The economy of ancient Hamat, a small Jewish town south of Tiberius, was based mainly on its hot
springs. In the 1920’s, its synagogue was excavated on the site of the present-day Tiberius hot springs. In 1965, another synagogue was unearthed near the southwestern wall of the city. Because of an inscription found in it, it is referred to today as the “synagogue of Severus.” The Severus synagogue knew three stages after its construction over the remains of a larger older structure whose function is unclear, though it may have been a synagogue from the 1st and 2nd centuries. The first phase was in the 3rd century, during which the synagogue’s portal was ‘on the south, similar to the “Galilee mountain region” synagogues. During the second phase of the building’s use, the old doorways were closed and new entrances opened on the north, and the floor of the central hall was paved with a beautiful mosaic. The side aisles were also paved, in simple geometric patterns.
The eastern mosaic includes Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew inscriptions.
The central mosaic was divided into three “carpets”: the one nearest the entrances featured a pair of lions guarding nine Greek dedicatory inscriptions. The most important of them mentions”Severus the pupil of the most illustrious patriarchs.” Severus apparently had connections to the nasal, the leader of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel who resided in nearby Tiberius in the 4th century CE.
The carpet furthermost from the door, opposite the bima, is decorated with a facade of a building standing on a podium, surrounded by menorahs, shofars, Lulavim and Etrogim. All symbols of the Temple in Jerusalem. The central square carpet is the most impressive. In each corner is a woman bearing natural produce, each representing one of the four seasons. The twelve symbols of the zodiac, some with nude figures of boys, encircle Helios the sun god, who rides on a carriage drawn by four horses, holding the earth in his hands. The second phase probably came to an end in an earthquake at the end of the 4th century. A new synagogue, twice the size of the former building, was built on the ruins in the 5th century.
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