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The Nymphaeum of Magdala

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posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 05:47 AM
The discovery of a Nymphaeum at Magdala in recent years provoked something of a discussion and seemingly a desire to name it as anything except what it actually was, such as a mini-synagogue or reservoir, i suspect at least part of the reluctance lay in that were there was a Nymphaeum there was also a local Nymph...

The Nymphaeum of Magdala

Nymphaeum, ancient Greek and Roman sanctuary consecrated to water nymphs. The name—though originally denoting a natural grotto with springs and streams, traditionally considered the habitat of nymphs—later referred to an artificial grotto or a building filled with plants and flowers, sculpture, fountains, and paintings. The nymphaeum served as a sanctuary, a reservoir, and an assembly chamber where weddings were held.

The line of demarcation between a nymphaeum and a grotto is not always clear, but the nymphaeum puts greater emphasis on the presence of a supposed semi-deity.

Since 2009 no one really cares about the Nymphaeum anymore because they found an actual synagogue on the other side of the street at Magdala and this has been widely publicized, were building D1 on the map below is the nymphaeum and C3 the first century synagogue.

They had struggled to understand what an Hellenistic Nymphaeum would be doing located in a Jewish town but really the entire region was a fusion of Greco-Roman culture and Syriac-Hebraic, there was a Nymphaeum at Gadara on the other side of the sea of Galilee dedicated to Artemis-Atagartis and no reason a similar cult had not been present at Magdala with roots in antiquity, the building contained extensive water features;

The building was surrounded by an extensive network of water channels and installations. To the east of the building a stepped water basin (D3) can be found, connected to another building (D2) with a yet unknown water-related function. North of these two structures, another yet unidentified water-related structure (D7)

Several hydraulic features involved in the supply and drainage of water were documented. The building was originally situated 1 m. below the level of adjoining streets Water originating from active springs in the immedi-ate surroundings entered Building D1 through various openings from the north and south-west sides.

So a nice little fountain house dedicated to the local water nymph and directly across from the synagogue which also had water channeled from the local spring into it from beneath the ground;

Magdala Project

So the question arises what would the good Hebrew citizens of Magdala have made of the Hellenistic Nymphaeum across the street from their synagogue, when one considers the evidence found associated with that synagogue it appears the local cult was fully integrated, as on the stone seen below we see two fishes either side of a heart, symbols of the fish-love Goddess Atagarti, beneath the six petalled floret, the palm tree as the symbol of fertility and abundance, the Menorah of the Temple with two water jars either side, so the stone celebrates local tradition.

The question also arises of course whether the most famous citizen of Magdala a certain Mary could owe any of her importance to this local cult of the Nymphaeum and the answer to that is most certainly yes, as she was also associated in her later life with both the Temple of Artemis-Atagartis at Ephesus and it's sister Temple at Marseille France.

There has been found a fine boat mural in a private house at Magdala, and of course Atagartis as a Goddess of the waters was very much a Goddess of sailors and fishermen, the original mermaid.

Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor of the royal house, the founder of social and religious life, the goddess of generation and fertility , and the inventor of useful appliances. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite. By the conjunction of these many functions, despite originating as a sea deity analogous to Amphitrite, she becomes ultimately a great nature-goddess, analogous to Cybele and Rhea:

In one aspect she typifies the protection of water in producing life; in another, the universal of other-earth in a third (influenced, no doubt, by Chaldean astrology), the power of Destiny

One of the most intriguing aspects of Mary Magdalene symbolism and least satisfactorily explained was her holding of an egg, once it is realized her basis lay in the cult of Atagartis this can be readily explained as the egg that fell from Heaven;

In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth.

The author of Catasterismi explained the constellation of Piscis Austrinus as the parent of the two fish making up the constellation of Pisces; according to that account, it was placed in the heavens in memory of Derceto's fall into the lake at Hierapolis Bambyce near the Euphrates in Syria, from which she was saved by a large fish.

So some very complex and ancient traditions relating to the cult of the Syrian Goddess as celebrated in the region of Galilee can be deduced as being woven into the Gospel tradition and perhaps the reluctance to recognize that a Nymphaeum had been discovered at Magdala can be understood, and why now you will only ever hear of the more recently discovered synagogue...

