MAIUMAS, a popular licentious feast connected with water festivals undertaken in various places (13 according to Lev. R. 5:3, et al.); four localities were named after it (see below). Information about the Maiumas festivals is provided by Melalus
from Antioch in Syria. He relates that the festival in honor of Dionysus and Aphrodite was held every three years, lasted 30 days, and was celebrated with night-time stage performances. An imperial edict issued by the Emperor Commodus, who renewed the Olympic Games, included ceremonies from which income was to be channeled to the Maiumas rituals. According to Livia an attempt to prohibit the festivities – apparently by Julian the Apostate – was not a success.
(1) Maiumas near Gaza served as the port of that city. It is first mentioned in the Zeno Papyri (259 B.C.E.; Cairo Papyrus 59.006). In the fourth century it became a Christian city called Constantia Neapolis, and was consequently freed from dependence upon the pagan city of Gaza. It is identified with al-Mīnā, 2½ mi. (4 km.) from Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast. A synagogue with a mosaic pavement representing King David as Orpheus and dated to 508/9 C.E. was excavated there in 1967.
(2) A Maiumas located on the coast near Ashkelon is mentioned by Antoninus Placentinus. It is perhaps to be identified with Khirbat al-Ashraf at the entrance to the Shikma Valley (Wadi Sikrayr).
(3) Khirbat Miyāmās has been identified with Shuni, east of Caesarea, on the road linking Binyamina and Zikhron Ya'akov, identified as the village of Kfar Shumi (or Shami) from the third century C.E. mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud (Ḥallah 58, 73). The site was probably referred to by the Bordeaux Pilgrim in 332 C.E.: "At the third mile from there [Caesarea] there is Mount Sina and there is a spring in which, should a woman bathe, she will fall pregnant." Since 1986 excavations have been conducted at the site by E. Shenhav on behalf of the Jewish National Fund. The Roman theater was uncovered and it consists of an orchestra, seating arrangements, vaults, and a pool, all of which together form an oval complex, containing stepped pools with mosaic floors, fountains, and a hostel apparently used by pilgrims. Storerooms and residential quarters were also exposed, as well as a large public building that may have served as a shrine during the water festivals performed at the site. Some of these festivities would have taken place within the semi-circular pool on the other side of the theater. This pool had a mosaic floor with built-in recesses for flags and was marked with lines and lanes. It is assumed that these denoted the directions of the water games and the positions taken by the players. Two inscriptions were exposed on the floor of the pool, one of which was complete and could be read as follows: "In the time of Flavius Marcianus son of Antipatris the most honorable consul the work of quarrying the mountain from the foundation was completed." The person mentioned may have been the governor of Caesarea in the fourth century C.E. Clearly the water games at the site continued during the early part of the Byzantine period.
(4) Betomarsea in the vicinity of Charachmoba (al-Karak) is called Maiumas on the Madaba Map and was connected in ancient sources to the Baal-Peor of Numbers 25:3–9.
Strabo, Geographia, 16:2, 21; Ptolemaeus, 5:15, 5; Jerome, Vita Hilarionis, 3; Eusebius, Vita Constantini, 4:38; G.A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land (18964), 190; Avi-Yonah, in: BIES, 30 (1966), 221–3; idem, Madaba Mosaic Map (1954), no. 14; A. Ovadyah, Qadmoniot, 1 (1968), 124–7, pls. 3–4.
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.