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Trachonitis

trachon, province, ancient, argob, region, damascus, bozrah and onomast

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TRACHONITIS (Tpaxowqr/s). The only men tion of this place in the Scriptures is in describing the political divisions of Palestine at the time of John the Baptist's first public appearance Philip was then tetrarch of Iturea and the region (xWpas) of Trachonitis' (Luke iii. 1). Although Trach onitis was a distinct and well-defined province, yet it appears that in this passage the phrase region of Trachonitis' is used in a wider sense, and in cluded two or three other adjoining provinces. As considerable misapprehension has existed among geographers regarding Trachonitis, and as its exact position and boundaries were first clearly ascertained by the researches of the present writer, it may be well in this place to give a brief resume of the ancient notices of the province, and then to show how they can be applied in setting aside modern errors and establishing correct views.

Josephus states that Uz the son of Aram founded Trachonitis and Damascus, which lay between Palestine and Ccelesyria' (Antiy. i. 6. 4). From various other incidental remarks and descriptions in his writings, the position of Trachonitis in relation to the other Transjordanic provinces may be ascer tained. It lay on the east of Gaulonitis, while it bor dered on both Auranitis and Batamea (Bell. 9-ud. iv. 1; 1. 20. 4). It extended farther north than Gaulonitis, reaching to the territory of Damascus (Antiq. xv. io. 3, and to. ; 1o. 7). Ptolemy locates the Trachonite Arabs along the base of Mount Alsadamus, which he includes in the province of Batanwa, of which Saccma was a chief town (Geogr. v. 15). Strabo groups Damascus and Trachon together, and states that the latter country is rugged and wild, and the people daring robbers (G'eogr. xvi. r). Speaking of Kenath Jerome calls it a city of Trachonitis near Bozrah (Onomast. s. v. Canath') ; and the writers of the Talmud extend Trachon as far as Bozrah (Light foot, opp. ii• 473 ; cf. Onomast. s. v. Ituraea ;' Reland, Pal. pp. ro% seq.) From these statements compared with the results of modern research the exact position and bound aries of this ancient province can be determined. It extended from the southern confines of Da mascus, near the bank of the river Awaj (Pharpar), on the north, to Busrah (Bostra and Bozrah), on the south. Bozrah was the capital of Auranitis, and consequently that province lay along the south ern end of Trachon. The province of Gaulanitis (now yauttin) was its western boundary. Batana. has been identified with Ard el-Bathanyeh, which embraces the whole ridge of Jebel Hauran, at whose western base lie the splendid ruins of Kenath, one of the ancient cities of Trachon (Onomast. s. v.

Canath, Kenath'). Consequently the ridge of Jebel Hauran formed the eastern boundary of Trachon, which extended southward to Busrah in the plain, near the south-western extremity of the range (Porter, Damascus, ii. pp. 259, seq. ; also in Your nal of Sac. Lit. for July r854). The region thus marked out embraces the modern district of Lejah, which may be considered the nucleus of Trachon itis ; also the smooth plain extending from its northern border to the ranges of Khiyarah and Mania. The rocky strip of land running along the western base of Jebel Hauran, and separating the- mountain-range from the smooth expanse of Auranitis, was likewise included in Trachonitis. In the ruins of Musmeih on the northern edge of Lejah, Burckhardt discovered a Greek inscription which proves that that city was Phan° the ancient metropolis of Trachon (Travels in Syria, p. 117 ; see also Preface, p. xi.) At first sight it might appear as if Trachon, or Trachonitis (Tpaxdw, or Tpaxowires), were only a Greek name applied to one of the subdivisions of the ancient kingdom of Bashan ; yet there is evidence to show that it is a translation of a more ancient Shernitic appellation, descriptive of the physical nature of the region. Tpaxdw signifies rough and rugged ; and TpaxcuaTis is a rugged region' (rpaxi,s Kai 7,-cl-0677cl-671-os), and peculiarly applicable to the district under notice. The He. brew equivalent is Argob a heap of stones ;' from On= nai), which was the ancient name of an important part of Og's kingdom in Bashan. The identity of Trachon and Argob cannot now be questioned. It was admitted by the Jewish Rab bins, for the Targums read Nnzin (Trachona) instead of :mt. (Argob) in Deut. 14 and Kings iv. 13 (Lightfoot, opp. p. 473) ; and it is confirmed by the fact that Kenath, one of the threescore great cities of Argob Cbron. ii. 23), was also, as has been seen, a city of Trachon. Eusehius, led doubtless by similarity of names, confounded Argob with tbe castle of Erga or Ragaba, near the confluence of the Jordan and Jabbok. In this he has been followed by Reland (Pal. p. 959, 201), Ritter (Pal. und Syr. ii.1041), and even Robinson (B. R . App. p. r66, 1st ed. Nothing can be more clear however than that Argob, a large province of Bashan containina sixty great cities, was quite distinct from Ragabba an obscure castle in Gilead (Porter, Damascus, ii. 271). Eusebius also confounded Trachonitis and (Onomast. s. v. Iturma') ; a manifest error.

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