A fresco of Tyche, the Greek goddess of fortune from the Byzantine period had been discovered at the Sussita site, on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, and a maenad, one of the companions of the wine god Dionysus, was found also. The city of Sussita is located within the Sussita National Park under the management of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Sussita was erected on a mountain top rising to the east of the Sea of Galilee during the 2nd century B.C. by the Seleucid rulers who then controlled the country and existed during the Hellenist, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods, until it was finally destroyed by a violent earthquake in the year 749 A.D. Sussita was one of the geographical Decapolis cities, a region within which some of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the New Testament occurred.
During their excavations the researchers found a residence that appeared to belong to person of rank in the city and it contained an inner courtyard with a small fountain at its center. Near the fountain they found the fresco of Tyche, and they believe she had been deified as the city's goddess of fortune.
According to the researchers, the wall painting may be dated to the end of the Roman period or the beginning of the Byzantine period, the 3rd-4th centuries A.D.
A wall painting (fresco) of Tyche, the Greek goddess of fortune, was exposed during the 11th season of excavation at the Sussita site, on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee, conducted by researchers from the University of Haifa. Photo: Sussita Expidition/Courtesy of the University of Haifa
"It is interesting to see that although the private residence in which two goddesses were found was in existence during the Byzantine period, when Christianity negated and eradicated idolatrous cults, one can still find clear evidence of earlier beliefs," said Prof. Arthur Segal and Dr. Michael Eisenberg of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, who headed the excavation.
Tyche was not the only mythological figure to be discovered in this compound. Found on a bone plate was an etched relief of a maenad, one of a group of female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine. According to Greek mythology, the maenads accompanied Dionysus with frenzied dances while holding a thyrsus, a device symbolizing sexuality, fertility, and the male sexual organ associated with sexual pleasure. The researchers believe that both manifestations of the cult of Graeco-Roman female goddesses can be dated to the end of the Roman period, but there is no doubt that the residence in which they were found continued to exist even after Christianity ended idolatry.
Found on a bone plate was this etched relief of a maenad, one of a group of female followers of Dionysus, the god of wine. The maenad of Sussita was also depicted as being in the midst of a frenzied dance. Photo: Sussita Expedition/Courtesy of the University of Haifa
The city's Roman period basilica (1st-2nd centuries AD ) has begun to be exposed. This is a large-sized building that incorporated the city's central commercial, social and judicial areas. Besides the excellent architectural marble items that were unearthed there, the researchers also found decorations made of "stucco", molded plaster used in the imitation of marble.
"We could not fail to wonder how a relatively plebeian city could employ first-class builders and artisans. The stucco decorations demonstrate that despite everything, the city rulers were certainly not sparing of the costs and expenditure of construction," the researchers noted.