Eleutheropolis (ancient Greek Ἐλευθερόπολις - “free city”; Bet-Gubrin) is the Greek name for an ancient Roman city in Israel (modern southern Israel). The Hebrew name is Beit Guvrin. Located on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza (53 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem) near the modern village of Beit Guvrin (Hebrew בית גוברין ‏‎), and until 1948 the Arab village of Beit Jibrin (Arabic بيت جبرين‎).

The main significance of the ancient city was to control the main road leading from Jerusalem to the sea. In Roman times, Eleutheropolis received the status of a city of free citizens. During the Roman-Byzantine period, a large Jewish community also lived here, including famous philosophers and teachers of the Mishna and Talmud era. Eleutheropolis gained its importance after the fall of the more ancient city of Moresh around the beginning of the Roman era in Israel and was the chief city of the district (Onom. p. 262 Lebna).

In Eleutheropolis, the Bishop of Damascus, Ananias, who at one time baptized the Apostle Paul, was killed (Acts 9:10-18). The ruler of the city, Lucian, ordered the people to take Ananias, take him out of the city and stone him, which is why he died a martyr's death.

The tourist encyclopedia writes about Eleutheropolis in the following way: “Located on a high hill, the city was one of the largest administrative centers of the Roman period. Excavations have revealed many houses of this time, many of them with mosaic panels (now stored in the National Museum of Israel). Some of the ruins belong to the era of the Crusaders. Near the ruins is a range of hills with numerous caves, probably the former quarries of the Philistines.

In the first centuries of Christianity, the city was the center of the diocese of Eleutheropolis of Palestine, which was part of the Caesarean Metropolis of the Patriarchate of Antioch.



Location: 53 km South- West of Jerusalem   Map


History of Eleutheropolis

Eleutheropolis was called Beit Guvrin or Bet Gubrin initially, but after Roman suppression of Bar Kokhba’s revolt in 132- 135 AD the city is destroyed. Those who are captured are all sold into slavery. On January 1st, 200 emperor Septemius Severus re-establishes the city under a new name.

The city grew and became quiet important. It became the seat of bishopric in its bishop Macrinus goes to the first Council of Nicea in 325. Eusebeus of Caesaeria who lived in the time period even uses the city as a starting point for measuring distances of other locations. Church texts mention 50 soldiers who are (captured probably by Persians) and executed here for their Christian beliefs. Ironically the city is destroyed in 796 from its own civil war.

The Crusaders in the 12th century captured these lands, rebuild many of the Byzantine churches including that of Santa Anna in nearby Maresha. But Saladin soon recaptured the area. Crusaders managed to retake these lands under Richard the Lion Heart, but soon lost again the lands to Bibars.


Roman Amphitheatre

Fairly well preserved this was the site of gladiator fights and public executions. With arrival of Christianity the bloodshed stopped and this are served the citizens of Eleutheropolis as an open market.

Crusader citadel and church

Although badly damaged these structures carry distinctly European architecture that the Crusaders sough to preserve in the Holy Land.