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:21 AM

Unless I missed it, or there isn't a way to tell, is it possible the structures were built during different time periods? That may explain why it ended up on the other side of the street from a synagogue. Just a thought, but thank you anyways for this thread. This is my hook, line, and sinker kinda stuff on ATS. Catches and reels me right in

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:32 AM
a reply to: DuckforcoveR

It pretty much looks both were part of the same town development in the 1st century BC and continued in usage through into the 2nd century Ad, i think the town plan gives good indication for the era of the two used in conjunction.

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:32 AM
If I understand the background of this like I think I do, I can see a direct link between playing up the synagogue, downplaying the nymphaeum, and modern religions. It's pretty much a direct threat to the veracity & originality of Mary as a biblical entity.

Very cool find, I hope it's not overshadowed entirely, or swept under the historical rug by people. It deserves much more than that kind of footnote in human history.

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:43 AM
Great thread, SnF.

I posted a thread recently about sacred water sites and their supernatural properties...

A nymph (Greek: νύμφη, nymphē) in Greek mythology and in Latin mythology is a minor female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing.

In Greek mythology, the Naiads (Ancient Greek: Ναϊάδες) were a type of water nymph (female spirit) who presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water.

They are distinct from river gods, who embodied rivers, and the very ancient spirits that inhabited the still waters of marshes, ponds and lagoon-lakes.

Naiads were associated with fresh water, as the Oceanids were with saltwater and the Nereids specifically with the Mediterranean.


the Greeks thought of the world's waters as all one system, which percolated in from the sea in deep cavernous spaces within the earth.

And just to stir the waters a little more...

Thursday, December 18, 2014, 10:44 AM - A Canadian-led team of researchers has discovered that Earth's crust holds a vast repository of ancient water, potentially billions of years old, that may be supporting a vast underground biosphere.

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:47 AM
a reply to: Nyiah

Yes it's interesting they wanted the building found first to be anything but a nymphaeum whereas from the esoteric perspective that's really interesting, now that they've found the actual synagogue that's all they mention but the two are both reliant on the same spring and will have celebrated shared tradition, the closest parallel to the architecture of the fountain house of Magdala is seen at another example from Sagalossos;

a reply to: Wifibrains

Yes i read that it was good, the identification of a Nymph cult at Magdala is very intriguing, and in terms of the Syrian water cult Goddess Atagartis' relationship to Piscis Austrinus helps to land a whopper...

The author of Catasterismi explained the constellation of Piscis Austrinus as the parent of the two fish making up the constellation of Pisces; according to that account, it was placed in the heavens in memory of Derceto's fall into the lake at Hierapolis Bambyce near the Euphrates in Syria, from which she was saved by a large fish.


Place of Origin

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posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 06:52 AM
In response to the inquiry of whether or not the two structures could have existed side by side during the same time period, I see no conflict whatsoever. As far as I know, the Ancient Greeks and Hebrew Peoples had no brash confrontations or history of bad blood between one another on any large or noteworthy scale. I apologize in advance if my assertion is incorrect.

I can't help but wonder how many enlightening discussions and sharing of culture occurred on this site all those years past.

Amazing. Archaeology and History never ceases to fascinate.

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 07:06 AM
a reply to: Kantzveldt

Nice spread here on your subject. Most interesting.

In Israel, Syria and other areas of the Middle East there are many archaeological artefacts relating to the time spent there by the Greeks and the Romans and of course even older non Israeli cultures that inhabited the region throughout history. This area is an archaeological goldmine.

Please don't put too much emphasis on the synagogue being hyped more than the Nymphaeum of Magdala. Remember, Migdal is in modern Israel and is an old Hebrew town. The fact that this particular synagogue is so played up is because "It is the first of its kind to be discovered from the early Roman period." In Egypt the Pyramids and Valley of The Kings are bound to be more hyped than say if they discovered some hypothetical ruins of a synagogue or old Christian church building.

Hey, at least your Nymphaeum is safe in Hebrew hands. It will be very well researched and looked after and western archaeology has access. It would not be anything like as safe in the hands of ISIS would it.

