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CHAP. 16. (18.)—DECAPOLIS.

On the side of Syria, joining up to Judæa, is the region of Decapolis1, so called from the number of its cities; as to which all writers are not agreed. Most of them, however, agree in speaking of Damascus2 as one, a place fertilized by the river Chrysorroös3, which is drawn off into its meadows and eagerly imbibed; Philadelphia4, and Rhaphana5, all which cities fall back towards Arabia; Scythopolis6 (formerly called Nysa by Father Liber, from his nurse having been buried there), its present name being derived from a Scythian colony which was established there; Gadara7, before which the river Hieromix8 flows; Hippo, which has been previously mentioned; Dion9, Pella10, rich with its waters; Galasa11, and Canatha12. The Tetrar- chies13 lie between and around these cities, equal, each of them, to a kingdom, and occupying the same rank as so many kingdoms. Their names are, Trachonitis14, Panias15, in which is Cæsarea, with the spring previously mentioned16, Abila17, Arca18, Ampeloëssa19, and Gabe20.

1 δεκὰ πολεῖς, the "Ten Cities." He alludes to the circumstance, that the number of cities varied from time to time in this district; one being destroyed in warfare, and others suddenly rising from its foundation.

2 The capital city of Syria, both in ancient and modern times. It is now called Es-Sham. The only epithet given to it by the ancient poets is that of "ventosa," or "windy," found in the Pharsalia of Lucan, B. iii. 1. 215, which, it has been remarked, is anything but appropriately chosen.

3 Or the "Golden River." It is uncertain whether this was the Abana or Pharpar, mentioned in 2 Kings v. 12. Strabo remarks, that the waters of the Chrysorroös "are almost entirely consumed in irrigation, as it waters a large extent of deep soil."

4 The ancient Rabbath Ammon, a city of the Ammonites. It was afterwards called Astarte, and then Philadelphia, in honour of Ptolemy Philadelphus. According to D'Anville, the present name of its site is Amman.

5 Thirty-three miles from Apamea. Its ruins are probably those mentioned by Abulfeda under the name of Rafaniat. William of Tyre says, that it was taken in the year 1125 by the Count of Tripoh.

6 Previously called Beth-shan. It was the next city of the Decapolis in magnitude after Damascus. It was situate in the land of the tribe of Issachar, though it belonged to the Manasites. At this place the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung up by the Philistines; see 1 Sam. xxxi. 10–12. Reland suggests that it received the name of Scythopolis, not from a Scythian colony, but from the Succoth of Gen. xxxiii. 17, which appears to have been in its vicinity. Its ruins, which still bear the name of Baisan, are very extensive.

7 Called by Josephus the capital of Peræa, and the chief place of the district of the Gadarenes of the Evangelists. Its ruins, about six miles south-east of the Sea of Galilee, are very extensive.

8 Still called the Yarmak, evidently from its ancient name. Hippo has been mentioned in the last Chapter.

9 Or Dium, between Pella and Gadara. In later times, this place was included in Roman Arabia.

10 Also called Butis. It was the most southerly of the ten cities which comprised the Decapolis, standing about five miles south of Scythopolis, or Beth-shan. Its exact site seems not to have been ascertained; but it has been suggested that it is the modern El-Bujeh. From the expression used by Pliny, it would appear to have had mineral waters in its vicinity.

11 Of this place nothing is known; but it is most probable that the Gerasa of Ptolemy and Josephus is meant. According to the former writer, it was thirty-five miles from Pella. Its site is marked by extensive ruins, thirty-five miles east of the Jordan, known by the name of Gerash, and on the borders of the Great Desert of the Hauvan. According to Dr. Keith, the ruins bear extensive marks of splendour.

12 Ptolemy mentions a city of this name in Cœlesyria.

13 So called from having been originally groups of four principalities, held by princes who were vassals to the Roman emperors, or the kings of Syria.

14 Containing the northern district of Palestine, beyond the Jordan, between Antilibanus and the mountains of Arabia. It was bounded on the north by the territory of Damascus, on the east by Auranitis, on the south by Ituræa, and on the west by Gaulanitis. It was so called from its ranges of rocky mountains, or τραχῶνες, the caves in which gave refuge to numerous bands of robbers.

15 So called from the mountain of that name. Cæsarea Philippi also bore the name of Panias. It was situate at the south of Mount Hermon, on the Jordan, just below its source. It was built by Philip the Tetrarch, B.C. 3. King Agrippa called it Neronias; but it soon lost that name.

16 In C. xiv. of the present Book, as that in which the Jordan takes its rise.

17 A place of great strength in Cœle-Syria, now known as Nebi Abel, situate between Heliopolis and Damascus.

18 Situate between Tripolis and Antaradus, at the north-west foot of Mount Libanus. It lay within a short distance of the sea, and was famous for the worship paid by its inhabitants to Astarte, the Syrian Aphrodite. A temple was erected here to Alexander the Great, in which Alexander Severus, the Roman Emperor, was born, his parents having resorted thither to celebrate a festival, A.D. 205. From this circumstance, its name was changed to Cæsarea. Burckhardt fixes its site at a hill called Tel-Arka.

19 Of this place, which probably took its name from its numerous vines, nothing whatever is known.

20 Called by Pliny, in B. xii. c. 41, Gabba. It was situate at the foot of Mount Carmel between Cæsarea and Ptolemais, sixteen miles from the former. No remains of it are to be seen. It must not be confounded with Gabala, in Galilee, fortified by Herod the Great.

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