Magdala

The ruins of a Roman fisherman village, near the Arbel cliffs, on the shores of Sea of Galilee. It was the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

 

 

Home > Sites > Sea of Galilee> Magdala (Magdalene, Migdal, Taricheae)

 

 

 

 

 

Contents:

Background

    Location

Aerial Map

History

    Photos

Visit at the site

    Biblical Refs

Historical refs

    Etymology

Links

Background:

 

   Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, was a prosperous fishing village at the time Jesus was active in this region. The ruins of this Roman village is now enclosed within a wall. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of the village dating from the time of Jesus, and a Byzantine monastery. A mosaic floor featuring a fisherman's boat was found at the place.

 

Location:

  

  The ruins of Magdala are located on the north-west side of the Sea of Galilee, 5 Kilometers north of Tiberias. They were Mary Magdalene's village, today a town called Migdal.

 

 

Aerial View:

 

This is the aerial view of the area from the south-east side.

 

Pointing on  purple points will automatically scroll  to the relevant photo, text or web page.

 

      

History:

  

   Magadala, or its Greek name Taricheae, became an important city in the Hellenistic period. Its location on the ancient road  made it strategically important (the road from Netufa valley, via the Arbel valley, through Gennesareth valley on the shores of the sea of Galilee, towards north and east). The water springs nearby, fertile land and fishing industry - all these made it the center city of one of the three Galilee regions in the Jewish Kingdom prior to the Romans.

 

   After Tiberias was established (18AD) in the early Roman period, Magdala started to lose its importance, although initially the Jewish population refused to settle in the new city.

 

  During the Jewish revolt it was fortified (66AD), but suffered a tragic end (67AD) by the Roman forces. It continued as a Roman and Byzantine village.

 

   During recent centuries there was an Arabic village located around the ruins of Magdala, called al-Majdal (in Arabic: "the Tower"), preserving the ancient name . It was evacuated in 1948.

 

   Today, a new town is built nearby (west to ancient Magdala) and called Migdal. It was established in 1910 by Jewish settlers from Russia, became an agriculture Moshav, and continued to expand to include other residents and focus on tourism (B&B).

      

                    

General View:

The following photo is a view from the walled area at the south-east side. The new village of Migdal is in the background.

 

Click on the photos to view  in higher resolution...

Walled area of Migdal at the south-east side.

 

A closer detail of the site:

 

Walled area of Migdal at the south-east side. The new Migdal is in the background.

 

The village's port is now submerged in the beach. This is a view of the beach at this point.  A fisherman's boat from that period was discovered when the sea retreated after a series of  dry seasons. The boat was excavated, restored, and is now on display in Yigal Alon Museum in Ginnosar, the Kibbutz just north of Magdala. (see more details)

 

Magdala's port is submerged under the sea of Galilee.

    

   Looking to the direction of the south west, you can see the impressive Arbel cliffs which hand over the area. The Arbel creek flows through Magdala and was one of the reasons why the city was built at this point. Between the cliffs, in the valley, there is the path of the ancient road that leads to Sepphoris, Cana and Nazareth.

 

The Arbel cliffs in the back of Migdal.

 

 

Visit at the site:

 

  In order to get to Magdala, you can drive from Tiberias  4 KM north along the road. After the junction, which is just below the Arbel cliffs, there is a right turn to the beach where the site is located. Turning left will get you to the new village of Migdal. After the visit - continue the drive to the north in order to get to Capernaum.

 

Biblical References:

 

Mark 16:9

  

Mary was one of the women that were cured by Jesus:

     "Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils"

 

Luke 8:2

 

 A similar version appears in Luke:

    "And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,"

 

Matthew 15:39

  

Here the name of the village is slightly different in the NIV version:

    "After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan."

 

It is Magdala  in other versions, such as KJV:

    "And he sent away the multitude, and took ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala."
 

Historical  References:

 

Migdal (Magdala) was one of the fortified cities that was under siege by Vespasian, the Roman commander against the Jewish revolt (67AD). It is called Taricheae.

 

(a) Josephus Flavius (Life 32)

 

Josephus, the Commander of the Jewish revolt against the Romans, and later a historian of the period. He writes that he fortified the city of Tarichess (or, Taricheae). This name means in Greek: "the places where the fish are prepared". He mentions that it is  about 6KM away from Tiberias, on the shore of the Sea of Gaililee, which is where Magdala is located. 

 

"for they had heard that the walls of Tarichess were already built...when I was gone to Tarichess, which was thirty furlongs distant from Tiberias..."

 

Since Magdala was a fishing village, it can therefore be identified with Tarichess.

 

(b) Josephus Flavius (Wars 1, Chapter 8:9)

 

  According to an earlier text, Taricheae was a big city with 30,000 people (!) at the early Roman times of Pompey (War 1, 8: 9):

 

"Cassius had fled into that province, and when he had taken possession of the same, he made a hasty march into Judea; and, upon his taking Taricheae, he carried thirty thousand Jews into slavery."

 

 

 

(c) Josephus Flavius (Wars 3, Chapter 10)

 

The chapter starts with a description of the city:

 

 "And  now Vespasian pitched his camp between this city and Taricheae, but fortified his camp more strongly, as suspecting that he should be forced to stay there, and have a long war; for all the innovators had gotten together at Taricheae, as relying upon the strength of the city, and on the lake that lay by it. This lake is called by the people of the country the Lake of Gennesareth. The city itself is situated like Tiberias, at the bottom of a mountain, and on those sides which are not washed by the sea, had been strongly fortified by Josephus..."

 

   The chapter continue with the description of how the Romans, under Titus (son of Vespasian), placed a siege over the city and finally captured it, and completely ruined it, killing its 40,000 defenders:

"There was also a great slaughter made in the city... one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped".

 

   After these tragic events the city did not recover. The fishing industry was replaced by a textile industry, and the place was renamed Migdal Tzabaya, where the latter word means painting.

 

 

Section of  Titus Arch, Rome - the victory procession of Titus (on chariot, followed by Victory, people and Senate; on the outside are defeated Jews)

 

Etymology (behind the name):
  • Migdal - means "tower" in Hebrew.

  • Magdala - Migdal in Aramaic

  • al-Majdal  In Arabic: "the Tower", name of the Arab village that existed until 1948 on the ruins of the ancient city.

  • Taricheae -  in Greek: "the places where the fish are prepared". Probably another name for Magadala, as reported by Josephus.

  • Migdal Nunaya - another name of the village, which means the tower of the fishermen.

  • Dalmanutha - In Mark 8:10 this name was referred as the site after he fed the 4,000. By comparing to Matthew 15:39 - which names "the borders of Magdala" - it is likely to be a town nearby. (Thanks David Shipley for the correction)

 

 

Links:

 

 

 

 

 

BibleWalks.com - walk with us through the sites of the Holy Land

 

   Arbel Cliffs <<<--previous Sea of Galilee site---<<<All Sites>>> ---next Sea of Galilee site -->>> Tabcha