Sidonian Tomb

Beit Guvrin: Sidonian Tomb

The Sidonian Tomb discovered at the biblical city of Beit Guvrin – Maresha in the foothills of Judea southwest of Jerusalem, is an extraordinary rock-carved and hand-painted burial complex. It belonged to Phoenician traders from Sidon that settled in southern Judea after Alexander the Great’s conquests (332 BC).

Sidonian tomb

Sidonian tomb

Explore a biblical city…
There aren’t remains of too many ancient cities that one can wander through and see how people lived over 2000 years ago! Well, Beit Guvrin / Maresha, situated in the foot hills of Judea is one of them.  Today we explore the colorful mausoleum of a wealthy family of traders that came from Sidon (Lebanon today) and settled here in the 2-3rd century BC.

Why situated here?
Situated at the foot of the Judean Hills, between the Mediterranean coast and the mountains, Maresha was on an important trade route connecting Hebron and the port city of Ashkelon.

Greek speaking settlers from Sidon
Sidon was and still is an important seaport- just north of Israel, on the Lebanon coast. In bible times it was home to Phonecian traders that plied the Mediterranean establishing trading posts as far away as Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. They also settled here. From the time of Alexander the Great (3rd C. BCE) it became Greek speaking and as pagans they worshipped the Greek gods.

Burial caves with colorful paintings
The soft local chalk allowed the locals at Maresha to carve out extensive subterranean tombs and even underground workshops. The colorful wall paintings depict, plants and animals from everyday life such as a lion, snake, fox while some of them are mythological. Musicians accompany the funeral train. They are short, pudgy, and appear to be somewhat jovial types. One of the instruments is a double reed flute that can still be found in the region. A loving and kind person

Apollophanes: Leader of the local Sidonian community
In the tomb depicted here archaeologists found an inscription mentioning the wealthy head of the local Sidonian community buried here. His name was Apolophanes son of Sesmaios, leader of the Sidonian community in Maresha. On a human note, the inscription goes on to say that Apolphanes was a kind, loving, generous, and well liked person. And here we are remembering him over 2000 years later! A name and memory worth more than a person’s weight in gold – can anyone wish for more?

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