From the Greek for ten (deka) and city (polis), the Decapolis was an ancient confederation of ten cities (the actual number varied over time, but included Scythopolis, Hippo, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Gadara, Pella, Dion, Canatha, Raphana, and Damascus) formed by Alexander or his successors, which gained importance
(called Judea at the time) was conquered by the Romans in 63 B.C. Pompey made Scythopolis the seat of the Sanhedrin. The confederation, which was under the authority of the Roman governor of Syria, was for the purpose of defense against Semitic neighbors. The satirist Menippus comes from the Decapolis.
"CHAP. 16. (18.)-DECAPOLIS. On the side of Syria, joining up to Judaea, is the region of Decapolis, so called from the number of its cities; as to which all writers are not agreed. Most of them, however, agree in speaking of Damascus as one, a place fertilized by the river Chrysorroös, which is drawn off into its meadows and eagerly imbibed; Philadelphia, and Rhaphana, all which cities fall back towards Arabia; Scythopolis (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; Gadara, before which the river Hieromix flows; Hippo, which has been previously mentioned; Dion, Pella, rich with its waters; Galasa, and Canatha. The Tetrarchies 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, Trachonitis, Panias, in which is Caesarea, with the spring previously mentioned, Abila, Arca, Ampeloëssa, and Gabe. "
Pliny the Elder (N.H. 5.16.74).
Go to Other Ancient / Classical History Glossary pages beginning with the lettera