National Geographic : 1920 Jan
THE TRENCH-ALTAR PREPARED FOR THE SAMARITAN PASSOVER Two large copper kettles filled with water are placed over this altar. At a short dis tance, and higher than the altar level, is the tanoor, or ground oven, for the sheep-roasting. The men in the right background are tending the oven. Omri, the sixth king of Israel, in the ninth century B. C., bought an isolated hill a few miles west of Shechem, on the north side of the valley, and there built his capital, naming it Samaria, after its original owner. At the time of the First Captivity the Kingdom of Israel lost its northernmost tribes and its possessions beyond the Jordan. From them Galilee was then created, while the remaining southern part inherited the name of its once important capital, Samaria, and be came a State subject to Assyria. Thus was the land cut up into three districts Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. SEBASTE, CITY OF HEROD The city of Samaria, from its incep tion, overshadowed its rival, Shechem, and probably attained the height of its glory under Roman rule; for the Em peror Augustus presented it to his pro curator, Herod the Great, who rebuilt and embellished it after the Roman style, and renamed it Sebaste (Greek for Au- gusta). Much of Herod's work still re mains, notably a double colonnade en circling the hill's crest. An Arab proverb says, "Beyond every mountain ascent there is a descent." And Sebaste; after climbing to the zenith of power, slowly relapsed into insignifi cance; so that today, amid the ruins of its splendid past, a squalid mud village bears the once grand title (the name in Arabic being slightly altered to "Sebas tieh"). Here is a rare instance, possibly the only one in Palestine, where the Greek name has outlived the older Se mitic form. Sebaste had become a place of no im portance more than four centuries before the Emperor Vespasian founded Neap olis (New City) in the Shechem vale west of the older town, in 67 A. D. Thi "New City" soon outstripped the oldei Shechem, and in the fourth century be came one of the foremost cities of Pales tine-a distinction which it still enjoys under its Arabic name of Nablus.