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Roman emperor Vespasian founded Neopolis in 72 CE
Flavia Neapolis ("new city of the emperor Flavius") was founded in 72 CE by the Roman emperor Vespasian over an older Samaritan village called Mabartha ("the passage"). Located between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, the new city is two kilometers (one mile) west of the Biblical city of Shechem, which the Romans destroyed during the first Jewish-Roman war. Holy places at the site of the city's founding include Joseph's Tomb and Jacob's Well. Due to the city's strategic geographic position and the abundance of water from nearby springs, Neapolis prospered, accumulating extensive territory, including the former Judean toparchy of Acraba.

Insofar as the mountainous topography of the site would allow, the city was built on a Roman grid plan and settled with veterans who fought in the victorious legions, as well as other foreign colonists. In the 2nd century CE, Emperor Hadrian built a grand theater in Neapolis that could seat up to 7,000 people. Coins found in Nablus dating to this period depict Roman military emblems and gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon such as Zeus, Artemis, Serapis, and Asklepios. Neapolis was entirely pagan at this time. Justin Martyr, who was born in the city c. 100 CE, came into contact with Platonism, but not with Christians there. The city flourished until the civil war between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger in 198-9 CE. Having sided with Niger, who was defeated, the city was temporarily stripped of its legal privileges by Severus, who designated these to Sebastia instead.

In 244 CE, Philip the Arab transformed Flavius Neapolis into a Roman colony named Julia Neapolis. It retained this status until the rule of Trebonianus Gallus in 251 CE. The Encyclopaedia Judaica speculates that Christianity was dominant in the 2nd or 3rd century, with some sources positing a later date of 480 CE. It is known for certain that a bishop from Nablus participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The presence of Samaritans in the city is demonstrated in literary and epigraphic evidence dating to the 4th century CE. As yet, there is no evidence attesting to a Jewish presence in ancient Neapolis.



Roman emperor Vespasian founded Neopolis in 72 CE

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