Decapolis

Decapolis

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{{Otheruses|decapolis (disambiguation)}} [[Image:Palestine after Herod.png|thumb|300px|Decapolis region (yellow))]] The '''Decapolis''' ("Ten Cities"; [[Greek language|Greek]]: ''deka'', ten; ''polis'', city) was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the [[Roman Empire]] in [[Judea]] and [[Syria]]. The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status. The Decapolis cities were centers of Greek and Roman culture in a region that was otherwise [[Semitic]] ([[Nabatean]], [[Aramaeans|Aramean]], and [[Jew]]ish). With the exception of Damascus, the "Region of the Decapolis" was located in modern-day [[Jordan]], one of them located west of the Jordan River in Israel. Each city had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule. == The cities == [[Image:The-Decapolis-map.svg|right|thumb|270px|Map of Roman Palestine with the Decapolis cities labeled in black.]] [[Image:Jerash BW 12.JPG|thumb|300px|The oval forum and cardo of Gerasa (Jerash)]] The names of the traditional Ten Cities of the Decapolis come from the Roman historian [[Pliny the Elder]] ([[Pliny's Natural History|N.H.]] 5.16.74). They are: # [[Jerash|Gerasa]] ([[Jerash]]) in Jordan # [[Bet She'an|Scythopolis]] ([[Beth-Shean]]) in Israel, the only city west of the [[Jordan River]] # [[Hippos]] (Hippus or Sussita) in Israel # [[Gadara]] ([[Umm Qais]]) in Jordan # [[Pella, Jordan|Pella]] (West of [[Irbid]]) in Jordan # [[Amman|Philadelphia]], modern day [[Amman]], the capital of [[Jordan]] # [[Al Husn]] in Jordan # [[Capitolias]] ([[Beit Ras]]) in Jordan (Dion, Jordan) # [[Canatha]] ([[Qanawat]]) in Syria # [[Irbid|Arabella]] ([[Irbid]]), in Jordan # [[Raphana]] in Jordan # [[Damascus]], the capital of modern [[Syria]]; Damascus was considerably north of the others and so is sometimes thought to have been an "honorary" member. According to other sources, there may have been as many as eighteen or nineteen Greco-Roman cities counted as part of the Decapolis. For example, [[Abila (Decapolis)|Abila]] is very often cited as belonging to the group. == Hellenistic era == Except for Damascus, the Decapolis cities were by and large founded during the [[Hellenistic civilization|Hellenistic]] period, between the death of [[Alexander the Great]] in [[323 BC]] and the Roman conquest of [[Coele-Syria]], including Judea in [[63 BC]]. Some were established under the [[Ptolemaic dynasty]] which ruled Judea until [[198 BC]]. Others were founded later, when the [[Seleucid dynasty]] ruled the region. Some of the cities included "Antiochia" or "Seleucia" in their official names (''Antiochia Hippos'', for example), which attest to Seleucid origins. The cities were Greek from their founding, modeling themselves on the Greek [[polis]]. The Decapolis was a region where two cultures interacted: the culture of the Greek colonists and the indigenous Semitic culture. There was some conflict. The Greek inhabitants were shocked by the Semitic practice of [[circumcision]], while various elements of Semitic dissent towards the dominant and assimilative nature of Hellenic civilization culminated gradually in the face of assimilation. At the same time, there was also some cultural blending and borrowing in the Decapolis region. The cities acted as centers for the diffusion of Greek culture. Some local deities began to be called by the name ''[[Zeus]]'', from the chief Greek god. Meanwhile, in some cities Greeks began worshipping these local "Zeus" deities alongside their own ''Zeus Olympios.'' There is evidence that the colonists adopted the worship of other Semitic gods, including [[Phoenicia]]n deities and the chief Nabatean god, [[Dushara]] (worshipped under his Hellenized name, ''Dusares''). The worship of these Semitic gods is attested to in coins and inscriptions from the cities. During Hellenistic times the cities were clearly distinct from the surrounding region by their practice of Greek culture; [[Josephus]] names several of them in a list of Gentile cities in Judea before the Roman conquest. The term "Decapolis" may have already been used to identify these cities during the Hellenistic period. The term, however, is mostly associated with the period after the Roman conquest in 63 BC. The Roman general [[Pompey]] conquered Judea in that year. The people of the Decapolis cities welcomed Pompey as a liberator from the Jewish [[Hasmonean]] kingdom that had ruled much of the area. For centuries the cities based their [[calendar era]] on this conquest: 63 BC was the epochal year of the [[Pompeian era]], used to count the years throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods. It is from this time that historians identify the region and the cities with the term "Decapolis." == The Roman Decapolis == [[Image:First century palestine.gif|thumb|280px|right|Decapolis region and its surroundings