Bet She'an sits at a strategically important location in the junction of the
Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. Excavations indicate at least 18
successive ancient towns, with settlement dating back possibly as far back as
the sixth millennium BCE. The site is referenced numerous times in the old
testament (as Beth Shan in the NIV - Joshua 17, 1 Samuel 31, and others). The
Greek name of Scythopolis dates from the Hellenistic city of the third century
The most visible ruins around which the national park were built date from
the first century BCE and include a well preserved Roman-era theatre,
hippodrome, cardo, and collection of bathhouses. The city suffered serious
damage in an earthquake in 363 and further declined through a succession of
rulers until an earthquake in 749 pretty much finished off this location.
Subsequent settlement of the area moved to adjacent locations.
This is another of those sites where the drama of the ruins doesn't require
much imagination from the visitor. Curiously, the thought that kept running
through my mind as we walked down the cardo was whether tourists 2,000 years in
the future would walk through the ruins of New York and similarly marvel at the
tenuousness of human achievement.