Gamla: City On A Hill

Gamla from across the Kinneret in Capernaum

By Joe Bartling

There were many cities and towns in the Galilee region during the Second Temple period, but only one that could be considered “a city on a hill”.  Gamla fits the bill perfectly as “the city on a hill”.  Recorded by Flavius Josephus around 80CE in “The Wars of the Jews”, is this in Book IV, Chapter 1:

“Now Agrippa had united Sogana and Seleucia by leagues to himself, at the very beginning of the revolt from the Romans; yet did not Gamala accede to them, but relied upon the difficulty of the place, which was greater than that of Jotapata, for it was situated upon a rough ridge of a high mountain, with a kind of neck in the middle: where it begins to ascend, it lengthens itself, and declines as much downward before as behind, insomuch that it is like a camel in figure, from whence it is so named, although the people of the country do not pronounce it accurately. Both on the side and the face there are abrupt parts divided from the rest, and ending in vast deep valleys; yet are the parts behind, where they are joined to the mountain, somewhat easier of ascent than the other; but then the people belonging to the place have cut an oblique ditch there, and made that hard to be ascended also. On its acclivity, which is straight, houses are built, and those very thick and close to one another. The city also hangs so strangely, that it looks as if it would fall down upon itself, so sharp is it at the top. It is exposed to the south, and its southern mount, which reaches to an immense height, was in the nature of a citadel to the city; and above that was a precipice, not walled about, but extending itself to an immense depth. There was also a spring of water within the wall, at the utmost limits of the city.”

Gamla erupts nearly 300 meters above the valley in which it is situated, surrounded by deep ravines on three sides and practically accessible only from the east, where it is joined to the mountain by a saddle.

Gamla is visible from the northernmost parts of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and on a clear day, can be seen from the other side of the Kinneret from Migdal, (Gr: Taricheae), the view in the photo below is from Capernaum.


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