From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

The Romans gave the name Decapolis (meaning ‘ten cities’) to an extensive region situated largely south and east of the Sea of Galilee. Its inhabitants were mainly Gentiles. The New Testament mentions two of its localities, Gadara and Gerasa, and certain occasions on which Jesus visited the region. On one of these occasions Jesus healed a demon possessed man, though the incident brought him into conflict with local pig farmers ( Matthew 8:28;  Mark 5:1;  Mark 5:11-14;  Mark 7:31). Many of the people from the area joined the crowds that at one time followed Jesus ( Matthew 4:25).


Dedan was the name of a nomadic tribal group in northern Arabia. Their people were well known in Bible times as shrewd traders ( Isaiah 21:13;  Jeremiah 49:8;  Ezekiel 27:20;  Ezekiel 38:13; see Arabia ).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

DECAPOLIS. —A league of ten Greek cities (ἡ Δεκάπολις) in eastern Palestine, which was probably formed at the time of Pompey’s invasion of Palestine, 64–63 b.c. By the Greek cities Pompey was hailed as a deliverer from the Jewish yoke, and many towns elevated Pompey’s campaign to the dignity of an era. The coins of Gadara, Canatha, Pella, Dion, and Philadelphia use the Pompeian era. At first the league must have comprised just ten cities. According to Pliny ( HN v. 18), these were Scythopolis ( Beisân ), Hippos ( Susieh ), Gadara ( Umm Keis ), Pella ( Fahil ), Philadelphia ( ’Amman ), Gerasa ( Jerâsh ), Dion, Canatha ( Kanawât ), Damascus, and Raphana. The formation of a confederation of Greek cities in the midst of a Semitic population was necessary for the preservation of Hellenic civilization and culture. From the days of Alexander the Great, who sought to Hellenize the Orient by founding Greek cities throughout the conquered lands, there were Greek cities in Palestine. The Seleucid kings of Antioch and the Ptolemies encouraged the immigration of Greeks into this region. Among the cities occupied before 198 b.c. by the incoming Greeks were Pella, Dion, Philadelphia, Gadara, and Abila in the region east of the Jordan. Hippos and Gerasa are first named in the early part of the 1st cent. b.c. (Josephus BJ i. iv. 8). Among the cities liberated by Pompey from the Jewish yoke, Hippos, Scythopolis, and Pella are expressly named; and Gadara, which had been destroyed by the Jews, was rebuilt ( BJ i. vii. 7). Pompey annexed these cities to the province of Syria, but conferred upon them municipal freedom. All the cities of the Decapolis had in the Roman period the rights of coinage and asylum, and were allowed to maintain a league for defence against their common foes.

The first references in literature to the Decapolis are found in the Gospels. On our Lord’s first journey through all Galilee, He was attended by crowds from all parts of Palestine, among whom were persons from Decapolis ( Matthew 4:25). Most likely these were Jews, who formed a considerable part of the population even in Greek cities. The fierce Gerasene demoniac, whom our Lord healed, published in the Decapolis what things Jesus had done for him ( Mark 5:20). The presence of two thousand swine on the eastern shores of the Lake of Galilee would of itself suggest the presence of a Gentile population in that vicinity. When our Lord returned from Tyre and Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, He crossed the upper Jordan and passed south through the district governed by the tetrarch Philip to the eastern shore of the Lake. In order to reach the Sea of Galilee, He went ‘through the midst of the borders of Decapolis’ ( Mark 7:31). Hippos lay just east of the Lake, Gadara a few miles to the south-east, and in full view from the southern end; Pella and Scythopolis were not far to the south; while the other cities of the Decapolis lay to the north-east, east, and south-east of the Lake. Our Lord visited the Jewish population of Peraea in His later ministry, but He seems never to have made a tour to the great cities of the Decapolis. His rebuff in connexion with the destruction of the herd of swine was rather discouraging ( Mark 5:17).

Two famous writers of the latter part of the 1st cent. a.d. speak of the Decapolis. Pliny not only preserves the names of the ten cities ( HN v. 18), but also praises the small olives of the region ( Mark 15:4). Josephus refers to Decapolis repeatedly. In the 2nd cent. a.d. Ptolemy (v. xv. 22) names eighteen towns as belonging to the league of Decapolis. He omits Raphana from Pliny’s list, and adds nine, most of the new members of the confederation belonging to the district just south of Damascus. In his day Hellenic civilization and commerce in the region beyond the Jordan were at their zenith. The modern traveller, wandering over the ruins of temples, theatres, and baths at Gerasa, Philadelphia, and Gadara, is impressed with the glories of the Grecian life in Palestine during the period of our Lord’s earthly ministry and for some centuries afterwards.