I have been to Israel. I spent a month there backpacking. There are loads of Americans and Europeans travelling there. I highly recommend it especially to those interested in archaeology. You will be in archaeologists' Zion there (had to get that little pun in).

edit on 26-12-2014 by lonesomerimbaud because: spelling.

posted on Dec, 26 2014 @ 07:26 AM
a reply to: lonesomerimbaud

Yes of course the synagogue itself is highly important and a stone upon which Jesus may feasibly have read the Torah amazing, as is the preservation of the entire town in its 1st century state, i just try to point out the greater potential significance of the site.

posted on Dec, 27 2014 @ 04:19 AM
Getting a clear picture on water Nymph cults of Syria and Canaan is never easy as they often vary by region, in general Atargatis falls in love with a shepherd and somehow unwittingly causes his death through some strange aspect of her nature, whereupon she leaps into lake or sea to end it all and her lower fish nature is revealed, this also the femme fatale aspect of the Medieval Melusine, sometimes there is a fish son or lover Ichthys

Ichthys was the offspring son of the ancient Sea goddess Atargatis, and was known in various mythic systems as Tirgata, Aphrodite, Pelagia or Delphine. The word also meant "womb" and "dolphin" in some tongues, and representations of this appeared in the depiction of mermaids. The fish also a central element in other stories, including the Goddess of Ephesus

Often Atagatis or Tyche is recognized as Nanaya, which was as an Earthly incarnation of Inanna, later Ishtar and other Semitic love Goddesses associate with Venus;

Things are greatly complicated through association also with the cult of Cybele or Kumbaba, were male followers are expected to castrate themselves to become followers, this probably based upon the historical Bau, the barmaid that ruled as a King, the connection seemingly being the Divine incarnate upon Earth.

Atargatis and Adonis at Dura form a couple like that of Ba˓alat (Gubal) and Ādōnī in Phoenicia, Bēltī and Tammuzā in Palmyra, Anat and Baal in Ugarit, etc. This shows the tendency of the Semitic world towards harmonization of its religion in the Parthian period:

Atargatis plays the role of the dea lugens who mourns for the death of her husband.

There is no doubt that with a cult such as that of Mary Magdalene a great many Divine archetypes are being foisted upon her, primarily she is as Nanaya as was Atargatis, but practically all Goddess archetypes found their way into the cult, it sort of hoovers them all up and returns to sender...the fish.

The Lady of Dura Europis

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posted on Dec, 27 2014 @ 02:13 PM
Much of the folk lore and mythology surrounding ancients wells and springs in England had goddesses. nymphs, or female spirits associated with them. In pre Christian times the pagans, Druids and celts all shared similar beliefs and stories of sacred water sites, including the magical healing properties of the water that emanated from them, as well as them being doorways to the "otherworld"

The healing and nourishing effects of the holy well/spring waters emanate from the breast of the earth-mother, so it follows naturally that the spirit of the well/spring was feminine.

It is not surprising then that a guardian of the Otherworld is usually found overseeing the holy wells of the British Isles. Although since the Christianization of the wells this figure is generally a saint of either gender, the well-guardian was originally female.

Most dealings with the Otherworld in the Celtic tradition are facilitated by a female spirit or goddess. This is particularly so when the Otherworld is located beneath the earth, which in pagan Britain and Ireland, as in most cultures worldwide, was always regarded as feminine.

The well, therefore, was viewed as leading into the womb of the earth- mother herself, being an orifice from which life springs forth.

Elements of these ancient beliefs persisted through the millennia, and were incorporated into the traditions and customs surrounding Orkney’s many holy wells.

These wells were thought to possess magical properties – offering, for example, the powers of healing, or divination.

With the advent of Christianity, the church tried to eradicate these “pagan” practices but found the veneration of wells very difficult to eradicate

"no one shall go to trees, or wells, or stones or enclosures, or anywhere else except to God's church, and there make vows or release himself from them."
The Penitentials of Theodoris. 7th century AD.

Around 640 AD, St Eligius ordered that:

"no Christian place lights at the temples or at the stones, or at fountains and springs, or at trees, or at places where three ways meet . . .


I find that a startling contradiction on the churches part.

Hypocrisy oozes from every orifice as accusations of idol and false god/goddess worshipping were the weapon of choice, when in fact these "false idols" and deities were "natural" geological features that were essentially recognised as being animated by "nature" spirits, as opposed to a man made building such as a church, and a man made book namely the bible.

These efforts, however, were in vain, so, in Orkney, as elsewhere, the Church changed tactics. Instead, it tried to absorb pagan traditions rather than eradicate them completely.

