Monday, July 13, 2009

Shuni: theater & swimming pool


No, I didn't attend a concert yesterday evening, but the theater of Shuni provides artists a good stage. To visit the theater of ancient Meyamas or Shuni, you have to collect the key to the premises at the office of Park Jabotinsky, near Benyamina. The site is only partly excavated, not among the archeological hit charts of the region and so I reached the park by hitchhiking. The remains of the theater are limited, but because of its particular use during Roman times – for theatrical performances and for the ‘pagan’ water rituals or Mayumas celebrations – it is worth while visiting. It is located at the edge of Carmel Mountain range, close to the sweet water springs of Nahal Taninim.

Caesarea, located eight kilometers from Mayumas, had become the administrative center of Roman Palestine, and needed three aqueducts to supply the water needs of its population. The oldest of the three aqueducts carried water from the Shuni spring. There were in fact two springs at Shuni; in addition to the one supplying Caesaria, the other one was used locally to supply a luxury water recreation center for the Roman upper classes.

This building – unique in Israel – consisted of two half-circles, one of which was a theatre, the other a swimming pool. Parts of the mosaic floor of the pool can still be seen today, probably with lane markings. During Roman times the pool was used for the Meyamas celebrations, held in May. These rituals were probably licentious in nature, giving rise to a compelling warning in the Jerusalem Talmud. Later on, during the Byzantine period, Shuni aquired a more wholesome reputation as a health spa, and its waters as a source of increased fertility.


At the entrance of the theaterbuilding a column says: "THE CHAIS THEATER. The excavation of the ROMAN THEATER and its reconstruction were made possible through the generosity of Stanley & Pamela Chais and family. Beverly Hills, California, U.S.A."
I say: thanks Stan & Pam!
More pictures you can find: here!

Note 1: whether it is 'Meyamas' as a city and 'Mayumas' as a ritual I can't find out. Texts are not clear on this. Help is welcome!
Note 2: to get a quick impression, watch this.

1 comment:

  1. Hi. It has been a great surprise to find your blog. I write you from Spain, I have been visiting too ancient theatres for long time. I would like to contact you, if you are so kind, to ask you some questions about Israel ancient theatres. I do not find your mail here, so please write me at hayedorojo@hotmail.com . Thank you very much.

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