Houses of the Wealthy (2005-2009)

“‘Who is Rich?’ (BT Shabbat 25b): A Socio-Archaeological Inquiry into the Houses of the Wealthy in the Roman Cities of Ancient Palestine,” was a study supported by a grant from the Israel Science Foundation (Grant no. 307/05), aimed at examining the large urban peristyle houses owned by the wealthy residing in the cities of Roman Palestine. Six peristyle houses excavated in Sepphoris served as the basis for the case study.

The architectural layout, decorations, and spatial arrangement of these peristyle houses confirm that the wealthy populations in Sepphoris, like their counterparts in other Roman cities, chose to live in luxurious homes commensurate with their needs and socio-political status while exhibiting a penchant for adopting the prevalent Graeco-Roman lifestyle and culture of the era. The large and ornate dwellings uncovered in Upper and Lower Sepphoris were not clustered together in a distinct neighborhood within the city but were constructed alongside simple dwellings and sometimes even public buildings.

The houses of the wealthy in Sepphoris do not follow a single architectural plan; some conform to patterns prevalent in the Roman world while others imitate them but nevertheless bear architectural differences. They are spacious and have many rooms of varying dimensions; the most prominent ones were adorned with colorful mosaic floors and wall frescoes, and some even bore figurative images. The existence of a peristyle courtyard and the use of long corridors to get from one end of the house to the other characterize these dwellings, but only the most impressive ones in Sepphoris—the House of Dionysos and the House of Orpheus—boasted lavish triclinia that opened directly onto the adjacent peristyle courtyard.


Z. Weiss, “Private Architecture in the Public Sphere: Urban Dwellings in Roman and Byzantine Sepphoris,” in From Antioch to Alexandria: Recent Studies in Domestic Architecture, ed. K. Galor and T. Waliszewski (Warsaw: University of Warsaw, 2007), 125–136.

“Houses of the Wealthy in Roman and Late Antique Tiberias,” in Arise,  Walk through the Land: Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of His Demise, ed. J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, and E. Ben-Yosef (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 2016), 211–220 (Hebrew).

Z. Weiss, “Houses of the Wealthy in Roman Galilee,” in The Roman Villa in the Mediterranean Basin: Late Republic to Late Antiquity, ed. A. Marzano and G. P. R. Métraux (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 317–327.

Photo by Gabi Laron

Photo by Zeev Weiss