Decapolis is derived from the Greek word meaning Ten Cities (deka meaning ten, and polis meaning a city). They were a group of cities generally located to the east of the The Sea Of Galilee. During His human lifetime, Jesus Christ was well familiar with the neighboring Decapolis from His home on the north shore of the sea, at Capernaum, after He left Nazareth.
The Decapolis were inhabited primarily by Greek people who settled in the region after the time of Alexander the Great's conquest (see Ancient Empires - Greece), and were established as a political entity after the Romans occupied the land from about 65 B.C. (see Ancient Empires - Rome and Roman Legions and Roman Roads).
The cities were Scythopolis, ("city of the Scythians" - ancient Bethshean, the only one of the Decapolis located to the west of the Jordan River), Hippus, Gadara, Pella (to which the Christians fled just before the destruction of Jerusalem), Philadelphia (ancient Rabbath-ammon), Gerasa, Dion, Canatha, Raphana, and Damascus. According to Ptolomy, their number was later increased to eighteen, although the others are not identified with certainty.
According to ancient historians, the Decapolis had their own courts, army and coinage. Ruins found today of their theaters, temples and other buildings indicate that they were an advanced culture for their time.
The area of the Decapolis was the scene of a number of New Testament events -
- Jesus Christ cured a man of demon possession near Gadara:
"And He was asking him, What is your name? And he said to Him, My name is Legion; for we are many. And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. The demons implored Him, saying, Send us into the swine so that we may enter them. Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea." (Mark 5:9-13 NIV)
- Later, the man cured of demon possession sought to go with The Lord:
"As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you. And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed." (Mark 5:18-20 NIV)
- Jesus cured a man of deafness there:
"Again He went out from the region of Tyre, and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, Ephphatha! that is, Be opened! And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly." (Mark 7:31-35 NIV)
- The Lord became very popular in the area:
"The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan." (Matthew 4:24-25 NIV)
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