Samaria, a titular see, suffragan of Caesarea in Palestina Prima. In the sixth year of his reign (about 900 B.C.) Amri, King of Israel, laid the foundations of the city to which he gave the name of Samaria; “after the name of Semer the owner of the hill” (III Kings, xvi, 24). This detached hill was 1454 feet above sea-level, and more than 328 feet above the surrounding hills. His son, Achab, married to Jezabel, a Sidonian princess, introduced the worship of Baal (III Kings, xvi, 32). Shortly after, the Prophet Elias announced the famine which for three years and more devastated the city and surrounding country (III Kings, xvii, xviii). Samaria suffered her first siege from Benadad, King of Damascus (III Kings, xx, 1-21); after the disaster which this same king suffered at Aphec, he concluded a treaty with Achab (III Kings, xx, 34-43). The body of Achab was carried there from Ramoth Galaad, and the dogs licked his blood in the gutters, according to the prediction of the Prophet (III Kings, xxii, 1-39). Elias prophesied that King Ochozias, who fell from the window of his palace, would die of this fall, which prophecy was very shortly fulfilled (IV Kings, i). His brother and successor, Joram, threw down the statue of Baal, erected by Achab (IV Kings, iii, 2). The history of Samaria is connected with various episodes in the life of the Prophet Eliseus, notably on account of the siege of the city by Benadad (IV Kings, ii, 25; vi, 8 sq.). Jehu, founder of a new dynasty, exterminated the last descendants of Achab, and destroyed the temple of Baal in Samaria; then he was interred in the city as his predecessors had been (IV Kings, x). Nevertheless the worship of Astarte still continued in the city (IV Kings, xiii, 6). Joas, who had transported the treasures of the temple of Jerusalem, pillaged by him, to Samaria, was buried in the tomb of the kings of Israel (IV Kings, xiv, 14-16; II Parr., xxv, 24) as also was his son Jeroboam II (IV Kings, xiv, 16, 24, 29). Then followed a series of regicides and changing of ruling families. Zachary, after reigning six months, was assassinated (IV Kings, xv, 10) by Sellum, who reigned one month, and was in turn killed by Manahem, who ruled ten years (IV Kings, xv, 14-17). His son, Phaceia, after a reign of two years, was put to death by the chief of his army, Phacce (IV Kings, xv, 25), who met a like fate at the end of twenty years (IV Kings, xv, 30). Osee, son of Ela, seems to have been crowned or placed upon the throne by Teglathphalasar III, King of Assyria. Finally Salmanasar IV and his general, Sargon, took possession of Samaria (721 B.C.) after a siege lasting not less than three years (IV Kings, xvii, 4-6; xviii, 9 sq.). The inhabitants who survived the siege were transported into Assyria to the number of 27,290, according to an inscription. Thus were realized the threats of the Prophets against haughty Samaria (Is., ix, 9-11; xxviii, 1-8; Ezech., xxiii, 4-9; Osee, vii, viii, x, xiv; Amos, iii, 9-15; iv, 1 sq.; vi, 1; vii, 2-17; viii, 14; Mich., i, 5-7; ii; iii; vi; Ps. viii,4 etc.).
The first historical period, and not the least glorious, since it was for nearly two hundred years the capital of the kingdom of Israel, was thus ended. There remained only the temple of Baal, which had preceded the temple of Augustus, erected by King Herod, repaired by the American mission of Harvard University, also the palace of Amri, discovered by this same mission. Instead of the Israelites transported into Assyria, colonies were sent over, formed of various nations, Chaldeans, Cutheans, Syrians, Arabs, and others (IV Kings, xvii, 24); these mingled with the native population, forming an amalgamation of religion and superstition; thus the Israelites with their own national worship gave birth to the people and the religion of the Samaritans. The latter became furious enemies of the Jews, but Sichem or Neapolis, and not Samaria, became their principal religious and political center. From 721-335 B.C., Samaria was a Babylonian and Persian city; finally it fell into the power of Alexander who to avenge the murder of his governor, partly exterminated the inhabitants, replacing them by a Graeco-Syrian colony (Quintus Curtius, IV, 321). Having thus become Graeco-Samaritan, the city continued its hostilities against the Jews, and following an attack upon Marissa, it was taken after a memorable siege and utterly destroyed by John Hyrcanus about 110 B.C. It was rebuilt by the proconsul of Syria, Gabinus, between 57 and 55 B.C. (Josephus, “Bell. Jud.”, I, vii, 7; I, viii, 4; “Ant.”, XIII, x, 2, 3; XIV, v, 3). The city was then returned to the Samaritans. Herod the Great eventually received it from Octavius (31 B.C.) after the death of Cleopatra, the previous ruler. He enlarged and embellished it, in the center built a magnificent temple to Augustus (of which the monumental staircase may still be seen), and called it Sebaste (about 25 B.C.) in honor of the sovereign (Josephus, “Bell. Jud.”, I, xx, 3; I, xxi, 2; “Ant.”, XV, vii, 3; XV, viii, 5). Herod made it one of his favorite residences, although it was maritime Caesarea which obtained his political preponderance. After Herod came his son Archelaus, who ruled the city (“Ant.”, XVII. xi, 4; “Bell. Jud.”, II, vi, 3); at the death of the latter the province was annexed to Syria as a gift to Herod Agrippa I, A.D. 41 (“Ant.”, XIX, v, 1; XIX, ix, 1-2). Always hostile to the Jews, the inhabitants of Samaria saw their city burned by the latter, A.D. 65 (“Bell. Jud.”, II, xviii, 1); according to Ulpianus, “Digest”, L, tit. 15, and the coinage of the city, Septimius Severus established there a colony about A.D. 200 (Eckhel, “Doctrina numm.”, III, 44). Very likely a Roman garrison was then placed there.
It is possible that there may have been some question of Samaria in Acts, viii, 5, on the subject of the sermon of the deacon Philip; in this case Christianity is traced to its very origins. According to Le Quien (Oriens christ., III, 649-54), Marinus, Bishop of Sebaste, represented the diocese at the Council of Nicaea (325); Eusebius at Seleucia (359); Priscianus at Constantinople (381); Eleutherius at Lydda (Lydia), (415); Constantine at the Robber Synod of Ephesus (449); Marcianus, at the end of the fifth century; Pelagius (536). During the French occupation Samaria was a Latin bishopric, and several titulary bishops are mentioned (Eubel, “Hierarchia Catholica medii nevi”, I, 445; II, 309). The Greeks also made it a titular see. It must be remembered that Sebaste and not Samaria was always the correct name of this diocese. From the fourth century we meet with the cultus of St. Paul and St. Jerome at Samaria; it possessed also the tombs of Eliseus and Abdias, and that of St. John the Baptist, whose magnificent church, rebuilt by the Crusaders, is today a mosque (see text in Thomson, “Sacred Places”, I, 102). From 985, El-Muqadassi does not mention Samaria, now nothing more than a humble district of Nablusi; in 1283, we find nothing but one inhabited house with the exception of a little Greek monastery (Burchard, “Descriptio Terse Sanctae”, Leipzig, 1873, 53). Today the village of Sebastyeh, amid orchards and kitchen gardens, comprises three hundred inhabitants, all Mussulmans.