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
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
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
a region. The importance of this league was
greatly strengthened by the advantageous
the principal towns. Scythopolis, the capital
of the Decapolis, lay at the head of the
plain of Esdraelon, to the west of the Jordan,
the natural portal from the sea to the great
interior plateau of Basan and Galaad. The
other cities were situated to the east of
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.
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
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
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