As the pagan and Christian practices blended together, the wells gradually became holy wells. Where once they were the haunt of spirits and fairies, they became associated with the cult of a local saint.

The wells remained the places of pilgrimage and worship, but the objects of veneration became Christian motifs, that usually incorporated pagan elements of the original.

The church superimposed itself over this ancient belief system, by building churches near or on sacred sites and synchronising sacred days with "holy" days (holidays) such as Easter, Christmas and Halloween to name but a few. As the goddesses and nature spirits of these sacred sites were replaced with Christian saints, the church persisted to erase the heritage of generations to come and placing itself "in-between" the people and the sacred, Holy Water and the Holy Spirit was now administered by the church, and the doorways to the otherworld were closed.

The witch hunts of the 1600s was a final attempt to stamp out the remaining pockets of goddess/nature worship via demonic association.

Sometimes with creative inspiration you can contact the essences of well priestesses in the Celtic tradition in even the most neglected urban well shaft or pipe that may be the only sign that the sacred waters still flow.

What were the voices of the wells? Were these "damsels" in fact oracles, mouthpieces of the wisdom of the Otherworld? The story can be read on more than one level: it might refer to an ancient priestess order at sacred wells and its subsequent desecration and appropriation by a male priesthood - Druidic or Christian. In Jungian terms, it seems to refer to the destructive force of an over-dominant masculine consciousness and the patriarchal logos (father) principle that reached its apotheosis in the Middle Ages.

Another result of the desecration of the wells, so we are told, is that the court of the Rich Fisher, who showered the land with prosperity and joy, could no longer be found: in other words, the spiritual center of the culture vanished into the unconscious, where in a materialistic culture like ours, it can only be accessed through dreams and visions.

But this center is only hidden, not utterly gone; we still come across echoes of the "voices of the wells" even down to this day.

A number of old churches contain a crypt or grotto that opens into a subterranean spring. This place - close to earth and water - is the innermost sanctum, the hidden holy center of the sacred enclosure.

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posted on Dec, 28 2014 @ 08:43 AM
a reply to: Wifibrains

The Church really was only following down the path adopted by all the religious cults of the near East in terms of religious syncretism, they'd all been at it the Babylonians, Egyptians, Hellenes and Romans, the creation of super Deities and they didn't come much bigger than say Marduk of Babylon and Artemis of Ephesus, and the progression from these conceptual bundles was then to see those qualities in human individuals, they were in fact reverse engineering religion, a contraction from what had bloomed earlier.

All the mystery cult traditions relating to cyclic nature were eventually repackaged in the West as Christianity, greatly simplified and to some extent clarified, the assimilation of earlier nature Deities was part of that process, but Christ of course could only adopt the masculine aspects, and the repackaging of all the feminine traditions was a much more shrouded process and greatly understated in the Gospels.
edit on Kam1231361vAmerica/ChicagoSunday2831 by Kantzveldt because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 28 2014 @ 08:54 AM
a reply to: Kantzveldt

Well they messed it right up. No? The court of the rich fisher can no longer be found?

I just posted a thread on the subject that included that last post here.

posted on Dec, 28 2014 @ 11:41 AM
a reply to: Wifibrains

It depends how you look at things i suppose, the Catholic church adapted all the former sacred well shrines into the cult of Saints, their complex hagiography pretty much encompassed all of the former religions, so the former sites and landscape and natural elements were still considered associate with the Divine, the Protestants pretty much swept all that away and all the Saints days that marked the cycle of the year, in short taking religious belief into the abstract and seemingly outside of nature apart from the connectivity to a singular human figure.

It seems radical but really even the Greeks had projected onto the cult of Apollo and Artemis a metaphysical symbolism that was equally capable of providing explanation for all, above and beyond visible nature, and as that's manifest through their physical and spiritual qualities as represented in human form it was a short step to project that onto actual yet idealized humanity, a major influence on early Christianity.

