Fortress and city founded by Zamaris, a distinguished Jew of Babylon, who about the year 20 crossed the Euphrates with 500 mounted archers, and requested a dwelling-place from the Roman governor of Syria, Cn. Sentius Saturninus. When Herod the Great learned of this expedition, he assigned to the troop a piece of land in the toparchy of Batanea, and in this way Zamaris founded the city of Bathyra, which he garrisoned. As freedom from taxation was granted to the colony, many people immediately settled there. The fort not only protected the Jews living in Trachonitis, but at the same time safeguarded the pilgrims going from Babylon to Jerusalem against the attacks of the Trachonites. When the Romans got possession of the land, they respected the authority of the regent, but taxed the people.
The brave Zamaris left an equally distinguished son, Jacimus; and the latter's son Philip formed a friendship with Agrippa the younger, and held a command in his army ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 3). When the revolution in Jerusalem threatened to break out, Agrippa sent the hipparchus Darius and the strategus Philip with 2,000 horse, among whom were some Batanians, to restrain the people ("B. J." ii. 17, § 4). The Zealots carried the day, and Philip was glad to escape in disguise (Josephus, in his "Vita," xi., has a more correct and detailed account than in "B. J." ii. 18, § 6). Fortunately for him, he was seized with a fever in a village under his control near Gamala, probably in territory belonging to Bathyra. Had he proceeded to Cæsarea Philippi, over which Varus had been appointed governor by Agrippa when the latter went to Berytus (not to Antiochia), Varus (not Noares, as in "B. J."), who had designs upon the kingdom, would certainly have put Philip to death as a faithful adherent of Agrippa.
Varus, however, entrapped Philip's countrymen, the Babylonians of Bathyra (the editions have "Ekbatana"), killing seventy of them. The inhabitants of Bathyra took up arms, and went with their wives and children to Gamala, a little further north,where Philip joined them and persuaded them to remain faithful to Agrippa and the Romans ("Vita," l.c.). During the absence of Philip the Gamalites threatened the Babylonians, killed Chares, and maltreated his brother Jesus, because they were relations of Philip. King Agrippa quickly despatched Philip with some horse to Gamala, with instructions to take his relations away and resettle the Babylonians in Batanea (l.c. xxxv., xxxvi.).
The city of Bathyra, which was probably called after some person of that name, is not mentioned in rabbinical literature; but probably the eminent Talmud teachers called by that name were natives of this city. Ritter ("Erdkunde," xv. 226) thinks "Bathyra" is identical with the "Bethora" mentioned in the "Notitia Dignitatum"; but the Βαιθωρά, Βηθωρά found in Josephus is the ancient Beth-Choron. According to Richter and Schumacher, the name is still preserved in that of the village Beterre.
- Grätz, in Monatsschrift, i. 115-120;
- idem, Gesch. der Juden, 4th ed., iii. 199, 480;
- Boettger, Lexikon zu Flavius Josephus, p. 53;
- Schumacher, Across the Jordan, p. 52;
- Buhl, Geogr. des Alten Palästina, p. 246.