Tag Archives: archeology

A Jewish Queen Helene of Adiabene

 

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Sarcophagus of Helen of Adiabene – Israel Museum Jerusalem

A few years ago, to my surprise, I was told that the sarcophagus of Queen Helen of Adiabene, which was in the Louvre Museum, would be lent for a few months by France to be exhibited at the Israel Museum.

She was the queen of a country called Adiabiene, which corresponds to the Kurdish territories of today. According to Flavius Joseph, Ananias converted her towards the year 30 AD before he became a high priest.

Known for her generosity and being a benefactress for the poor of Jerusalem, she brought constant support to the Jewish people of Judea and Galilee.

During a famine, she sent ships to Alexandria in order to bring wheat and cereals to the victims.

The Talmud tells us that she followed the Jewish laws rigorously and that she made numerous gifts to the Temple of Jerusalem, including a golden candlestick for its door.

Helen died in her territory of Adiabene in the year 56-58.

Her body was brought back to Jerusalem and buried in the pyramidal tomb she had built during her life time, north of Jerusalem.

During an excavation in 1863, the French archaeologist Félicien de Saulcy discovered a large limestone tomb near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. He was convinced that it was the tomb of the great kings of the Bible David and Solomon, which explains the name “Tomb of the Kings”,  but it turned out to be of Queen Helen.

This tomb was transferred to the Louvre in full agreement with the Ottoman archaeological authorities at the time.

This venerated Queen will remain forever engraved in the memory of the Jewish people.

 

Helene d'Adiabene Palace - Israel Museum Jerusalem

Helene d’Adiabene Palace – Israel Museum Jerusalem

 

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Beit She’an and the divinities

Beith Shean vue du Tell

Beit She’an ” Scythopolis ” is certainly one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Israel.

It was one of the ten cities of the decapole located around the Jordan river, a strategic crossroads of 40,000 inhabitants in Roman times and destroyed in 749 CE by an earthquake, the beauty of its vestiges keeps impressing me at each of my visits :

  • His theater (still used for events and shows),
  • Its public hot baths (the most important found to date in Israel),
  • The Cardo ” Palladius ” largely restored main alley adorned with magnificent columns,
  • The ” Nymphaeum ” monumental public fountain, adorned with sculptures and water games.
  • The Temple of Zeus, the King of the Gods whose crushed columns remind us of the relentless violence of this earthquake and of course many mosaics, some of which are exhibited at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem,
  • The magnificent reconstructed mosaic of the goddess Tyche, the Greek goddess of Good Fortune, holding the Horn of Abundance. It was stolen a few years ago, but a reconstruction was made and is exhibited on the site.

 

  • Goddess Tyche

    Goddess Tyche

Dionysus was also the protector of Beit Shean, the God of grape harvest, vinification and wine, ritual madness and fertility.

Legend tells us that the nymph Nysa nourished him and raised him during his childhood.