Updated: Mar 15, 2019
The Decapolis (Δεκάπολις), was made up of ten cities, most of which were constructed between the 4th century BC and 1st Century BC. They were Greek in origins and it was expected to contain the Greek colonist, who lived with the Semitic cultural people. This caused a few fights here and there due to the different practices and traditions.
In 63 BC, Pompey, a Roman general, conquered the eastern Mediterranean, and with the people viewing him as a savior from the oppressive Jewish Hasmonean Kingdom, Pompey reorganized the cities and gave them autonomy under the protection of the Romans, officially creating the Decapolis.
Don’t get the wrong idea. These cities never had an official power. They were more like cities with a certain autonomy from the Romans and contained some political power. While autonomous, yet not included in the Herodian Kingdom territory, they were able to mint their own coins. The Romans left their mark by rebuilding each one with a Roman-style grid of streets.
These were based around a central cardo (a north-south street in Roman cities) and decumanus (a west-east street in Roman cities). With the rebuilding of the cities came the temples and the imperial cult, which was quite common back then. This was the worship of the Roman Emperor. The land is known for having a few Kalybes, open-air temples, that were unique to the Romans.
The cities were:
Gadara, also known as Umm Qais, in Jordan Gerasa, also known as modern day Jerash, located in Jordan
Scythopolis, also known Biblically as
Beit-she’an, the only city located west of the Jordan River
Hippos, known as Sussita, on the Golan Heights
Pella, west of Irbid, in Jordan
Philadelphia, modern day Amman, capital of Jordan
Capitolias, known as Dion and speculated to be Beit Ras, Jordan
Canatha, also known as Qanawat, in Syria
Raphala, known as Abila in JordanDamascus, capital of Syria
The historical signicance of the Decapolis is found in our Bible and dates back to the time of Moses, King Saul, King David, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul. King Saul's body, after his death and defeat, is hung on the walls at Bet Shean. David covers his relationship with Bathsheba by sending Uriah into the battle front where he dies. This happens at what is known as Philadelphia or Ammon Rabbaoth.
The Gospel traveled through-out the Decapolis after the demoniac is healed by Jesus. Huge crowds follow Jesus and His teachings, and some were from the ten towns known as the Decapolis. Finally, The Apostle Paul is on his way to Damascus to arrest people for following the Way. Below you will find the references in the Scriptures that help us see how the Bible comes to life, including the Deacapolis.
Luke 8:22-39 - Jesus and the Demoniac (Gerasenes, - Gadara)
22 One day Yeshua got into a boat with his talmidim and said to them, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 23 So they set out; and as they were sailing, he fell asleep. A windstorm came down on the lake, so that the boat began to fill up with water, putting them in great danger. 24 They went and woke him, saying, “Rabbi! Rabbi! We’re about to die!” He woke up, rebuked the wind and the rough water; and they calmed down, so that it was still. 25 Then he said to the talmidim, “Where is your trust?” Awestruck, they marveled, asking one another, “Who can this be, that he commands even the wind and the water, and they obey him?”
26 They sailed on and landed in the region of the Gerasenes, which is opposite the Galil. 27 As Yeshua stepped ashore, a man from the town who had demons came to meet him. For a long time he had not worn clothes; and he lived, not in a house, but in the burial caves. 28 Catching sight of Yeshua, he screamed, fell down in front of him and yelled, “Yeshua! Son of God Ha‘Elyon! What do you want with me? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Yeshua had ordered the unclean spirit to come out of the man. It had often taken hold of him — he had been kept under guard, chained hand and foot, but had broken the bonds and been driven by the demon into the desert.
Mark 5:1-23 - Jesus and the Demoniac (Gerasenes, - Gadara)
5 Yeshua and his talmidim arrived at the other side of the lake, in the Gerasenes’ territory. 2 As soon as he disembarked, a man with an unclean spirit came out of the burial caves to meet him. 3 He lived in the burial caves; and no one could keep him tied up, not even with a chain. 4 He had often been chained hand and foot, but he would snap the chains and break the irons off his feet, and no one was strong enough to control him. 5 Night and day he wandered among the graves and through the hills, howling and gashing himself with stones.
Acts 9:1-6 - Apostle Shaul/Paul (Dammesek - Damascus)
9 Meanwhile, Sha’ul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s talmidim, went to the cohen hagadol 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Dammesek, authorizing him to arrest any people he might find, whether men or women, who belonged to “the Way,” and bring them back to Yerushalayim.
3 He was on the road and nearing Dammesek, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed all around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Sha’ul! Sha’ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?” 5 “Sir, who are you?” he asked. “I am Yeshua, and you are persecuting me. 6 But get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.”
1 Samuel 31:10-13 - King Shaul/Saul (Beit-Sh’an - Beit-Shan)
10 Then they put his armor in the temple for the ‘ashtarot and fastened his body to the wall of Beit-Sh’an. 11 When the people living in Yavesh-Gil‘ad heard what the P’lishtim had done to Sha’ul, 12 all their warriors set out, traveling all night. They took the body of Sha’ul and the bodies of his sons off the wall of Beit-Sh’an, returned to Yavesh and burned them there. 13 Then they took their bones, buried them under the tamarisk tree in Yavesh and fasted seven days.
Matthew 4:25 - Jesus (Decapolis)
25 Huge crowds followed him from the Galil, the Ten Towns (Decapolis), Yerushalayim, Y’hudah, and ‘Ever-HaYarden.
Mark 7:31 - Jesus (Decapolis)
31 Then he left the district of Tzor and went through Tzidon to Lake Kinneret and on to the region of the Ten Towns (Decapolis).
2nd Samuel 11:1 - David - [Amman (Rabbah)]
11 In the spring, at the time when kings go out to war, David sent out Yo’av, his servants who were with him and all Isra’el. They ravaged the people of ‘Amon and laid siege to Rabbah. But David stayed in Yerushalayim.
Numbers 32:42 - Knat - Novach captures (Canatha - Qanawat)
42 Novach went and captured K'nat with its villages and named it Novach after himself.
1 Chronicles 2:23 - Knat [Canatha - Qanawat]
23 (But G’shur and Aram took Havot-Ya’ir away from them, along with K’nat and its villages — sixty cities.) All these were descendants of Machir the father of Gil‘ad.