posted on Dec, 13 2015 @ 01:10 PM
a reply to: Kantzveldt

The Nymphaeum of Magdala is a fountain-house
Let's do a bit of order.
(a) The "nymphaeum" D1 was excavated at Magdala in the 70's of last century, and interpreted as a first-century CE mini-synagogue (V. Corbo, “Scavi archeologici a Magdala (1971–1973)”, SBF Liber Annuus 24 (1974): 5–37, here 22; V. Corbo,“La città romana di Magdala: Rapporto preliminare dopo la IV campagna di scavo: 1 ottobre–8 dicembre 1975”, in: E. Testa – I. Mancini – M. Piccirillo (eds.), Studia Hierosolymitana in onore di P. B. Bagatti. Vol. I: Studi archeologici, Jerusalem 1976, 355–78, here 365-371). As a consequence of my own excavation on the site in 2007, such a view was challenged. I showed that it was connected to a water supply system since its foundation in the first century BC (see S. De Luca, "La città ellenistico-romana di Magdala / Tarichaee. Gli scavi del Magdala Project 2007 e 2008: relazione preliminare e prospettive di indagine", SBF Liber Annuus 59 (2009): 343-562, here esp. 376-378, pls. 14-16, figs. 56-59). Thus it originally was a monumental fountain, until it was converted into a sort of workshop (possibly for processing linen), during the Late Roman/Early Byzantine period (late 4th cent. CE).

(b) In 2012 Rick Bonnie and Julian Richard published the article “Building D1 at Magdala Revisited in the Light of Public Fountain Architecture in the Late Hellenistic East” (from where the images of this post are taken from) suggesting convincingly that building D1 was a Late Hellenistic stoa-shaped fountain. It parallels the architecture of a monumental fountain in Sagalassos from the same period (Israel Exploration Journal 62 (2012): 71-88).

(c) Furthermore, it should noted that D1 was integral part of a large bathing complex in use from the first century CE and that includes five stepped-and-plastered pools, a caldarium with a furnace, and other water installations, mainly headed by a spring located under the water-tower A1 (shown in the background of the photo here). Buildings in Area C were thus part of this same bathing complex, which includes additionally a latrina (see S. De Luca – A. Lena, "The Mosaic of the Thermal Bath Complex of Magdala Reconsidered: Archaeological Context, Epigraphy and Iconography", in: G.C. Bottini – L.D. Crupcała – J. Patrich (eds.), Knowledge and Wisdom. Archaeological and Historical Essays in Honour of Leah Di Segni, Jerusalem/Milan 2014: 1-33).

(d) The synagogue (also labelled Area C) must not to be confused with Area C of the thermae. The synagogue, indeed, is located some 200 mt north-west from D1 and is obviously not shown in the map presented by the post (for an updated plan, see lately S. De Luca, "Magdala/Taricheae", in: D. A. Fiensy and J. R. Strange (eds.), Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods, Vol. 2: The Archaeological Record from Cities, Towns, and Villages, Minneapolis 2015: 280-342, here fig. B. For a description of the synagogue, pp. 312-317; for a description of the bathing complex, pp. 319-325). The structure tagged C3 in the map, in fact, is a stepped pool for bathing.

(e) In both buildings, synagogue and baths, are preserved fragments of mosaic floors with comparable motifs, probably made by the same workshop. From C6 in the thermae came a mosaic floor (not mural) depicting a Mediterranean environment (merchant galley, dolphin, kantharos) along with bathing and gymnasium equipment (strigils tied with an aryballos, disk for throwing and halteres for long-jump and athletic training).

(f) The first-century CE mosaic in room C6 has also a Greek inscription which reads the well known apotropaic formula ΚΑΙ ΣΥ (καì σύ, “you too”). The inscription at Magdala is oriented toward the entrance to the stepped pool C3. The motto is widespread in the Greek-speaking parts of the Mediterranean and has an ambivalent meaning: 1) As prophylactic formula, it expresses the need of protection against the evil eye, that is, against the envy that those who entered the thermae may shed, and against the "evil spirits" (daemones balneaes) which, according to the popular belief, inhabit the bathhouses. As C. Bonner puts it, this ancient superstition concerns: "river gods, nymphs and nereides, who may be now friendly, now dangerous, and are always to be approached with caution"; 2) As an augural formula, καì σύ expresses the good omen of the owners, that the protection against the evil eye may also extend to those who attend the bath. According the auspicious meaning, the motto wishes good luck to the comers (kantharoi and dolphins are sometime good luck symbols, too). Both meanings may here coexist, since the simpler formula καì σύ, without further additions, expresses either good or evil wishes: "[whatever you wish], the same to you"

(g) In a wider sense, such kind of stoa-shaped fountain building D1 may be compared with a nymphaeum, in that both are fountain-buildings. This indeed was the interpretation firstly pointed out by the late prof. Ehud Netzer, who named it spring-house, fountain-house or nymphaeum, rejecting correctly that it ever served as synagogue.

