James F. Strange

Among the remains of this basilica (shown here in a reconstruction) at Sepphoris, in northern Israel, University of South Florida archaeologists discovered two small magical amulets dating to the late fourth or early fifth century C.E.: a bronze scroll (see the second sidebar to this article) protecting the owner against disease and a silver scroll (see the last sidebar to this article) calling for divine wrath to be visited on the owner’s enemies.

Built in the early first century C.E., the basilica contained elaborate floor mosaics, plastered pools surrounded by columns and brilliant frescoes. The original function of the building is unclear, but its size (about 200 feet long) and its location on Sepphoris’s main street (the cardo) suggest that it was used by the city’s elite—perhaps as an emporium for luxury goods. The basilica remained in use for more than 300 years, until it was damaged either during the 351 C.E. Gallus Revolt against Rome or by an earthquake in 363 C.E.—or by a combination of these events.