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The Decapolis: An Historical-Archaeological Survey

By Arthur Segal

The Concept of  City Leagues and its Significance

The term Decapolis that is to say, ten cities, is mentioned several times in the sources. In no instance is the term ‘league’[1] associated with it, and in fact its application is always regional, and the reference is always to the ‘Decapolis area’ (Regio Decapolitana) and not to the ‘Decapolis league’ The concept of ‘city leagues’ has been known in the Greek world since the Archaic period and down to the Roman period, but their character and purpose have changed from time to time and from one place to another.

The Greek city-states (the ‘poleis’) zealously guarded their independence. At the same time, whenever an external danger threatened, they knew how to unite together and to create a common front. Thus the ‘city leagues’ was an accepted mechanism in the Greek world, and one of the better-known examples was the ‘Delian League’, established in 478 BCE under the leadership of Athens.

City leagues in the Greek world were not always established solely in times of danger, but were also founded on a common ethnic or cultic basis.[2] The representatives of the cities in the league met once a year at a commonly shared cultic center to decide on matters concerning them.[3] These leagues continued to exist even when most of the Greek cities found themselves within larger and stronger political frameworks in the territories of both the Hellenistic and the Roman Empires. Even when the military and political significance of these leagues declined, the cultic traditions or the cultural links were sufficient to maintain their continued existence.[4]

DecapolisMap 39

The Decapolis

The Decapolis area included cities that saw themselves as ‘poleis’ in all respects. They created a territorial continuity that stretched from Dion in the north to Philadelphia in the south and from Beth-Shean (Scythopolis) in the west to the desert frontier in the east. Most of the cities were founded during the Seleucid Period, but Gadara, Scythopolis, Pella and Philadelphia were apparently founded by the Ptolemies.

We know very little about the composition of the population in these cities. The names appearing on the numerous inscriptions found in the region tell us nothing about the ethnic mix of the inhabitants, because both the Nabataeans and the Jews tended to adopt Greek names. It may be assumed that most of the population was of Semitic origin, and among them were probably the descendants of Nabataeans who had ruled the region to the east of the Decapolis, and had close ties with them.

The cities functioned as ‘poleis’ in all respects. They were governed by elected municipal councils and did everything to demonstrate that they were actually city- states.[5] Public buildings were erected for the residents and funded by them, which is further proof for their having been ‘poleis’. The construction of the various buildings, mainly temples, theatres, bath houses and decorative buildings such asnymphaea and tetrakionia, were not only meant for the welfare of the residents but also as a source of pride for the city and a demonstration of its wealth and achievements.

The cities in the Decapolis region did not resemble each other in their urban plans. Each city proposed its own particular planning solutions, but with regard to the choice of public buildings and their style of decoration, there was a surprising similarity among them. In all of them there were colonnaded streets that were impressive thoroughfares leading from one city compound to another. The colonnaded street had an important function in forming the city landscape, and the main public buildings were constructed along it. In nearly all the cities there were public plazas surrounded by porticos. Some of them were used as agoras or forums, that is to say, central city plazas in which trading activity and public and political life were conducted.

Prominent among the entertainment structures was the theatre. In each city there was at least one theatre. In Gerasa there were three, and in Philadelphia and Gadara there were two. In Gadara and Beth-Shean circuses were also discovered. The many bath houses and the select number of decorative structures inspired by Roman architecture, with triumphal arches and tetrapyla indicate the degree of Roman penetration and influence which is also shown in the temples typical for that region.[6] The architectonic adornments were also an expression of the rich and fascinating merging together of Hellenistic and Roman sources of inspiration. The architecture in the Decapolis was, therefore, of an eclectic and ‘baroque’ character, and derived its inspiration from both east and west besides the local taste. There is a conspicuous tendency in these cities for monumentalization. The location of the temples and the sanctuaries, the impressive thoroughfares and the decorative buildings, all these created an attractive city panorama that gave evidence of wealth and power.

The region of the Decapolis is a typical example of the attraction and charm of classical culture. The Jewish, Nabataean and Syrio-Phoenician east was influenced by the trends, ideas, and of lifestyle that the Greeks and Macedonians brought with them, though this was not merely a matter of imitation and the acceptance of ready-made models. The architects and artists who worked in the Decapolis region showed creativity and inventive abilities that deserve appreciation. The spatial planning solutions, as expressed in Gerasa, Gadara orPhiladelphia, confirm this. The impressive public buildings, with their decorative facades facing the colonnaded streets, indicate a rich and fascinating city panorama.

