A rare treasure awaits antiquities lovers just a short drive from the heart of the city of Petah Tikva in central Israel: a Roman mausoleum, amazingly intact and graced with a magnificent temple-like façade.
The mausoleum is located along road 444 near the turnoff to Kibbutz Elad, and is one of the most impressive and best preserved Roman buildings in Israel. What is now a picturesque secondary road was in Roman times part of the famed Via Maris–– the Way of the Sea, which was the country’s main north-south highway. According to the style of the building and the remnants of two sarcophagi (stone coffins) in the main chamber, archaeologists conclude that it was built in the third century CE for a Roman VIP and his wife, although their identities remain a mystery. Another chamber contains a dovecote with about 60 “pigeonholes” where doves were raised for sacrifice to Aphrodite. Around the building are water cisterns and other stone-hewn graves. In later antiquity, the Muslims added a prayer niche in the southern wall, and dedicated the site to Nebi Yahya, associated by local tradition with John the Baptist. Thus, due to its sanctity, the building was preserved through the ages.