(h) It is true that the site contains several Hellenizing characteristics, starting from the town-plan itself, just as, on the other hand, it has several Romanizing features, like, for instance, is suggested by the design of thermae, latrinae and gymnasium, as well as other findings. According to Josephus the city had also an hippodrome, albeit no theatre nor odeion are mentioned (Life 132, 138; Jewish War 2.599).

(i) Moreover, following the common geographical knowledge of antiquity, Josephus reports the local thought that the spring that watered the Ginnosar plain (Genesareth, al-Gweir), in which Magdala/Taricheae is located, was believed "a vein of the Nile", because the Sea of Galilee "produces the Coracin fish as well as that lake does which is near to Alexandria" (J. W. 3.516-521, esp. 520).

(j) However, insofar as its function is concerned, it is far from certain that building D1 was ever "consecrated" to a specific Nymph. It lacks, indeed, any evidence of statues (neither niches, nor apses or stands for statues) which, in case, would have been a clear indication of its supposed pagan significance. More probably, "the fountain-house performs the function of a public fountain, but presumably without representations of pagan gods" (R. Baukham – S. De Luca, "Magdala As We Now Know It", Early Christianity 6 (2015): 91–118, here esp. 100-106). Furthermore, the inscription in the nearby C6, is precisely devoted to protect against such popular belief. Similar kind of superstitions are common in pagan, Jewish or Christian culture, and especially connected with the watery element and the action of bathing. However, being approached as negative entities and rather impersonal, it is inconceivable that a public building can be dedicated to one of these Greek water spirits, whether river gods or water nymphs. In Roman Palestine, moreover, except for very few toponyms (e.g. Arethusa) or remains (e.g. a fountain house at Dan), hardly any instances can be found supporting an actual knowledge about the classification of the different mythological Greek-Hellenistic water nymphs (Hydriades): nor those of the Mediterranean (Nereids) or fresh water (Naiads) or lakes (Limnades), and neither those of fountains (Crinaeae), springs (Pegaeae), or rivers (Potameides), etc.

[to be continued]
edit on 13-12-2015 by McSteveDL because: missed words

posted on Dec, 13 2015 @ 01:13 PM
(k) Evidence of possibly pagan artefacts at Magdala, until now, seems to point to Phoenicia rather than Syria, as is the case of a lead weight bearing the iconography of the goddess Tanit/Astarte impressed on it (see Liber Annuus 59 (2009): 371-2, 446, 452, fig. 47). But this indicates only the provenance of the weight from Arados, and may solely suggest that the local economy and commerce might presumably have been linked with the Phoenician regions for their stable currency, but not necessarily with their pagan cults.

(l) The stone in the synagogue does not actually depict any fish (see M. Aviam, “The Decorated Stone from the Synagogue at Migdal: A Holistic Interpretation and a Glimpse into the Life of Galilean Jews at the Time of Jesus”, Novum Testamentum 55 (2013): 205-20; R. Bauckham, “Further Thoughts on the Migdal Synagogue Stone” Novum Testamentum 57 (2015): 113-35; D. D. Binder, “The Mystery of the Magdala Stone”, in D.Warner and D.D. Binder (eds.), A City Set on a Hill: Essays in Honor of James F. Strange, Mountain Home 2014, 17-48; "Magdala/Taricheae", in: Galilee in the Late Second Temple and Mishnaic Periods, Volume 2: 313-318). Rather it represents the Temple of Jerusalem and some of its devices and tools, including menorah, rectangular breads, handled cups, golden vessels, oil lamps, etc. The earth-shaped items, if not breads, are probably intended to represent gourds.

(m) A dolphin is instead represented on the thermal mosaic of C6. However it serves to indicate the maritime environment in which the boat is placed, and has no direct or evident link with a Mediterranean deity.

In conclusion, summarising: 
(1) There is no reluctance in speaking about the interesting fountain-building D1 of Magdala. Although the name nymphaeum might very generally be applied to it, it is not proved that it served as a pagan nymphaeum, properly so called, that is a sanctuary "consecrated" to a Nymph or to another semi-deity, for we lack of any evidence in support of such, however suggestive, hypothesis.