Literature.—Schurer, HJ P [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] ii. i. 94 ff.: G. A. Smith, HGH L [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] 593 ff.; G. Holscher, Palastina in der pers. u. hellen. Zeit  ; Schumacher, Across the Jordan  ; Merrill, East of the Jordan .

John R. Sampey.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

 Matthew 4:25 Mark 5:20 Mark 7:31

The “Decapolis” is mentioned only in Matthew and Mark in the Bible. In  Mark 5:20 , Jesus healed a demoniac after which the man “began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him.”  Mark 7:31 states that after Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon he went “through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis.”   Matthew 4:25 adds no more to our knowledge of these cities.

Traditionally the Decapolis is assumed to be a league of cities which preserved the stronghold of Greek thought and life in Palestine and resisted the Semitic influences of the Jews. According to Pliny, however, it was not a very solid political alliance. A recent view is that it was not even a league, but a geographical region. These cities do seem to have much in common; they were centers for the spread of Greco-Roman culture and had no great love for the Jews. They were associated with one another closely enough that in some ways they were considered as a group, if not as a league. See Palestine .

W. Thomas Sawyer

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

DECAPOLIS . Originally a league of ten cities, Greek in population and constitution, for mutual defence against the Semitic tribes around them. It must have come into existence about the beginning of the Christian era. The original ten cities, as enumerated by Pliny, were Scythopolis, Pella, Dion, Gerasa, Philadelphia, Gadara, Raphana, Kanatha, Hippos, and Damascus. Other cities joined the league from time to time. The region of Decapolis (  Matthew 4:25 ,   Mark 5:20;   Mark 7:31 ) was the territory in which these cities were situated; that is (excluding Damascus), roughly speaking, the country S.E. of the Sea of Galilee.

R. A. S. Macalister.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

A district embracing ten cities (as its name implies). Afterthe conquest of Palestine by the Romans these cities were rebuilt and partly colonised, having peculiar privileges. Historians are not quite agreed as to which were the ten cities, but they are now generally held to have been Hippos, Gadara, Pella, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Dion, Canatha, Damascus, Raphana, and Scythopolis. All were on the east of the Jordan exceptScythopolis: but the name Decapolis seems to have been used for a district on the west ofthe Jordan as well as on the east.  Matthew 4:25;  Mark 5:20;  Mark 7:31 . It was to Pella that the Christians fled just before the destruction of Jerusalem.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

(From the Greek words, deka, ten, and polis, a city,) a country in Palestine, which contained ten principal cities, on both of the Jordan, chiefly east,  Matthew 4:25;  Mark 5:20;  7:31 . According to Pliny, they were, Scythopolis, Philadelphia, Raphanae, Gadara, Hippos, Dios, Pella, Gerasa, Canatha, and Damascus. Josephus inserts Otopos instead of Canatha. Though within the limits of Israel, the Decapolis was inhabited by many foreigners, and hence it retained a foreign appellation. This may also account for the numerous herds of swine kept in the district,  Matthew 8:30; a practice which was forbidden by the Mosaic Law.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Decapolis ( De-Kăp'O-L Ĭs ), Ten Cities. A region noticed three times in the Bible.  Matthew 4:25;  Mark 5:20;  Mark 7:31. It lay near the Sea of Galilee, probably on both sides of the Jordan. The cities were rebuilt by the Romans about b.c. 65; but as other cities grew up, writers are not agreed as to the names of the ten cities. Pliny gives them as follows: Scythopolis, Hippos, Gadara, Pella, Philadelphia, Gerasa, Dion, Canatha, Raphana, Damascus. Six are deserted, and none have many inhabitants except Damascus.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [8]

Thrice mentioned in Scripture:  Mark 5:20, which shows that it was around Gadara ( Mark 7:31;  Matthew 4:25). A district containing ten cities, rebuilt, colonized, and granted special privileges by Rome 65 B.C. Other cities afterward receiving similar privileges cause confusion as to which are the original ten; probably Scythopolis (W. of Jordan), Hippos, Gadara, Philadelphia, Pella, Gerasa, Dion, Canatha, Damascus, Raphana (all E. of Jordan). The region once so populous is now almost without inhabitants, except a few living in savagery amidst the ruins and cavern tombs of Scythopolis, Gadara, and Canatha.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

a country in Palestine, so called, because it contained ten principal cities; some situated on the west, and some on the east side of Jordan,  Matthew 4:25;  Mark 5:20 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Matthew 4:25 Mark 5:20 7:31

