From 324 CE the Byzantine period is characterized by the slow but steady establishment of Christianity in the region versus the decline in the power of paganism; signs of this cultural struggle are also apparent in Scythopolis. In addition to this and despite the former’s victory, the cultural and traditional roots of the latter were still visible in the city in the 6th century and the urban landscape was not too different than that of the magnificent Roman city. Significant influence in the design of the Byzantine city, besides the cultural and religious changes, first take effect in the wake of the earthquake that struck the country in 363 CE and its consequences, which are visible in the city, result in renovations to different parts of its civic center. Not many years thereafter, circa 389 CE, Palestine was re-divided into three new administrative provinces and Scythopolis was selected as the capital of the second province (Palestina Secunda). The province’s territory included the Jezreel Valley, the Lower Galilee, east of the Jordan River, the northern part of Gilead and the Golan. The city became an administrative, commercial and economic center and the provincial governor (archon) seated in Scythopolis provided provincial and municipal tax revenues for the construction in the city. Numerous building inscriptions from this period of time were found that mention many of the provincial governors during whose tenure different public buildings in the city were renovated, as well as streets and stoae, plazas, monuments, bathhouses, the theater, the amphitheater and the odeon, water systems, the city walls etc.


The Byzantine period is known as the period when urban settlement reached its zenith. The increase in the city’s population is manifested by the expansion of the built up area and the occupation of new suburbs on the outskirts of the city such as those that were established outside the city walls, at Tell Nehoron, west of the city, and to its east. Roman Scythopolis, whose population is thought to have numbered in the 2nd century c. 20,000 inhabitants, doubled its population in the first half of the 6th century CE. At this point in time the city’s population was extremely diverse and along with the Christian population that was becoming more powerful there were still pagans, a large Jewish community and a Samaritan community that was one of the largest outside of Samaria, and second only to that in Caesarea, capital of the first province. We know from inscriptions of the period and its history (Cyril of Scythopolis) that the notables amongst the Samarian community wielded great political influence on the administration of the province and even in the emperor’s court.