2gQ PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
cemetery, and was consequently unclean. The thought of residing there was repulsive to
the Jews, and Herod had to resort to various expedients to induce people to live in his
new town. Josephus states that " many were necessitated by Herod to come thither out of
the country belonging to him, and were by force compelled to be its inhabitants. Some of
them were persons of condition He also admitted poor people, such as those that were
collected from all parts, to dwell in it. Nay, some of them were not quite freemen, and
these he was a benefactor to, and made them free in great numbers, but obliged them not
to forsake the city, by building them very good houses at his own expense, and by giving
them land also; for he was sensible that to make this place a habitation was to transgress
the ancient Jewish laws, because many sepulchres had to be taken away in order to make
room for the city " (" Antiquities," xviii. 2, 3). This offence passed away with time, for a
generation later Tiberias and Sepphoris (see page 286) were the most important cities
of Galilee, and still later Tiberias became the seat of the Sanhedrim, and the residence of
many learned and eminent rabbis. Further, it had at one time as many as thirteen
synagogues. The Mishna was completed here by Rabbi Judah, called "the Holy," a.d. 220.
The Jerusalem Talmud was also written here, about a century later, and the ancient Jewish
writers themselves are authority for the statement that " the university of Tiberias was
greater than that of Zippor or Sepphoris." The graves of Rabbis Ami, Ashe, and Akiba,
and of the famous scholar Maimonides, are pointed out in the Jewish burial-ground to the
west of the present city. St. Jerome also considered himself fortunate in having had for his
teacher in Hebrew a learned Jew from this famous city.
It is not known that Christ ever visited Tiberias, and some writers would account for the
supposed fact by a reference to the ceremonial uncleanness of the place, while others think he
did not wish to put himself unnecessarily into the power of Antipas.
The rebuilding of Tiberias cannot have taken place before a.d. 20, or later than a.d, 27;
hence we know nearly at what period of Christ's life this work went on. With the princely
means of Antipas lavished upon it to make it a perfect city, its growth was rapid and its
period of prosperity was permanent and long-continued. Here rose, as if by magic, fine
Grecian colonnades, Roman gates, and costly public edifices, including the palace of Herod,
while the streets and squares of the city were adorned with marble statues, and its synagogue
was one of the finest in the province of Galilee. Here the council of the nobles of Tiberias,
consisting of six hundred members, held its sessions during the Jewish War. The strengt
of the place at that time is indicated by the fact that Vespasian did not dare to approach the
city with less than three legions of his best troops.
The steep hill already referred to, which overlooked the old city, rises to a perpendicu ar
height of one thousand feet. It is full of ancient caves, some of which are over one hundre
feet in length, with cemented walls and abundant evidences of their having been occupie
as dwellings. They are now principally the abode of hyenas, foxes, and jackals. The 0
wall of the town led up on the south side of this hill in a zigzag line, and cisterns exist <