are the famous hot baths mentioned by Pliny (H.N., v. 15 [71]). Josephus calls this place Emrnaus, which has suggested an identification with Hammoth-dor (Josh. xxi. 32) or Hammon (1 Chron. vi. 76 [61]), names which perhaps point to the existence of thermal springs.

Tiberias was founded by Herod Antipas apparently not before 26 A.D., [1] and so was quite a new place at the time of our Lord's ministry in Galilee. And, though it became the capital of Galilee, it was at first a purely Greek city, which accounts for its not appearing among the scenes of the Galilæan ministry. It joined in the war of liberty, but yielded without resistance to Vespasian, and was restored by him to its master Agrippa, on whose death in 100 it fell directly under Roman rule. The place came to be a great seat of Jews and Jewish learning: it was the residence of R. Judah, the editor of the Mishnah; and, though the schools of Palestine were ultimately overshadowed by those of Babylonia, the school of Tiberias was still famous in the time of Jerome. According to Epiphanius, the first Christian church was built by Constantine, and from this time we hear of bishops of Tiberias. The Arabs took Tiberias in 637; it was restored to Christendom by Tancred, but yielded to Saladin in 1187 after the battle of Hittin. It was again in Christian hands from 1240 to 1247. In the middle of the 18th century it was one of the fortresses of the renowned Sheikh Ẓáhir, who for many years defied the Turkish power.

  1. 1 See the discussion in Schürer, Gesch. d. Jüd. Volkes, il 127 sq.