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

( Δεκάπολις ,  Mark 5:20, but without the art. in  Matthew 4:25,  Mark 7:3; i.e. Αἱ Δέκα Πόλεις , the ten cities, as in Josephus, Life , 65), a district (hence in Pliny, v. 16, 17, Decapolitana Regio ), or rather certain ten cities (including their adjacent villages or suburbs. Josephus, Life , 9), which resembled each other in being inhabited mostly by Gentiles (Lightfoot, Opp. 2:417), and in their civic institutions and privileges (Josephus, Life, 74). They were situated in the neighborhood of the Sea of Gennesareth ( Mark 7:31; comp. Joseph. War, 3, 9, 7), near the eastern side of the Jordan, and in what was called the Roman province of Syria (Josephus, Life, 65). The name Decapolis does not occur in the Apocrypha, and, according to Mannert, it is only found in writers of the first century; in later times there is scarcely an allusion to it (Geographie der Griechen und Romer, VI, 1:244). Immediately after the conquest of Syria by the Romans (B.C. 65), ten cities appear to have been rebuilt, partly colonized, and endowed with peculiar privileges (Josephus, Ant. 15:7, 3; 17:11, 4); the country around them was hence called Decapolis. The limits of the territory were not very clearly defined, and probably in the course of time other neighboring cities received similar privileges. This may account for the fact that ancient geographers speak so indefinitely of the province, and do not even agree as to the names of the cities themselves. Pliny (Hist. Nat. v. 16), while admitting that there was some variation in the list, enumerates them as follows: Damascus, Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Gelasa (? Gerasa), and Canatha; he adds (v. 18), "The tetrarchies lie between and around these cities. . . . namely, Trachonitis, Panias, Abila," etc. These cities are scattered over a very wide region. If Raphana be, as many suppose, the same as Raphansea of Josephus, it lay near Hamath (Joseph. War, 7:5, 1), and from thence to Philadelphia on the south is above 200 miles, and from Scythopolis on the west to Canatha on the east is about 60. Josephus does not enumerate the cities of Decapolis; but it would seem that he excludes Damascus from the number, since he calls Scythopolis the largest of them (War, 3:9, 7). He also incidentally includes most of the other cities named: e.g. Philadelphia (War, 2:18, 1), Gadara and Hippos (Life, 65, 74); while Epiphanius (Haer. 1:30, 2) names Pella as belonging to this district, and in Stephen of Byzantium Gerasa appears in the same general connection. Cellarius thinks Caesarea-Philippi and Gergasa ought to be substituted in Pliny's list for Damascus and Raphana (Notit. 2:630). Pliny is undoubtedly the only author who extends Decapolis so far north. Ptolemy appears to include Decapolis in the southern part of Coele-Syria (Geogr. v. 15); he also (v. 17) makes Capitolias one of the ten; and an old Palmyrene inscription quoted by Reland (Palaest. p. 525) includes Abila, a town which, according to Eusebius (Onom. s.v. Abila), was 12 Roman miles east of Gadara. Lightfoot (Hor. Hebr. p. 563 sq.) enumerates from Talmudical sources (Jerus. Talm. Demai, fol. 22, 3), as belonging to Decapolis, besides Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippo, and Pella, the following less-known towns and villages, which, like Scythopolis (q.v.), were generally esteemed as heathen and under Gentile rule: Cephar-Carnaim ( כפר קרנים ), Cephar- Zemach ( צמח כפר ), Beth-Gurin ( בית גורין ), Arbo ( ערבו ), and Caesarea-Philippi. Brocardus, a writer of the 13th century, even describes Decapolis as extending in breadth from the Sea of Galilee to Sidon, and in length from Tiberias to Damascus, including the following ten chief towns: "Tiberias, Sophet, Cedes Nephtalim, Assor, Caesarea-Philippi, Capernaum; Jonitera, Bethsaida, Corazin, and Bethsan" ( Descr. Terrae Sanctac , in Le Clerc's ed. of Euseb. Onomast. p. 175). Andronichus gives an account of the extent of the Decapolis substantially the same ( Theatr. Terrae Sanctae). But these statements are justly pronounced by Lightfoot (Opp. 2:417 sq.) as pure suppositions. All the cities of Decapolis, with the single exception of Scythopolis, lay on the east of the Jordan; and both Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Decapolis) say that the district was situated "beyond the Jordan, around Hippos, Pella, and Gadara" that is, to the east and southeast of the Sea of Galilee. With this also agrees the statement in  Mark 5:20, that the demoniac who was cured at Gadara "began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done to him." The phraseology in  Matthew 4:25;  Mark 7:31, implying a situation on the west of the Jordan, must therefore be understood in a popular and general sense of a district but vaguely bounded, and one of whose towns was on that side of the river. In the latter passage indeed the entire difficulty vanishes, if, with the latest critics, we read Διὰ Σιδῶνος instead of Καὶ Σιδῶνος , and place these words after Ὴλθε , thus: "And again departing from the coasts of Tyre, he came through Sidon unto the Sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. In that case our Lord traveled from Tyre northward to Sidon; then he appears to have crossed Lebanon by the great road to Caesarea-Philippi; and from thence he descended through Decapolis to the eastern shore of the lake, where he fed the multitude (comp.  Matthew 15:29-38;  Mark 8:1-9). It thus appears that "the region of Decapolis" was beyond the Jordan, with the exception of the little territory of Scythopolis close to the western bank, at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. In addition to Damascus and Scythopolis, whose sites are well known, its chief towns were: Gadara, about six miles southeast of the lake; Pella, on the side of the range of Gilead, opposite Scythopolis; Philadelphia, the ancient Rabboth-Ammon; Gerasa, whose ruins are the most magnificent in all Palestine; and Canatha, the Kenath of the Bible, situated eastward among the mountains of Bashan. Decapolis was not strictly a province, like Galilee, Persea, or Trachonitis. It was rather an assemblage of little principalities, classed together, not because of their geographical position, but because they enjoyed the same privileges, somewhat after the manner of the Hanse Towns in Germany. This region, once so populous and prosperous, from which multitudes flocked to hear the Savior, and through which multitudes followed his footsteps, is now almost without an inhabitant. Six out of the ten cities are completely ruined and deserted. Scythopolis, Gadara, and Canatha have still a few families, living, more like wild beasts than human beings, amid the crumbling ruins of palaces, and in the cavernous recesses of old tombs. Damascus alone continues to flourish, like an oasis in a desert. (See Peraea).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

