ITUREA (Ἰτουραία):

Greek name of a province, derived from the Biblical "Jetur," name of a son of Ishmael (comp. Gen. xxv. 15, 16). The name of the province is mentioned only once (Luke iii. 1), while in historical sources the name of the people, the Itureans (Ἰτουραῖοι, Ἰτυραῖοι), occurs. The latter are first mentioned by Eupolemus—as one of the tribes conquered by David (Eusebius, "Præparatio Evangelica," ix. 30)—and subsequently by Strabo, Pliny, Josephus, and others, some of whom designate the Itureans as Arabs and others as Syrians. They were known to the Romans as a predatory people (Cicero, "Philippics," ii. 112), and were appreciated by them for their great skill in archery (Cæsar, "Bellum Africanum," 20).

The Itureans did not always possess the same land; as a nomadic people they roamed through the country, and when dispossessed of one place settled in another. Thus, according to I Chron. (v. 19-22), the people of Jetur, the Itureans of the Greeks, fell with the Hagarites into the hands of the children of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who occupied their country. Later, in the time of the Roman conquest, they dwelt in the region of Mount Lebanon.

Many Christian theologians, among them Eusebius ("Onomasticon," ed. Lagarde, pp. 268, 298), taking into consideration the above-cited passage of Luke, place Iturea near Trachonitis; but this seems contrary to all the historical sources. According to Josephus ("Ant." xiii. 11, § 3), the Iturean kingdom lay north of Galilee, and in 105 B.C. Aristobulus, having defeated the Itureans, annexed a part of their country to Judea, imposing Judaism upon the inhabitants. Strabo (xvi. 2, § 10, p. 753) includes the land of the Itureans in the kingdom of Ptolemy, son of Mennæus, whose residence was at Chalcis and who reigned 85-40 B.C. Ptolemy was succeeded by his son Lysanias, called by Dio Cassius (xlix. 32) "king of the Itureans." About 23 B.C. Iturea with the adjacent provinces fell into the hands of a chief named Zenodorus (Josephus, l.c. xv. 10, § 1; idem, "B. J." i. 20, § 4). Three years later, at the death of Zenodorus, Augustus gave Iturea to Herod the Great, who in turn bequeathed it to his son Philip (Josephus, "Ant." xv. 10, § 3).

That Iturea was in the region of Mount Lebanon is confirmed by an inscription of about the year 6 C.E. ("Ephemeris Epigraphica," 1881, pp. 537-542), in which Q. Æmilius Secundus relates that he was sent by Quirinius against the Itureans in Mount Lebanon. In 38 Caligula gave Iturea to a certain Soemus, who is called by Dio Cassius (lix. 12) and by Tacitus ("Annals," xii. 23) "king of the Itureans." After the death of Soemus (49) his kingdom was incorporated into the province of Syria (Tacitus, l.c.). After this incorporation the Itureans furnished soldiers for the Roman army; and the designations "Ala I. Augusta Ituræorum" and "Cohors I. Augusta Ituræorum" are met with in the inscriptions ("Ephemeris Epigraphica," 1884, p. 194).

  • G. A. Smith, in Hastings, Dict. Bible;
  • Winer, B. R.;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 707 et seq.
E. G. H. M. Sel.
Images of pages