The City’s Streets and Gates

Gabi Mazor , IAA


During the 2nd century CE the city’s architecture was characterized, as were many of its sister cities in the eastern empire, by its monumental design. Its main arteries became colonnaded streets, accompanied by magnificent buildings and the town plan was richly designed with monumental architecture and splendor that continued to reflect the magnificence of Nysa/Scythopolis until the zenith of the Byzantine period, in the first half of the 6th century CE.

The Northern Gates

Two of the city’s five monumental gates (1.3, 1.4) were exposed in the north of the city; these were erected in the first half of the 2nd century CE as freestanding gates without a city wall, at the end of the city’s colonnaded streets. These were complex monumental city gates that included a central arch flanked by wing towers. The central arch was elaborately adorned on both of its facades (the outer and inner) with free standing columns that bore a rich entablature and niches decorated with statutes were built into its wall.


In the northeast, on the northern bank of Nahal Harod and east of Tel Iztabba, was a city gate at the cross roads leading to Damascus. The gate, called the “Damascus Gate” (1.3), greatly resembled the Damascus Gate that was situated in the northern part of Aelia Capitolina. The gate had a central arch with one opening and both of its facades (the outer and inner) were adorned with elaborate architectural decoration. The gate has wing towers that protrude in the front and truncated inner corners in order to increase the sense of depth in the gate’s façade.

Gisar al-Maqqata

A paved road descended from the gate to a large bridge, Gisar al-Maqqata (1.14), which crossed the river at an unusual angle of 131 degrees. The bridge bore an 8 m wide road a top an enormous and complicated system of vaults that stood in the river channel. The bridge’s four pillars were 32.5-37.0 m long and two huge stone ramps were constructed on the river banks. A magnificent arch stood at the southern approach to the bridge where it connected to the “Valley Road”. The overall length of the bridge was about 200 m; it rose to a height of c. 18 m above the level of the river and was the most impressive diagonal bridge in all the Roman Empire.

The Tetrapylon and “Valley Road”

A colonnaded street extended from the southern ramp of the bridge to a circular piazza (1.20) that was 52 m in diameter and enclosed by stoae and shops. In its center were the remains of a tetrapylon that adorned the piazza. Four roads converged on the piazza. One extended from the city’s northeastern gate and the bridge over Nahal Harod. The second was its continuation, which proceeded south along Nahal Amal, east of the tell. A third road was connected to the piazza via a magnificent arch from the “Jerash Gate” in the east, which was the city’s southeastern gate. A fourth road that encircled the tell from the north entered the piazza from the west. “Valley Street” (1.17), which was a magnificent colonnaded avenue that together with its stoae and shops was a maximum of 24 m wide, proceeded from the piazza, south, toward the civic center of the city.

“Caesarea Gate”

The northern road (1.11) extended north from the center of the city and it too was a magnificent colonnaded street at the northwestern end of which stood another gate, the “Caesarea Gate” (1.4). The city gate stood on the southern bank of Nahal Harod, in front of the Roman bridge whose remains were found in the foundations of the Ottoman bridge that was built there by the Sultan Abd al-Hamid in 1877. A paved road led to the gate. This was the eastern end of the Caesarea-Legio-Scythopolis road that was first built in 69-70 CE, at the time of Vespasian, by the commander of the Tenth Legion, M. Olpius Trianus, the father of the emperor Trajan, and was renovated during Hadrian’s reign. The gate was free standing without a city wall; incorporated within its plan was a monumental arch with three openings and wing towers with protruding circular facades. The gate was elaborately decorated and a gate surprisingly similar to it was subsequently built west of the decamanus in neighboring Gadera. The remains of a nymphaeum and a large open rectangular area that was paved with basalt slabs were found on the inside of the gate; these were accompanied by stoae and an arch with three passages, which demarcated it from the southeast.

Neapolis Gate

A colonnaded road extended beyond the arch and probably reached another circular piazza located at the foot of the tell. Four colonnaded roads converged into this piazza, like the previous one, east of the tell: the road running from the northwestern gate, the northern road that reached the civic center, a road that extended from the city’s southwestern gate (Neapolis Gate) and the road that encircled the tell from the north and connected to the eastern piazza. In this manner a connection was formed between the city’s four principal gates. Within this municipal area was a main cross-road that also allowed the travelers from the coast or the hill country to traverse the city on their way to their destinations of Damascus or Arabia, without having to enter into the bustling civic center.

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