dē̇ - kap´ō̇ - lis ( Δεκάπολις , Dekápolis ): The name given to the region occupied by a league of "ten cities" ( Matthew 4:25;  Mark 5:20;  Mark 7:31 ), which Eusebius defines (in Onomasticon ) as "lying in the Peraea, round Hippos, Pella and Gadara." Such combinations of Greek cities arose as Rome assumed dominion in the East, to promote their common interests in trade and commerce, and for mutual protection against the peoples surrounding them. This particular league seems to have been constituted about the time of Pompey's campaign in Syria, 65 bc, by which several cities in Decapolis dated their eras. They were independent of the local tetrarchy, and answerable directly to the governor of Syria. They enjoyed the rights of association and asylum; they struck their own coinage, paid imperial taxes and were liable to military service ( Ant. , Xiv , iv, 4; BJ , I, vii, 7; II, xviii, 3; III, ix, 7; Vita , 65, 74). Of the ten cities, Scythopolis, the ancient Bethshean, alone, the capital of the league, was on the West side of Jordan. The names given by Pliny ( NH , v.18) are Scythopolis ( Beisān ), Hippos ( Susiyeh ), Gadara ( Umm Ḳeis ), Pella ( Fahil ), Philadelphia ( ‛Ammān ), Gerasa ( Jerash ), Dion ( Adūn  ? ), Canatha ( Ḳanawāt ), Damascus and Raphana. The last named is not identified, and Dion is uncertain. Other cities joined the league, and Ptolemy, who omits Raphans, gives a list of 18. The Greek inhabitants were never on good terms with the Jews; and the herd of swine ( Mark 5:11 ) indicates contempt for what was probably regarded as Jewish prejudice. The ruins still seen at Gadara, but especially at Ḳanawāt (see Kenath ) and Jerash, of temples, theaters and other public buildings, attest the splendor of these cities in their day.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Decap´olis. This appears to denote not, as is frequently stated, a particular province or district, but certain Ten Cities, including the adjacent villages, which resembled each other in being inhabited mostly by Gentiles, and in their civic institutions and privileges. In , it is said, 'Multitudes followed Jesus from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan.' This must be considered as a popular mode of expression, just as, in describing a public meeting in this country, it might be said 'numbers attended it from Kent and Sussex, and from the Cinque Ports.' We, therefore, cannot agree with Dr. Lightfoot in thinking it 'absurd to reckon the most famed cities of Galilee for cities of Decapolis, when, both in sacred and profane authors, Galilee is plainly distinguished from Decapolis.' One at least of the Decapolitan towns (Scythopolis, formerly Bethshan) was in Galilee, and several, if not all the rest, were in the country beyond Jordan. Pliny gives the following list, but allows that a difference of opinion existed as to its correctness. 1. Damascus; 2. Philadelphia; 3. Raphana; 4. Scythopolis; 5. Gadara: 6. Hippos; 7. Dion; 8. Pella; 9. Galasa; 10. Canatha. Josephus speaks of Gadara and Hippos as Grecian cities, and calls Scythopolis the greatest city of the Decapolis, from which it may be inferred that he excluded Damascus from the number. For Damascus and Raphana, Cellarius substitutes Caesarea Philippi and Gergesa, and Ptolemy Capitolias. The name Decapolis was in course of time applied to more than ten towns, a circumstance which may in part account for the discrepancies in the lists given by various writers. The Decapolitan towns referred to in the Gospels were evidently situated not far from the Sea of Galilee .