The Pax Romana and open borders generated economic prosperity allowed the cities to direct their resources to construction, to demonstrate their wealth and power and to compete with each other in magnificent temples and public buildings.

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The most ancient and reliable historical source on the Decapolis is Pliny the Elder (c.23-79 CE). In his book Naturalis Historia he tells us that near Judaea, in the direction of Syria, extends the ‘Decapolis region’ that was called so because of the number of cities it contained. He emphasizes that not everyone refers to the same cities listed, but most of them included the follow cities: Philadelphia, Raphana, Scythopolis,Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Gerasa, Kanawat and Abila (N.H. V. xvi. 74). An additional list of the cities appears in Josephus (Antiquities XIV, 76).

The concept of the Decapolis is associated in the minds of historians with the ‘new order’ that Pompey installed along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean after the fall of the Seleucid Empire in 63 BCE and the liberation of the cities from Hasmonean rule. Most of the cities of the Decapolis were situated to the east of the Jordan River and created a continuous territorial bloc. The southernmost one was Philadelphiaand the northernmost one was Dion or Dium. Only one city, Scythopolis, which was considered the largest and most powerful of them all, was situated on the west bank of the Jordan.

The cities of the Decapolis had much in common. Most of them were founded during the Hellenistic Period under Seleucid rule, and they were given the encouragement and support of the Seleucid monarchs who saw them as a counterweight to the  kingdoms that lay to the west (the Kingdom of Judaea) and to the east (the Nabataean Kingdom). Most of the population in the cities was Hellenized and the citizens saw themselves as citizens of a ‘polis’ in every respect.

The arrival of Pompey marked for them the end of the short-lived Hasmonean hegemony and their freedom as ‘independent cities’. Even Roman rule, like that of the Seleucids, favored the independence of these cities and wished to promote them as a counterweight to the Judaean and Nabataean kingdoms. From the days of Pompey the cities were part of the Provincia Syria. Yet the Roman authorities did not hesitate to transfer Hippos (Sussita) and Gadara to the area ruled by Herod. It is unnecessary to state that this was not at all pleasant for the residents of those cities, and in the year 20 BCE the residents of Gadara requested to be released from Herod’s rule and become once again a part of Provincia Syria.

After the dissolution of the Nabataean Kingdom by Trajan (106 CE), the Decapolis region was included in Provincia Arabia, a new province that more or less extended over the former kingdom of the Nabataeans. From then onward, the residents of the Decapolis were subject to the governor of the new province who was stationed in Bosra. From historical evidence it therefore appears that the Decapoliswas mainly a geographical concept, and the cities included in it did not organize themselves into a real ‘city league’.

We have here a phenomenon typical of the Greek and Roman world of grouping together cities that were adjacent to each other and formed a residential bloc of a uniform character, and giving them a general name that refers to them all. The term Decapolis was widely used at the time and we find it mentioned not only among historians such as Pliny and Josephus, but also in the New Testament and in inscriptions from the early centuries of the Christian Era.

Description of the Cities in the Decapolis Region (Regio Decapolitana)

The following is a brief description of seven of the cities in the Decapolis region (from north to south):

Hippos - Sussita[7]

Sussita, or as it was known by its Greek name, Antiochia Hippos, was founded at the beginning of Seleucid rule when they wrested possession of Land of Israel from the Ptolemies in the year 200 BCE. Sussita is not often mentioned in historical sources, and it appears that its fate was similar to that of the other cities of the Decapolis.
It is mentioned by Josephus Flavius in connection with the wars of Alexander Jannaeus, the greatest of the Hasmonean kings. He mentions it again in his account of Herod’s reign (20 BCE) and in his description of the final days of the Great Revolt against the Romans in the Galilee (67 CE). In spite of the proximity of Sussita to the region in which Jesus was active, it was not mentioned in the New Testament.

Coins of the city and other inscriptions that were discovered in Sussita and its surroundings shed a little more light on the various events that city had undergone during the Roman-Byzantine Periods. After the Muslim conquest in the first half of the 7th century CE, Sussita begins to declineSusita12 01, but it continued to exist until 749 CE when it was destroyed by an earthquake, and was never rebuilt again.
In spite of the fact that many surveyors have visited the city during the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, excavations in the city were begun only in the year 2000 by an archaeological team from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa, with the cooperation of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the National Museum in Warsaw. So far three seasons of excavations have been conducted, but the investigation of Sussita is still at an early stage.

