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(səmâr`ēə), city, ancient Palestine, on a hill NW of modern-day NablusNablus
, Heb. Shechem, city (2003 est. pop. 127,000), the West Bank. It is the market center for a region where wheat and olives are grown and sheep and goats are grazed. Manufactures include soap made from olive oil and colorful shepherds' coats.
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 (Shechem). The site is now occupied by a village, Sabastiyah (West Bank). Samaria (named for Shemer, who owned the land) was built by King Omri as the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the early 9th cent. B.C. The scene of the wickedness of Omri's son Ahab and Ahab's wife Jezebel, Samaria was considered a place of iniquity by the Hebrew prophets. In the expansion of Assyria, Samaria fell in 721 B.C. to Sargon. The native population was deported, others were settled in its place, and the city was made the capital of an Assyrian province. (1 Kings 16.23–33; 20.1–21; 2 Kings 6.24–33; 10.17–28; 13.9–13; 17). It was destroyed in 120 B.C. by John Hyrcanus and was rebuilt by Herod the Great, who called it Sebaste in honor of Emperor Augustus [Gr.,=Sebastos]. There Philip the Evangelist (see Philip, SaintPhilip, Saint,
one of the seven deacons chosen by the Twelve Apostles. He is also called St. Philip the Evangelist and St. Philip the Deacon. He evangelized Samaria and later converted an important eunuch of Queen Candace of Ethiopia (Acts 8.25–40). As a forerunner of St.
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) preached and the incident of Simon Magus occurred (Acts 8.5–24). According to tradition St. John the Baptist is buried there. Remains of a church of the Crusaders are in the city. Excavations (1908–10, 1931–35) uncovered fortifications and the palace of Omri, as well as ostraca, or potsherds, and ivories probably made by Phoenician artists. There are also extensive Roman remains. The city has given its name to the Samaritans, of whom a small remnant still live at Nablus and Jaffa, Israel. The Samaritans are the descendants of non-Jewish colonists from Babylonia, Syria, and elsewhere who were settled in Samaria when the Israelites were deported (722 B.C.) In the Bible the Samaritans recognize only the Pentateuch and are even more scrupulous about observing its ordinances than are Orthodox Jews. They worship on Mt. GerizimGerizim
, Arabic Jabal at Tur, mountain, 2,890 ft (881 m) high, in the Samaritan Hills, in the West Bank. Nablus, near the ancient Shechem, lies in the valley between Gerizim and Mt. Ebal.
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, where they had a temple in ancient times. The continual hatred between Jew and Samaritan apparently governed the choice of characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.30–37). The Samaritan language is a variety of Palestinian Aramaic (a Semitic language). The Samaritan manuscripts, although pre-Masoretic (see MasoraMasora
or Massorah
[Heb.,=tradition], collection of critical annotations made by Hebrew scholars, called the Masoretes, to establish the text of the Old Testament. A principal problem was to fix the vowels, as the Hebrew alphabet has only consonants.
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) are not believed to be ancient, but they supply some useful variants of biblical passages.


See J. W. Crowfoot et al., The Buildings of Samaria (1942) and The Objects from Samaria (1958); A. Parrot, Samaria (tr. 1958).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in ancient Hebrew, Shomron; now the settlement of Sabastiyah, 11 km northwest of the city of Nablus, Jordan), an ancient city in Palestine.

Samaria was founded about 880 B.C. by Omri, king of Israel, and later became the capital of Israel. In 729 B.C., it became a tributary of Assyria, but in 722 B.C. and 721 B.C. it was destroyed by the Assyrians, who moved most of the population out of Samaria and replaced it with settlers from other areas of the Assyrian empire. The new settlers intermarried with the local population and subsequently formed the nucleus of the Samaritans. In the period of Persian rule—from the sixth century B.C. to the fourth century B.C.—Samaria was the capital of the Persian province in Palestine. In 332 B.C., Alexander the Great conquered Samaria and settled it with Macedonians and Syrians; the city thus began to take on the features of a Hellenistic city. About 107 B.C., Samaria was destroyed by Hyrcanus I, the Has-monean ruler and high priest.

In 63 B.C., Samaria was incorporated into the Roman province of Syria. Augustus gave Samaria to Herod the Great, king of Judea, who in the 30’s and 20’s B.C. rebuilt the city in the Hellenistic style, erecting temples, including the famous temple in honor of Augustus, a theater, and a stadium. Herod called the city Sebaste. In the first century A.D., Samaria was an active center of early Christian propaganda. After the Jewish War of A.D. 66–73, it was settled by Roman veterans. It witnessed its greatest prosperity in the second and third centuries A.D. Under Byzantine rule, Samaria declined in importance and after the seventh century A.D. became an ordinary settlement.

In 1963 and 1964, in a cave 14 km north of Jericho, archaeologists discovered about 200 skeletons, various remains of the material culture of Samaria, and papyruses in Aramaic dating from the period between 375 and 335 B.C. These papyruses for the most part are contracts for the sale of land and documents relating to purchases and sales and to the manumission of slaves; according to the Semitist F. Cross, they belonged to well-to-do residents of Samaria who fled the city after its conquest by Alexander the Great. The Samaria papyruses are a valuable source for the social history of Palestine in the fourth century B.C.


Amusin, I. D. Nakhodki u Mertvogo moria. Moscow, 1964.
Samaria-Sebaste, vols. 1–3. London, 1938–57.
Cross, F. M. “Papyri of the Fourth Century B.C. From Dâliyeh.” In the collection New Directions in Biblical Archaeology. New York, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the region of ancient Palestine that extended from Judaea to Galilee and from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan; the N kingdom of Israel
2. the capital of this kingdom; constructed northwest of Shechem in the 9th century bc
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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