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HAMMATH (Heb. חַמַּת), city in the territory of Naphtali mentioned in the Bible together with Rakkath and Chinnereth (Josh. 19:35). Its name indicates the presence of hot springs. Most scholars identify Hammath with Hammath-Dor, a city of refuge and a levitical city (Josh. 21:32), which is generally located at Hammath Tiberias, south of Tiberias. No remains from the biblical period, however, have thus far been uncovered there, and the site of the ancient town should probably be identified with the early remains within the confines of Roman Tiberias. Hammath was famous for its hot baths in the Second Temple period (Jos., Wars 4:11; Jos., Ant. 18:36); when Tiberias rose to prominence in talmudic times, Hammath, one mile away and joined to Tiberias for halakhic purposes, also became well known (Meg. 2b; Tosef., Er. 7:2; tj, Er. 6 (5); 13). After the destruction of the Second Temple, priests of the Maziah course settled there (Baraita of the Twenty-Four Mishmarot, 24); the Emmaus mentioned in the Mishnah Arakhin 2:4 may refer to the place. R. Meir was one of the many talmudic scholars who lived there. A Jewish community is attested there up to the time of the Cairo Genizah.

During the excavation of the foundations of bathhouses, two synagogues were discovered; the first was excavated by N. Slouschz in 1920 and the other by M. Dothan in 1961–63. The first, belonging to the transitional type of synagogue, consisted of a basilica-shaped hall without an apse. The facade oriented to Jerusalem contained four small marble columns which apparently supported a marble lintel above the Ark of the Law. The synagogue was paved with mosaics; fragments of the "seat of Moses" (cathedra) were found there, as well as a stone seven-branched menorah, carved in relief and decorated with a "button and leaf" pattern in the form of pomegranates. In the second synagogue four building phases were distinguished. (1) The earliest structure consisted of a public building (probably not a synagogue) with rooms surrounding a central courtyard. (2) A synagogue from the third century c.e. (3) Directly above this synagogue and using its columns was another synagogue built in the form of a basilica with an outstanding mosaic pavement which contained (from north to south): a dedicatory inscription flanked by two lions; a zodiac of a high artistic standard with the sun god Helios on his chariot in the center and representations of the four seasons in the corners; the Ark of the Law with menorot and other ritual articles. Inscriptions in Greek and one in Aramaic commemorate several builders, especially a certain "Severus, the pupil of the most illustrious patriarchs." The building, 47½ ft. (14½ m.) wide, contains a nave with two aisles east of it and to the west of it, an aisle, and a hall (women's gallery?). The synagogue is attributed to the beginning of the fourth century c.e.; in a later period a stationary bamah ("platform") was installed and the entrance was moved from the southern to the northern side. (4) Above the site of this synagogue another one was built in the sixth century with a slightly different orientation. It was basilica in shape, 62 × 49 ft. (19 × 15 m.) with an apse and a mosaic pavement with geometric designs.

Bathhouses have again been built at Hammath Tiberias in modern times. They are fed by five springs whose waters reach a temperature of 140º–144º F (60º–62º C) and contain graphite, iron, and magnesium chloride. Of curative value, they are widely used, especially in the winter seasons. The grave of R. *Meir Ba'al ha-Nes is reputed to be near Hammath Tiberias, and a large synagogue is situated on the site. The grave site became famous in the Jewish world beginning in the 18th century because of the collection boxes, named after R. Meir, widely distributed by emissaries of charitable institutions. It is an ancient custom to hold festivities and build bonfires near the grave on the 14th of Iyyar.


Slouschz, in: jpesj, 1 (1921), 5–39, 49–52; W.F. Albright, in: basor, 19 (1925), 10; M. Dothan, in: iej, 12 (1962), 153–4; idem, in: Qadmoniot, 1 (1968), 116–23; A. Saarisalo, Boundary between Issachar and Naphtali (1927), 128 n. 1; M. Noth, Das Buch Josua (1938), 90–91; D.W. Thomas, in: pefqs, 65 (1933), 205; 66 (1934), 147–8. add. bibliography: Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 139–43; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea–Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 138–39.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]