(2) Nymphaea with a clear pagan connotation are expected to be found in the Hellenistic cities of the Decapolis, such as in Gadara, Hippos or Beth-Shean, etc. To distinguish a real nymphaeum from a more common and simpler monumental fountain, either public or private, some evidence of statues or dedicatory inscriptions are expected to be found in close association. None are known from the edifice at Magdala.

(3) Although in the same city of Magdala and in the same period, probably the same group of artisans worked at the synagogue as well as at the bathhouse, the two buildings are by no means in close structural relation, being distant about 200 mt each other. Jewish people could have attended the thermae without particular concerns.

(4) The archaeological context in which D1 is located, indicates that it was incorporated in a bathhouse. For this reason, obviously, it was (and still is) thus connected to an intricate water network. Channels enter from three of its sides (west, south and north) and the water issues from east. The adjoining D2 was originally a stepped pool with entrance from street V3. Similarly, Pool D3 is a stepped water basin (working with cold water), symmetrical to the Pool E11 (with warm water). D7 is a discharge channel for drain Pool D3. Instead Pool E22 was served by hot water coming from the caldarium E19 behind it.

(5) It may seem that this underground Pool E22 resembles a nymphaeum, because it is fed through a fountain made by a clay pipe, passing in the back wall, and because it is covered by stone slabs supported by a transverse arch. It has benches in two sides and staircase reachable from the Quadriporticus (F). However, also in this case, nothing indicates a pagan cult. Its frescoes decoration, for instance, does non includes any figural motif, but contains only geometric and marble-imitation painting, as is also the case for the synagogue's decoration.

(6) Room C3, on the opposite side of street V3, which in the past was believed to be an urban villa, is not the newly discovered synagogue of Magdala. It is now clear that Area C, located immediately north of the fountain-house D1, is rather part of the same bathing complex as Area E into wich D1 is included.

(7) No fish is actually depicted in the far distant synagogue, so it is not possible to establish any alleged connection between the Atargatis' attribute and the Jewish inhabitants of Magdala. Palm trees have connection with the earth fertility insofar they are an element of the Jewish liturgy. Nothing suggests pagan cults connected with pagan deities, though accidentally a lead weight schematically represents the Phoenician goddess Tanit (sometime assimilated to the moon-goddess Astarte). The goddess Artemis of Ephesus in Ionia has nothing to do with the inhabitants of Magdala, nor does the egg represented sometime in the iconography of Mary of Magdala. The egg-like attributes of the Ephesian goddess are, indeed, breasts (she is also called polymaste) or, more likely, bull testicles, since bulls were often sacrificed in her honour. The red egg in the Mary Magdalene's Orthodox iconography simply represents the red "Easter eggs" which, in turns, remand to the meaning of new life of such a feast and to Mary's role of announcing the Easter message of the Resurrection.

Stefano De Luca

posted on Dec, 13 2015 @ 01:52 PM
Fascinating discussion... thanks, all!

posted on Dec, 13 2015 @ 02:35 PM
a reply to: McSteveDL

Hi Stefano, that's great thanks, interesting that what had been taken for the synagogue is an extension of the bath house complex.

A few thoughts, it seems to have been the case that Atargatis in the region was more understood as Ashtoreth-Anat, it has to be noted that the Atargatis mythos was derived from association with Mesopotamian Pisces, were the constellation had the dual aspect of fish and swallow/dove, that the fish lays the egg and this transits through Pisces analagous to the river Euphrates to be incubated by the swallow, that aspect of which was more to be associated with the dove Goddess Astarte in Syria, the fish aspect Anunitum a Celestial marker related to Anat.


The dolphin iconography may as you suggest simply have been generic bath-house decor, though the constellation Delphinus related to the Mesopotamian Divine child Damu, though represented there by the swine.

I don't think the egg of Mary Magdalene can be simply explained as an Easter egg, there has to be an underlying tradition behind that, the palm tree in origin was the symbol of the God Enki or Ea, father of Damu.

Given your expertise, something i was wondering, the connection if any between the area around Magdala known as Arbela and the City of the same name in Northern Mesopotamia, a major cultic centre of Istar particularly with regards to Istar incarnate oracles and prophecies, this in conjunction with Istar incarnate being understood as Nanaya, were Magdala was Migdal Nunaya, the tower of the fish, allegedly.
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