One of the earliest continually inhabited locations in the West Bank is thought to be the group of ruins known as sebastia, which are located above the same-named settlement.
Sebastia was a well-known city throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras and is regarded by both Christians and Muslims as the location of St. John the Baptist’s tomb. The location has an amphitheatre (which previously housed 7000 people), the ruins of a Byzantine cathedral, and expansive views over the West Bank from its hilltop location.
The remains of St. John’s bones were carried to Jerusalem and eventually to Alexandria, Egypt, where they were placed at a Coptic monastery after his burial was desecrated and partially burned in the middle of the fourth century. In the town of Sebastia, a mosque complex houses a modest museum and a St. John shrine (8am to 3pm Sunday to Thursday).
Despite evident disrepair (many of the remains are covered with debris, and some have graffiti daubed on them), Sebastia is a must-visit location when traveling through the West Bank for history aficionados. For others who are less interested in archaeology, it is a tranquil location to stroll among the olive trees and take in the breathtaking scenery.
Sebastia is located 11 kilometers from Nablus; a cab ride will cost around 150 NIS.
Sebastia Roman Ruins
The Sebastia Roman Ruins are a part of the sightseeing category and are situated inside Sebastia. Where it witnessed many historical events and different periods of rule, such as: Canaanite, Israeli, Hellenistic, Herodian, Roman, Byzantine, and its most prominent era was during the Roman era, which witnessed an increase in the effects and landmarks of the Roman era, until it was called “the capital of the Romans in Palestine.” The city was called “Shomron” during the reign of King Herod, but its name was changed to “Sabastia” in honor of King Augustus.
Temple of Augustus
Sebastia contains the Temple of Augustus, which falls under the category of Ruins. Herod the Great receives Samaria from Roman emperor Augustus. Herod the Great rebuilds the city as a Roman gentile city and gives it the new name Sebaste (Greek for Augustus) in honor of his patron. He also constructs new fortifications and a large temple to the god Augustus. These stairs went up to a colonnaded portico and the temple’s entrance. An altar for sacrifices was located in the courtyard at the foot of the stairs.