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RAPHIA (Rafah) Jordan/Israel.

The southern-most city on the coast of Palestine and its port, identified with Tell Rafah. A halt under the same name is mentioned in ancient Egyptian sources in conjunction with the Via Maris. Diodorus (20.74) reported that Demetrius (in 306 B.C.), who sailed from Gaza, had many of his galleys driven by a storm to Raphia, “a city which affords no anchorage and is surrounded by shoals.” Strabo (16.2.31) refers to a battle fought there between Ptolemy IV and Antiochos the Great in 217 B.C. At Raphia Antiochos V married the daughter of the same Antiochos the Great (Polyb. 5.82-86). The city was taken by Alexander Jannaeus (Joseph. AJ 13.357; 14.396), who annexed it to the Hasmonaean kingdom. It was freed again by Pompey in 64 B.C., and was subsequently rebuilt by Gabinius (Joseph. BJ 1.166). In A.D. 69 Titus went by Raphia on his way from Alexandria to Caesarea. On this occasion Josephus (BJ 1.662) wrote that Raphia is “the city where Syria begins.” Ptolemy (5.15.5) knew it as a city of Judea and Raphia is frequently mentioned in Byzantine sources.

Raphia minted coins from the time of Commodus to that of Philip the Arab, and from these coins we learn that Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysos were worshiped there. There have been no excavations.


F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine II (1938) 431-32; M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land from the Persian to the Arab Conquests (536 B.C. to A.D. 640). A Historical Geography (1966).


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