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BOSTRA (τὰ Βόστρα, Βόστρα: O. T. BOZRAH properly BOTZRAH; LXX. Βοσόρ: Eth.Βοστρηνός, Eth. Βοστραῖος, Steph. B. sub voce: Busrah, Boszrah, Botzra, Ru.), a city of Arabia, in an oasis of the Syrian Desert, a little more than 1° S. of Damascus. It lay in the [p. 1.425]S. part of the district of Auranitis, the modern Haouran, of which it was the capital in the middle ages (Abulfeda), and is still one of its chief cities.

Respecting its earliest history, doubts have been thrown upon the identity of the Bozrah of the O. T. with the Bostra of writers under the Roman empire, chiefly on the ground that the former was a principal city of the Edomites, whose territory, it is urged, lay too far S. to include the site of Bostra (Gen. 36.33; Is. 34.6, 63.1; Jer. 49.13, 22; Amos, 1.12), while, in one passage (Jer. 48.24), a Bozrah of the Moabites is mentioned; and hence, by a well-known expedient of hasty criticism, it has been inferred that there were two Bozrahs, the one belonging to Edom, and the other to Moab; the latter corresponding to Bostra in Auranitis, and the former occupying the site of the modern Busseyra, in the mountains of Idumea. But, as the notices of Bozrah in the O. T. have all the appearance of referring to some one well-known place, and as the extent of the territories of the border peoples varied greatly at different times, it is at least equally probable that the possessions of Edom extended as far as Bostra, and that, from being on the frontier of the Moabites, it had been taken by the latter when Jeremiah wrote. The notice of Bossora (Βόσσορα) in the first book of Maccabees (1 Macc. 5.26) confirms this view. (Calmet, ad Jer. 49.13; Von Raumer, Paläst. p. 165, and in Berghaus's Annalen, 1830, p. 564; Winer, Bibl. Realworterbuch, s. v.; Kitto, Pict. Bibl. n. on Jer. 49.13.)

Cicero mentions an independent chieftain of Bostra (Bostrenum: ad Q. F. 2.12). The city was beautified by Trajan, who made it the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, an event commemorated by the inscription NEA TPAIANH BOCTPA on its coins, and also by a local era, which dated from A.D. 105. (Chron. Pasch. p. 253, ed. Paris, p. 472, ed. Bonn; Eckhel, Doctr. Num. Vet. vol. iii. p. 500, et seq.: John Malala erroneously ascribes its elevation to Augustus, instead of Trajan, Chron. ix. p. 233, ed. Bonn.) Under Alexander Severus it was made a colony, and its coins bear the epigraph NOVA TRAJANA ALEXANDRIANA COL. BOSTRA. (Damasc. ap. Phot. Cod. 272; Eckhel, l.c.) The emperor Philip, who was a native of the city, conferred upon it the title of Metropolis. (Amm. Marc. 14.8; Eckhel, p. 502 ) It is described at this period as a great, populous, and well fortified city (Amm. Marc. l.c.), lying 24 M. P. north-east of Adraa (Edrei), and four days' journey S. of Damascus. (Euseb. Onom.; Hierocl.; Not. Imp. Or.) Ptolemy mentions it, among the cities of Arabia Petraea, with the surname of Λεγίων, in allusion to the Legio III. Cyrenaïca, whose head-quarters were fixed here by Trajan. It is one of his points of recorded astronomical observation, having 14 1/1 hours in its longest day and being distant about two-thirds of an hour E. of Alexandria. (Ptol. 5.17.7, 8.20.21.)

Ecclesiastically, it was a place of considerable importance; being the seat, first of a bishopric, and afterwards of an archbishopric, ruling over twenty bishoprics, and forming apparently the head-quarters of the Nestorians. (Act. Concil. Nic. Ephes. Chalced. &c.

Its coins range from the Antonines to Caracalla. Several of them bear emblems referring to the worship of the Syrian Dionysus, under the name of Dusires, a fact of importance in connection with the reference to the vineyards of Bozrah in the magnificent prophecy of Isaiah (lxiii, 1--3). Some scholars even derive its name from its vineyards. The verbal root botzar signifies to cut off, and hence, on the one hand, to gather the vintage, and, on the other hand, to make inaccessible; and hence some make Botzrah a place of vineyards, others an inaccessible fortress. (Eckhel, p. 502; Gesenius, Lexicon, s. v.

The important ruins of the city are described by Burckhardt (Travels, p. 226) and Robinson (Bibl. Researches, vol. iii. p. 125). The desolation of this great city, which, at the time of its capture by the Arabs, was called “the market-place of Syria, Irak, and the Hejaz,” furnishes a striking commentary on the prophecy of Jeremiah (49.13).


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    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 14.8
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