Sussita is situated on a high mountain about two kilometers east of the Lake of Tiberias (Sea of Galilee), and 350 m. above the level of the lake. The mountain on which the city was erected is almost entirely disconnected from its surroundings, with just a narrow saddle between it and the lower western slopes of the Golan Heights. The top of the mountain on which the city stands is flat and slopes gradually towards the west. The shape of the city was naturally suited to the contours of the mountain, and for that reason Sussita has a rectangular shape. Its length from east to west was about 600 m. and its maximum width from north to south was about 200 m.

HipposForumPanorama

The urban plan of Sussita was well suited to the contour of the mountain. The main colonnaded street (the decumanus maximus) traverses the city along its full length (600 m.) on an east-west axis, and is bisected perpendicularly by the cardines, that is, streets that lie in a north-south direction. At the center of the city there is a broad rectangular-shaped forum paved with basalt flagstones. Beneath the forum there is an underground water reservoir roofed over by an impressive barrel vault. The forum is bordered on the west by a monumental structure built of basalt ashlars. In the center of its main façade, the one that faces the forum is a semi-circular apse. This structure has been identified as a kalybe, a temple for the Imperial Cult, dated to the 2nd or the beginning of the 3rd century CE. On the eastern side of the forum there is a bath house (not yet excavated), while on the northern side the forum is bordered by a sanctuary (the temenos) dating from Hellenistic times. So far only a small section of it has been excavated, but it is already clear that it was a highly impressive sanctuary that was surround by a wall built in a typical Hellenistic manner. The sanctity of this site was retained for a very long time, because temples of both the Hellenistic and Roman periods were built within it. Moreover, during the Byzantine period, a church was erected over the remains of the pagan structures. This was, by the way, one of the four churches built in the city during that period.

Proposed East Gate reconstruction

Sussita, as in all other cities of the Decapolis, was surrounded by a wall. Its course is clearly visible on the surface. The city had two gates, one located at the eastern end and the other at the western end of thedecumanus maximus. It appears that the fortifications of the city must be dated to the beginning of the Roman period. 
There were no fresh water sources in the Sussita area, and the city was therefor dependent upon external sources of water. The water supply to the city was provided by an aqueduct of a superb quality that was constructed at the beginning of the Roman period, and by which spring water was brought into the city from a great distance.

 

Abila

Abila is mentioned in Pliny’s list and also by Josephus, as well as in later sources. It was identified already at the beginning of the 19th century with Tel Abil, and this identification is also accepted by scholars today. The city was thoroughly surveyed by Schumacher in 1889 and was excavated in recent years by American archaeologists. The remains of the site are visible on the surface and are spread over two hills: the northern hill (Tel Abil) and the southern hill. They are connected by a saddle. The remains of paved Roman road, perhaps the main street of the city, are easily recognizable. The urban center of Abila is spread along the southern slope of the northern hill, and even before excavation, the remains of many structures were visible. In the saddle between the northern and southern hills, one may discern the remains of theatre that has just started to be excavated. In the acropolis, which was at the top of the northern hill, sections of buildings can be seen. This place was apparently the cultic center of the city.

Gadara

Gadara is one of four cities in the Decapolis region that were founded during the Ptolemaic and not in the Seleucid Period. It is mentioned very often in historical sources, and it even appears on the Peutinger Map. Gadara is identified with Umm Qeis, above theYarmuk River. From the city one can get an alluring vista of the Yarmuk Valley, the Lake of Tiberias and the Galilee. The city was surveyed by Schumacher in 1890, and for the past twenty years excavations have been conducted there by a German team.The shape of Gadara is rectangular, and its lengthwise axis points in the east-west direction. At the western edge of the city lies the acropolis, a natural hill on which two theatres and other public buildings that have not yet been identified were erected. The main street of the city stretches westward from the acropolis. This was a paved colonnaded street that traversed almost the entire length of the city (about 800 m.). On the north and south side of the street a few public buildings were constructed, and their excavation is now in progress. At the western edge of the street lay a hippodrome which has not yet been excavated. To its east, there was the main gate of Gadara. The city is in the process of a comprehensive excavation, and only a small part of it has so far been exposed.
Gadara was highly acclaimed during the Hellenistic-Roman period not because of its buildings but for the eminent persons who lived there and who had made their mark in literature, poetry and philosophy. This was the only city in the Decapolis from which there emerged well-known figures who had found fame in the Hellenistic-Roman world in the field of classical culture.
At the end of the 2nd century BCE , the lyrical poet Meleagros, born in Gadara, received high acclaim. His short elegiac poems were very popular, and more than a hundred of them have been preserved. In some of his poems he even mentions Gadara as his native city and shows pride in it. Another poet, Philodemos, was active during the first century BCE and was also famous for his lyrical poems, many of which survive today. He was also famed as a philosopher and was an outstanding representative of the Epicurean school of thought. Theodoros of the first century CE became famous as a teacher of rhetoric. Among his pupils was no other than the Emperor Tiberius. He was also known as the author of several historical treatises, among them was one on the history of Syria, but this is no longer extant.

