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The Decapolis
Mark 5:20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
 
Decapolis
The oval forum and cardo of Gerasa (Jerash). Pliny the Elder mentions this city as being part of the Decapolis.
 
Stone relief with a cross from Gerasa (Jerash)
 
Temple in Gerasa (Jerash) one of the cities of the Decapolis.
Temple in Gerasa (Jerash) one of the cities of the Decapolis.
 
 
 
 

History
Decapolis is derived from the Greek word meaning Ten Cities (deka meaning ten, and polis meaning a city). The Decapolis was a ten-city Greco-Roman federation, or league, occupying all of Bashan and Gilead in northeastern Palestine. The territory was contiguous except for Damascus which some believe to have been an honorary member. Eusebius records it as the region around Hippos, Pella, and Gadara (Eusebius, Onomasticon, s.v). Created under Pompey the Great, about 64-63 BCE as part of his eastern settlement, the league provided a formidable means of defense on the eastern frontier of the empire. Such leagues existed in other parts of the Roman empire for purposes of trade and mutual protection.

Historians Mention the Decapolis Outside of the Bible

Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny, and other ancient geographers and historians make frequent references to it.

It was after Pompey's conquest that the league of the Decapolis was formed. There is no record of the year, and although most likely it was soon after the coming of Pompey, yet it may not have been until Herod's time. The earliest list of the ten cities of the Decapolis is Pliny's, which mentions Scythopolis, Pella, Hippo, Dion, Gerasa, Philadelphia, Raphana, Canatha, and Damascus.

Acts 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Later, Ptolemy enumerates eighteen cities, thus showing that the term Decapolis was applied to a region. The importance of this league was greatly strengthened by the advantageous positions of the principal towns. Scythopolis, the capital of the Decapolis, lay at the head of the plain of Esdraelon, to the west of the Jordan, guarding the natural portal from the sea to the great interior plateau of Basan and Galaad. The other cities were situated to the east of the Jordan on the great routes along which passed the commerce of the whole country. To-day the cities of the Decapolis, with the exception of Damascus, are deserted and in ruins.

The New Testament gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention that the Decapolis region was a location of the ministry of Jesus. The Decapolis was one of the few regions where Jesus travelled in which Gentiles (people who are not Jewish) were in the majority. Mark 5:1-10 emphasizes the Decapolis' Gentile character when Jesus encounters a herd of pigs, an animal forbidden by Kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws.


Scriptures
Mark 5:20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

Matthew 4:25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

Mark 7:31 And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.