EMMAUS , ancient town in the Judean Shephelah, 20 mi. (33 km.) N.W. of Jerusalem. It is first mentioned as the site of the camp of the Seleucid army under Georgias, which Judah Maccabee routed in 166 b.c.e. (i Macc. 3:40). Six years later it was fortified by Bacchides (Jos., Ant., 13:15; i Macc. 9:50). In 43 b.c.e. the Roman general Cassius sold its inhabitants into slavery for failure to pay taxes (Jos., Ant., 14:275; Wars, 1:222).
When Zealot activity was intensified in the area immediately after the death of Herod in 4 b.c.e., Varus burnt down the city in reprisal (Jos., Wars, 17:29). During the Jewish War, Vespasian established a fortified camp at Emmaus (in 68 c.e.) and stationed the Fifth Macedonian Legion there (ibid., 4:444–5); during the Bar Kokhba War (132–135 c.e.), Roman detachments were posted there to encircle the rebels (Lam. R. 1:16, no. 45). In talmudic sources the city was considered the boundary between the Central Mountain Range and the Shephelah (tj, Shev. 9:2, 38d). Described as a place of "fair waters and healthy climate" (arn1 14, 59), it apparently possessed hot springs and public baths, which is possibly the reason for its Hebrew name Hammat (ḥam, "hot"; Song Zuta, 6:9). Eleazar b. Arak settled in Emmaus after the death of his teacher Johanan b. Zakkai, and there, far removed from his colleagues, he is said to have forgotten his learning (Eccl. R. 7:7, no. 2; Shab. 147b). The city was also the home of *Neḥunya b. ha-Kanah (Mid. Tan. to 26:13). Archaeological remains indicate that a Samaritan community had lived there. According to Christian tradition, Jesus appeared before his disciples at Emmaus after his crucifixion and resurrection (Luke 24:13–16). In the third century, the Christian writer Julius Africanus lived there. In 221 he headed a deputation that induced the emperor Elagabalus to confer on Emmaus the status of a city enjoying Roman rights, and it was henceforth called Nicopolis. There was a Christian community there from very early times and Jews continued to live in the city until the Arab conquest in 639 (J. Moschos, in: Patrologia graeca, ed. by Migne, vol. 87, pt. 3 (1863), 3032). A plague broke out in the city after the Arabs took it (the "Plague of Emmaus") and it decimated the conquerors. After the founding of Ramleh, the town (see *Latrun) declined in importance. It became the Arab village 'Imwās on the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv highway which before 1948 had a population of 1,420 Muslims and was destroyed during the Six-Day War (1967). Excavations conducted there in 1924–25 by the Ecole biblique et archéologique française uncovered remains of a Roman villa and a Christian basilica that was destroyed during the Samaritan revolt in the sixth century and later rebuilt. The Crusaders also erected a small church there. Today the excavations are part of Ayalon-Canada park.
L.H. Vincent and F.M. Abel, Emmaüs (Fr., 1932); Neubauer, Géogr, 100–2.