in the 1st century]] The Roman government wanted Roman culture to flourish in the farthest reaches of the empire, which at the time included eastern Palestine. So they encouraged the growth of these ten cities, allowing them some political autonomy within the protective sphere of Rome. Each city functioned as a polis or [[city-state]], with jurisdiction over an area of the surrounding countryside. Each city also minted its own coins. Many coins from Decapolis cities identify their city as "autonomous," "free," "sovereign," or "sacred," terms that imply some sort of self-governing status. The Romans strongly left their cultural stamp on all of the cities. Each one was eventually rebuilt with a Roman-style grid of streets based around a central [[cardo]] and/or [[decumanus]]. The Romans sponsored and built numerous temples and other public buildings. The [[Imperial cult (Ancient Rome)|imperial cult]], the worship of the Roman emperor, was a very common practice throughout the Decapolis and was one of the features that linked the different cities. A small open-air temple or facade, called a [[Kalybe]], was unique to the region. The cities may also have enjoyed strong commercial ties, fostered by a network of new [[Roman road]]s. This has led to their common identification today as a "federation" or "league." The Decapolis was probably never an official political or economic union; most likely it signified the collection of city-states that enjoyed special autonomy during early Roman rule. The [[New Testament]] gospels of [[Gospel of Matthew|Matthew]], [[Gospel of Mark|Mark]], and [[Gospel of Luke|Luke]] mention that the Decapolis region was a location of the ministry of [[Jesus]]. The Decapolis was one of the few regions where Jesus travelled in which [[Gentile]]s (people who are not Jewish) were in the majority. Most of Jesus' ministry focused on teaching to Jews. [[Mark 5]]:[[Legion (demon)|1-10]] emphasizes the Decapolis' Gentile character when Jesus encounters a herd of [[pig]]s, an animal forbidden by [[Kashrut]], the Jewish dietary laws. == Later years == [[Image:Southeastern Roman Empire.PNG|frame|The Roman provinces of Syria, Palestina, and Arabia]] The term "Decapolis" fell out of use after the emperor [[Trajan]] added the province of [[Arabia Petraea|Arabia]] to the Roman Empire in the second century AD. The new province was east of Palestine, so the Decapolis was no longer the Greco-Roman cultural front line. In addition, the cities were grouped into different [[Roman province]]s: [[Syria (Roman province)|Syria]], [[Palestina Secunda]], and [[Arabia Petraea|Arabia]]. However, the Decapolis remained an important cultural region in the Roman east, even though the term was no longer used. The cities continued to be distinct, distinguished for example by their use of the Pompeian calendar. Historians and archaeologists often speak of the "Decapolis cities" and "Decapolis region" even when referring to these cities in later time periods. The Roman and [[Byzantine Empire|Byzantine]] Decapolis region was influenced and gradually taken over by [[Christianity]]. Some cities were more receptive than others to the new religion. Pella was a base for some of the earliest church leaders ([[Eusebius of Caesarea|Eusebius]] reports that the [[Twelve apostles|apostles]] fled there to escape the [[Great Jewish Revolt]]). In other cities, paganism persisted long into the Byzantine era. Eventually, however, the region became almost entirely Christian, and most of the cities served as seats of [[bishop]]s. Most of the cities continued into the late Roman and Byzantine periods. Some were abandoned in the years following Palestine's conquest by the [[Umayyad Caliphate]] in [[641]], but other cities continued to be inhabited long into the Islamic period. ==Excavations== {{Expand section|date=December 2009}} Jerash (Gerasa) and Bet She'an (Scythopolis) survive as towns today, while Damascus and Amman (Philadelphia) have become important capital cities. Twentieth-century archaeology has identified most of the other cities, and most have undergone or are undergoing considerable excavation. ==See also== *[[Heptapolis]] (meaning seven cities) *[[Doric hexapolis]] (six) *[[Pentapolis]] (five) *[[Syrian tetrapolis|Tetrapolis]] (four) *[[Tripolis (region of Phoenicia)|Tripolis]] (three) == External links == {{commons|Decapolis}} * [http://www.bibarch.com/ArchaeologicalSites/Decapolis.htm The Decapolis on BibArch] * [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04664b.htm The Decapolis on the Catholic Encyclopedia] * [http://www.plekos.uni-muenchen.de/2004/rlichtenberger.pdf Scholarly review] of a 2003 book, ''Kulte und Kultur der Dekapolis (Cults and Culture of the Decapolis)''. The review contains information on the religious syncretism in the Hellenistic and Roman Decapolis. Contains some passages in German. {{coord missing|Syria}}