What is Tiberias?:
The city of Tiberias was constructed around 20 CE by Herod Antipas and dedicated to Caesar Tiberius. It replaced Sepphoris as the capital of Galilee, which Herod ruled. Tiberias became the first Jewish polis, the Greek term for city which meant that it was sovereign in both external and internal matters.
Where is Tiberias?:
Tiberias is located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 5 miles north of where the Jordan River exits, and along a major trade route between Syria and Egypt. Sometimes the Sea of Galilee is named the Sea of Tiberias.
Why is Tiberias important?:
Tiberias was built on the site of a necropolis (cemetery complex), making it ritually unclean for orthodox Jews. As the seat of government, though, it attracted many involved with commerce and politics. Even most of the Jewish courts moved there eventually.
By the 2nd century CE, Tiberias was known as one of the four sacred Jewish cities (along with Jerusalem, Hebron, and Sepphoris). This was only because a rabbi was found who would declare it ritually pure. This allowed Jews who had been displaced during the Roman wars to find refuge here without also violating religious laws. The Tiberian Academy, an important rabbinical school, was located here and rabbis here composed the Palestinian Talmud in Tiberias. Many important rabbis are buried in or around Tiberias, including Moses Maimonides and Akiva.