DECAPOLIS, THE ("Ten City"):
Name of a district of Palestine that included a number of autonomous cities. According to Pliny ("Historia Naturalis," v. 18, 74) these ten cities were Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Gerasa, and Canatha. With the exception of Scythopolis (= Beth-Shean) all these cities are east of the Jordan. It is curious that Damascus, which lies much further north, is also included in the Decapolis. Josephus mentions Scythopolis ("B. J." iii. 9, § 7), Philadelphia (ib. ii. 18, § 1), Gadara, and Hippos ("Vita," §§ 65, 74) as in the Decapolis. The "Onomasticon" of Eusebius and Jerome (ed. Lagarde, 251, 89, and 116, 29) describes the Decapolis as situated in Peræa, round about Hippos, Pella, and Gadara, these cities being expressly mentioned, perhaps, because they were more prominent than the others in the history of Christianity; Pella, for example, is known as the home of the first Christian community, and it is also included in the Decapolis by Epiphanius ("Hæreses," i.30, § 2). It is curious that Stephanus Byzantius includes Gerasa (Γέρασα) in a district he calls Τεσσαρεσκάπολις ("Township of Fourteen"), but this is probably a clerical error for "Ten City." Ptolemy (v. 15, §§ 22, 23) places the Decapolis in Cœle-Syria, and enumerates most of the cities mentioned by Pliny, as well as some in the neighborhood of Damascus, eighteen cities in all, and among them Capitolias, founded by Nerva in the year 97 or 98. The city of Abila is mentioned on an inscription ("C. I. G." No. 4501) as being included in the Decapolis.
The population of the Decapolis was chiefly pagan. Scythopolis was attacked by the Maccabeans (II Macc. xii. 29), but most of the cities of the Decapolis were not subjugated until the reign of Hyrcanus. Pompey again separated them from the Jewish territory in 63
The Decapolis must have existed as a special district in the second century, since the geographer Ptolemy speaks of it as such; when, however, the province of Arabia was organized (106), several of those cities came gradually to be included in that province—for example, Gerasa and Philadelphia (Ammian. Marcell. xiv. 8, § 8), in 295, according to Marquardt ("Staatsverwaltung," i. 277, Leipsic, 1873); the other cities with their territories were probably included a century earlier.
- Lightfoot, Opera Omnia, 1699, ii. 417 et seq., 563 et seq.;
- Reland, Palästina, 1714, 203 et seq.;
- Böttger, Lexikon zu Flavius Josephus, p. 102, Leipsic, 1879;
- Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. ii. 44;
- Merrill, East of the Jordan, London, 1881;
- G. Schumacher, Abila of the Decapolis, London, 1889;
- idem, in Zeit. des Deutsch. Paläst. Ver. 1897, xx., with map;
- idem, Northern Ajlun, 1890, pp. 154-168;
- Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, pp. 250, 256, Freiburg, 1896;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 116-148,
- Baedeker, Palästina, 5th ed., lv. 163, 169.