Beth-Shean (Nysa-Scythopolis)

Beth-Shean was the largest and richest among the cities of the Decapolis, and the only one that was located on the western bank of the Jordan. Its full name in Greek was Nysa-Scythopolis, and Dionysus was one of the most highly honored gods in the city. This Hellenistic city which was apparently founded during the period of Ptolemaic rule over the Land of Israel, was built at the foot of the biblical tell, with the tell itself serving as a cultic site with one of the main temples of the city erected on its peak. We do not know the precise location and extent of the Hellenistic city, but according to historical sources, Beth-Shean was a central city in northern Israelduring the Ptolemaic and Seleucid periods. Its excellent location at an important crossroads, the abundance of water sources, the fertile agricultural soil around it, all served as a strong economic basis for the thriving prosperity of the city.

Beth-Shean reached the peak of its prosperity in the Roman period, mainly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. In this period most of the public buildings were erected and the final plan of the city was formed. Unlike many other cities in the Land of Israel, it continued to flourish even during the Byzantine period. Its gradual decline began in the early Islamic period. Beth-Shean was destroyed, like many other Decapolis cities, in the violent earthquake of 749 CE.

ScythopolisOver the past two decades a large-scale excavation has been conducted in Beth-Shean, one of the biggest excavation projects that have ever taken place in Israel. The excavators from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Antiquities Authority have exposed the center of the Roman-Byzantine city. They found it to have been very carefully planned in spite of the fact that the colonnaded streets did not cross each other at a perpendicular angle, as is the accepted practice in most of the cities planned during the Roman period. The Roman and Byzantine city planners have arranged the network of streets in line with the local topography. The deep gorge of the HarodRiver and its rivulets that flow through the city and the ancient tell of the biblical Beth-Shean entailed special planning that would suit the environmental conditions.
The result was spectacular – a city with colonnaded streets at its center with shaded pavements alongside them. On each side of the streets there were public buildings such as temples, nymphaea, two spacious bath houses, a forum and a basilica. Special attention should be given to the entertainment structures that included an odeum, a theatre, and a circus (hippodrome). The latter was converted during the late Roman period into an amphitheatre. The theatre and odeum were erected in the heart of the city, near the forum, while the circus, because of its large size, was constructed in the southern part of the city, far from the crowded center.

Unlike other cities in the Land of Israel, which declined in status during the Byzantine period, Beth-Shean continued to flourish as mentioned above, and it even rose to the rank of being the capital of an important region known as Palaestina Secunda. This high status brought a renewed wave of urban construction and the renovation of the existing buildings. The slow decline of Beth-Shean began in the Umayyad period. The city was destroyed by the great earthquake of 749.

Pella

The name Pella hints perhaps at its early founding by the demobilized soldiers of Alexander the Great, because it was named after the city of Pella in Macedonia, the birthplace of Alexander. It is mentioned for the first time in connection with events that took place in the region during the 3rd century BCE. As with other cities in the region, Pella was conquered by Alexander Jannaeus. It was incorporated into Provincia Syria by Pompey and was included from then onward as part of the Decapolis region.
Pella is mentioned as a Greek city by Pliny the Elder (N.H.V. xviii, 74) and Josephus Flavius (Antiquities XIII, 15: 2-4; XIV, 4: 4). The city is also mentioned by Ptolemy in his book on geography (Ptol. Geographia V, 14). Of special interest is the evidence supplied by Josephus regarding the conquest of Pella by Alexander Jannaeus. According to him, the inhabitants of the city preferred to leave it rather than convert to Judaism. This occurrence sheds light on the character of Pella as a prominent Hellenistic city that was loyal to its cultural and religious traditions.
Little remains of the Hellenistic-Roman city today. The only public structure that was excavated in recent years was the theatre that was dated by the Australian excavation team in Pella to the end of the 1st century CE. It may be that the church complex was built over the debris of a much earlier sanctuary. Reason suggests that one should search here for the cultic center of Hellenistic-Roman Pella.

