Tzipori, or Sepphoris, was once the capital of the Galilee and is today it is the Tzipori National Park which contains the ruins of the ancient city.
According to Josephus, Tzipori was called the “glory of the entire Galilee” and was the capital of the Galilee already before the Roman conquest of Israel.
In the 2nd century CE Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi transferred the Sanhedrin from Beit She’arim to Tzipori, where he completed the Mishna.
In the middle of the 3rd century, after the seat of the Sanhedrin was transferred to Tiberias, Tzipori lost its status as capital of the Galilee.
However, but it apparently continued to be an important Jewish center until the 5th century CE.
The archaeological excavations at Tzipori revealed the cultural richness is evidenced by dozens of beautiful mosaics.
The main archaeological findings in Tzipori belong to the Roman and Byzantine eras.
At its peak the city’s population consisted of 30,000 Jewish and non-Jewish residents.
The most interesting finding is the extraordinary number of spectacular mosaic floors that decorated private, industrial, public buildings and even pavements.
What to See
The Theater was reconstructed remnant of a Roman theater, unique in the country.
The 4,500-seat theater, built at the end of the first century CE, is carved out of the rocky slope, and provides a view of the Bet Netofa Valley and the hills of Upper Galilee.
Musical and vocal performances are given here from time to time.
The Jewish Quarter
The Jewish Quarter is remains of a Jewish residential quarter from the time of the Mishna and Talmud.
The quarter has been reconstructed and one can wander around its alleyways.
In light of the many ritual baths, it is assumed that members of the “Yedaiah” Priestly Division lived here.
The Crusader Castle
The Crusader Castle was built in the Crusader period on top of the remains of an earlier structure.
The castle contains an exhibit of findings and tablets telling the history of the city and the excavations.
There is a guided lookout on the roof.
The Dionysus House
The Dionysus House is a Roman villa, containing a mosaic floor describing scenes from the life of Dionysus, god of wine in Greek mythology.
This impressive mosaic shows the image of a woman, nicknamed “the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.”
In the opinion of many researchers, it is the pinnacle of mosaic art in the country.
Nile Festival House
The Nile Festival House is a public area from the Byzantine period.
It is decorated with 11 mosaic floors describing the celebrations held in honor of the Nile’s rise to its highest level.
The Ancient Reservoir
The Ancient Reservoir is an impressive, 260 meter long underground water facility, which was in operation from the Roman period up to the 7th century.
You can walking inside the reservoir which is deep below surface level.
The Synagogue is a long narrow basilica-like structure, dated to the end of the Byzantine period.
It containing an impressive mosaic floor divided into four parts:
The Sacrifice of Isaac, the signs of the Zodiac, a description of the Mishkan in the desert, and the Ark of the Covenant in the Jerusalem Temple.
The paving stones of the Cardo clearly show the longitudinal grooves caused by the wheels of the carts that travelled over them for many years.
The Cardo and the Decumanus streets formed part of the city market.
You need a car to visit Tzipori (Sepphoris) because it is not accessable by public transportation.
See the Tzipori National Park webpage for visiting hours and entrance fees.