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Decapolis

cities, gerasa, city, jordan and country

DECAPOLIS, The. The name of a Greek confederation of cities east of the river Jordan. After the conquests of Alexander the Great many Greeks settled in Palestine, many going to the country east of the Jordan. The con federation was formed after the death of Herod in 4 a.c. Some of the cities had been free but had been deprived of their freedom by the Jewish Maccabean princes. Later Pompey re stored their freedom to them. Their civic eras dated from the year 64-63 B.C., the year of Pompey's campaign in the country. As the Latin name signifies the confederation included 10 cities at first. Later other cities joined the league, until there were 18 members of the league from first to last. It was formed for protection against Semitic influences hostile to them. Scythopolis was the only city west of the Jordan. It was included in the league be cause of its strategic situation which com manded the route to the Greek cities on the seacoast and to the sea. The rest were east of the Jordan and southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The other nine original cities were Gadara, Hippos, Pella, Dion, Gerasa, Philadel phia, Raphana, Kanatha and Damascus. Those added later were Abila, Kanata, Kapitolas, Edrei, Boasra and three of their neighbors not named. Each city controlled the territory in the surrounding country. Jesus Christ entered the land of the Gadarenes and performed a miracle there (Mark v, 1-20). His demon possessed patient published the news of his cure in all Decapolis. The cities were usually built for defense and were located on a hill or mound and near some stream or body of water. Many of the streets were colonnaded. In the ruins of Gerasa, one of the richest of the cities, nearly 200 of these columns are still standing, and at Philadelphia about a dozen still remain. Some of the cities had two amphi

theatres each. The largest was at Philadelphia, which would possibly seat 7,000 people; the others would accommodate from 2.000 to 4,000 spectators. Some of the cities also had artificial lakes on which sham sea-fights were staged.

Each city had its own annual festival for ath letic games. The temples were beautiful. In each was a central hall ranging in size from 50 to 70 feet in length and from 30 to 50 feet in width. The religion of the homeland prevailed. Gadara was an important town before the time of the fall of Jerusalem. Vespasian captured it and destroyed most of the inhabitants. Jo sephus was the Jewish general in command and was made a prisoner and taken to Rome. The site of Pella has been explored and a volume published by the Palestine Exploration Fund containing the results. Kanatha occupied the site of the city of Kenath mentioned in the Old Testament. The sites of some of the other cities remain undiscovered by modern archaeologists. These cities were centres of lit erary activity. From Gadara came ((Philodemus the Epicurean, a contemporary of Cicero, Meleager the epigrammatist, Menippus the satirist, Theodorus the rhetorician, the tutor of Tiberius, and others. Gerasa also was the mother of teachers. Stephanus Byzantinus men tions three, Ariston, Kerykos and Plato." The cities flourished most during the period of the Antonines. It was then that Gerasa reached the height of her glory. For fuller details the reader is referred to (The Historical Geography of the Holy Land) by George Adam Smith, to which we acknowledge indebtedness for many of the facts of this article.