Gerasa

Gerasa was apparently founded upon an ancient Nabataean settlement. During the Seleucid period its official name was ‘Antioch near the Chrysorhoas River’ which indicates that the founding of Gerasa should be dated to the reign of Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE). As with the other cities of the region, Gerasa was conquered by Alexander Jannaeus and liberated by Pompey. Until 106 CE it was included in Provincia Syria. After the establishment of Provincia Arabia the city was transferred to this province. During the 3rdcentury CE the city was raised to the status of a colonia. Its felicitous location on one of the crossroads of the Via Traiana Nova (theNew Trajan Road), the abundance of water sources and fertile agricultural soil, all ensured its economic prosperity that found expression in the impressive building projects.

Gerasa was surrounded by a strong wall with many towers. Its two main gates were erected on the north and south side. Approaching the city from the south, one first sees the ‘Hadrian Arch’, an impressive structure set up about  400 m. south of the southern gate. This arch was erected in honor of the visit by the Emperor Hadrian in the year 130 CE (and it should therefore be seen as a memorial arch and not a triumphal arch).
In front of the southern entrance to the city there are visible remains of the hippodrome (circus). This entertainment structure that was intended for chariot races was apparently built in the 2nd century CE. The hippodrome is now in the process of reconstruction by Polish archaeologists.  The southern gate of Gerasa is remarkably similar to the shape of the ‘Hadrian Arch’. French archaeologists have recently completed its excavation and reconstruction.

Beyond the southern gate there is an oval piazza carefully paved with flagstones and surrounded by porticos. Its uniquely impressive shape and design and the regular spacing of the surrounding columns captivate the eye. To the west of the piazza lies the Zeus sanctuary erected upon two terraces, one above the other, that border the oval piazza on the west. On the lower terrace, surrounded by a decorative wall there is an altar, while on the upper terrace stands the temple itself. The entire sanctuary is in the process of reconstruction by French archaeologists. Situated on the northern slope, near the temple, is the Southern Theatre, the largest and the most impressive of Gerasa's three theatres.

To the north of the oval piazza there are visible remains of a decorative arch that marks the beginning of the cardo maximus, the main street of Gerasa, along which most of the important public buildings were erected. The standing market (the macellum ) is located to the west of the cardo maximus. It was recently excavated by an archaeological team from Spain and has been partially reconstructed.

Gerasa is one of the most intensively researched sites, not merely in the Decapolis region but in the entire Roman East. It has been excavated continuously beginning in the 1920s. During the 1970s and 1980s, besides the Jordanian archaeologists, the city was excavated by teams from England, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Its good state of preservation, its excavated sites and the extensive reconstruction work, have turned it into an exceptionally fascinating archaeological site.

The urban plan of Gerasa was presumably laid down in the 1st century BCE, and consisted mainly of one street in a north-south direction, the cardo maximus, which traverses the length of the city (about 850 m.), and two streets in an east-west direction, thedecumani, that cross it perpendicularly. The northern one is the north decumanus, and the southern one is the south decumanus. The two crossing points are marked by decorative buildings: the tetrakionion structure (four podia, each of them carrying four columns) was erected in the center of the round piazza located at the southern crossing point, while the quadrifrons structure (four connected arches roofed by a dome) graced the northern crossing point. At a short distance to the north of the round piazza is the nymphaeumstructure with a semi-circular niche in its façade, roofed by a half dome and with a decorative pool beneath it into which water flowed from pipes hidden within the structure.

The sanctuary of Artemis, the patron goddess of Gerasa, is an especially impressive architectural complex that dominates the center of the city. The section to the east of the cardo includes a processional way and a series of decorative gates. The section to the west of the cardo includes an additional series of gates and stairways that lead from the street level to the lower terrace of the sanctuary, the upper terrace, and finally to the temple itself. The complex was planned with great care and was admirably integrated into the network of streets and the general plan of the city. The quality of its construction, the style of its decorations, and especially its spatial integration within the city panorama is incomparable in the Roman East. The Artemis sanctuary was erected in the second half of the 2nd century CE.

To the south-east of the quadrifrons there is the Western Bath – a large public structure which has not yet been excavated. The Northern Theatre has recently been excavated by an Australian-British team and has been almost entirely reconstructed. In contrast to the Southern Theatre that is linked to the sanctuary, the Northern Theatre stands near the colonnaded street without any connection with the sanctuary.

