Tzipori Cardo and Decumanus


In the first half of the 2nd century CE, there was a major change in the urban layout of Tzipori following the increase in its population. The increase was mainly as a result of Bar Kochba revolt, and I will only mention that according to the decrees of Emperor Hadrian after the suppression of Bar Kochba revolt in 136 CE, Jews were forbidden to settle in and around Jerusalem. The result was that Jews settled in other cities, such as Tzipori, Tiberias and Jaffa.

As a result of the population growth in Tzipori, it was decided to expand the size of the city to the flat area east of the hill, east of Tzipori Acropolis.

I am east of the Acropolis, at a crossroads of pillared streets from the Roman period, probably from the 2nd century. The colonnaded streets are a typical element of Roman cities in the first centuries CE. This street was built from north to south and the second street was built from east to west and it seems that before us are the cardo and Decumanus of Tzipori.

Cardo in Latin is “street”, which is the main axis that crosses cities and army camps throughout the Roman Empire from north to south. The Cardo usually served as the city’s main commercial center, which included many shops; It is also called “Cardo Maximus” – the Great Cardo.

The secondary street, perpendicular to the Cardo, is called Decumanus. These two streets perpendicular to each other, divided each city (or military camp) into four quarters.

Another term worth getting to know – Stoa, in ancient Greek architecture it’s a type of structure, which includes an indoor passage with columns on one side open to the outside. On the other side was a wall with openings. The stoa was used for various public purposes like merchant’s shops, galleries and more.

The cardo from which more than a hundred meters was exposed, goes from an unknown point to the city center where a large public building has been exposed that I will address shortly.

The Decumanus from which more than 130 meters were exposed, began at the end of the road that led to the city from the east. The width of the cardo and Decumanus between the pillars is 6m. This area is paved with hard limestone slabs laid in diagonal rows as can be seen so clearly. The quality of the stones and the way they were laid out were so excellent that they have been used continuously for 500 years. During prolonged use, grooves were formed along the cardo, mainly in its sloping southern part as a result of the moving carts. Rectangular models that served as a game board were engraved on some of the tiles near the intersection of the main streets, as well as a seven-branched menorah and other Jewish symbols (this section is fenced with a rope on the east side of the cardo).

In these streets is where the merchant activity took place.  Agricultural produce delivery occurred here on its way to the markets, other goods were delivered to the workshops along the streets. The Decumanus itself stretches to the top of the hill where the House of Dionysus and a Roman theater were discovered.

The sidewalks of the Cardo and Decumanus are paved with mosaic. The mosaic you will see here is a renewed version from the Byzantine period. The pillars along the street supported a roofing system over the sidewalks, and beyond them shops were built that formed part of the “lower market” mentioned in the Talmud and in which Tzipori commercial activity took place since the 2nd century. The width of the street and sidewalks reached 14 meters. The cobbled streets seem to have stretched out of the city and connected it with the fields and the intercity roads.

On ​​60 dunams or 15acres, the lower city was established, and a system of parallel & perpendicular streets was built. Some of the new streets connected the old city with the new center. Public and residential buildings were built in the lots between the streets. The new construction area was intended, among other things, to house Tzipori commercial and social center.

At the city center, close to the intersection between the Cardo & Decumanus, was probably located the market (the Agora). Dimensions of the Agora are 40X60 meters, the entrance is from the Cardo, from the east. In the center of the market, you see a courtyard surrounded by pillars surrounded by colorful mosaic-tiled rooms, very impressive. These markets were the center of commercial life everywhere. The villagers would come there on Mondays or Thursdays to sell their produce. The market was in the center of the city, near the main road as occurs here.

And we will end as usual, with a question – who is the person most identified with Tzipori in the Roman period? The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

Information Sources

  1. Book: Ariel: Journal for the Knowledge of the Land of Israel - Tzipori and Its Surroundings, Editor: Eli Schiller, Publisher: Ariel
  2. Book: Touring with Hebrew Sources in Northern Israel, Editors: Hana Amit & David Amit, Publisher: Yad Yitzhak Ben-Zvi
  3. Qadmoniot: Magazine for the Antiquities of Eretz-Israel and Bible Lands No. 113, Publisher: Israel Exploration Society Jerusalem
  4. Hayadan - Markets and fairs

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