The northern gate of the city was already excavated in the 1930s by British and American archaeologists, but has not yet been reconstructed.
At a distance of about 1,500 m. to the north of the city there is the Birketein Sanctuary (in Arabic: double pool), a pleasant grove in which there is a double pool with a theatre nearby. This is the open sanctuary of Gerasa where the citizens held their Maiumas Festival, that is, the spring and water festivities in which events such as the water theatre were conducted.

Philadelphia (Amman)

Philadelphia, as the name attests, was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphos (285-246 BCE). It is the southernmost city in theDecapolis region. The city is located at the desert frontier on the Via Traiana Nova (the New Trajan Road). After the Seleucids took possession of the Land of Israel, the city came under their rule. When the Seleucid Empire was terminated by Pompey, the city was included in the area of Provincia Syria, but when Provincia Arabia was formed in 106 CE, it was transferred to that province. The remains of the city, which were well preserved until the end of the 19th century, were seriously damaged when the modern city ofAmman was constructed.

Ancient Philadelphia extends along the course of Amman River (today its course is no longer visible on the surface after having been channeled into a concrete underground pipe). On the north it is bonded by the ‘Acropolis’, a high hill with steep slopes that was used as a fortress and a sanctuary in Biblical times. The only remains of the Hellenistic period that have survived in the city are sections of walls from the 3rd to the 1st centuries BCE, were found on the Acropolis. On the higher western side of the acropolis is the main sanctuary of the city in the center of which stood the Temple of Heracles, partially reconstructed in recent years. On the eastern side of the Acropolis stands the present-day archaeological museum of Amman.

Philadelphia spread southward from the Acropolis, using the narrow area on both sides of the river bed to build the main public buildings. The valley is bordered on the south by steep hills that prevent the expansion of the city. On the slope of one of the hills opposite the acropolis the ‘large theatre’ of Philadelphia was erected. This is the only building of the Roman period that has been well preserved and has even been reconstructed in recent years.

The urban plan of Roman Philadelphia was relatively simple. Two colonnaded streets traversed the city: one went south of the acropolis, more or less along the course of the river, while the other went west of the acropolis. These two streets were the only thoroughfares of the city. At the point where the valley south of the acropolis was at its widest, there was an agora surrounded by porticos and creating an open space in the center of the city. The agora was bordered on the north by a colonnaded street, on the south by the external façade of the stage structure in the large theatre, and on the east by the odeum (a small, roofed theatre). The latter has been beautifully reconstructed in recent years by Jordanian archaeologists.  

To the west of the agora a nymphaeum was constructed in the second half of the 2nd century CE. Its rich decorations and state of preservation aroused the wonder of researchers in the 19th century, but today little of it has survived. This building as well is now in the process of reconstruction. The gate complex, that was erected in the north-west section of the agora, through which people passed from the ‘lower’ city to the ‘upper’ city, that is, from the agora to the acropolis, was still visible in the late 19th century, but has been dismantled early in the 20th century.

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Notes

[1] In Greek, summachia (συμμαχία).

[2] It is known that the cities of Arcadia, in the Peloponnesian peninsula, had already organized themselves into a league during the archaic period, centered in the Temple of Athena in Tegea.

[3] What is common among the scores of city leagues we learn about from historians such as Herodotus, Thucydides and Strabo, is the general framework that is based on ethnic or regional cooperation, mostly in allegiance to a common cultic center.

[4] One should distinguish between actual city leagues and city groupings that were included under one name because of their geographical proximity such as: Dodacapolis (12 cities), Pentapolis (5 cities), or Tripolis (3 cities). The five cities in Cyrenaica, for example, were called Pentapolis, but one should not assume that this was a city league.

[5] The inscription found in Gerasa in which the gymnasiarchos (appointed to manage the municipal gymnasium) is mentioned, has special importance because the very presence of a gymnasium indicates more than any other public building that the city was a real ‘polis’.

[6] The type of temple that was dominant in these cities was the peripteral temple (surrounded on all sides by columns), set upon a high podium with a frontal stairway bounded by antae on its sides. This type of temple is a mixture of Hellenistic tradition (the pteron– i.e. the surrounding columns) and Roman tradition (the podium – a raised platform with a stairway in front).

[7] The name Sussita is Aramaic and means ‘horse’. Its Greek name, Hippos, is a literal translation of the Aramaic word.