Gadara, Jordan

Gadara, modern Umm Qays, ancient  city of the Decapolis eight miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee and seven miles east of the Jordan river. Situated at more than 1200 ft. above sea-level the site offers a breath-taking panorama of the surrounding region.

It lies in the Bani Kinanah Department and Irbid Governorate in the extreme northwest of the country, near Jordan's borders with Israel and Syria. It is perched on a hilltop 378 metres (1,240 ft) above sea level overlooking the Sea of Tiberias, the Golan Heights, and the Yarmouk River gorge.

Gadara was a typical Hellenistic city that became a center of Greek culture under the Seleucids. It was the hometown of the Cynic philosopher Menippus [3rd c. BCE] who invented the genre of mocking narrative satire imitated by later Greek and Latin writers [e.g., Petronius' Satyricon] & birthplace of the poet Meleager [1st c. BCE] who compiled the first Greek poetic anthology.

In good satiric style Mark 5 portrays Jesus as expelling a demon named "Legion" — the basic unit of the Roman army — from the region of the "Gerasenes" (an inland city-state of the Decapolis south of Gadara high in the Jordanian mountains, miles from any major body of water). Matthew sets this incident closer to the Sea of Galilee in the territory of the "Gadarenes." Like the satires of Menippus, however, the setting of this exorcism story is purely imaginative, since there are no cliffs in the region of Gadara, much less Gerasa, that border on a lake. The site usually shown tourists as the location of this exorcism — Kursi below the slopes of the Golan 12 miles north of Gadara — has cliffs that descend to the sea but lacks evidence of a settlement in the 1st c. CE and or any association with either Gadara or Gerasa.

Origin of the name Gadara-Gader:
In Semitic languages, gader means a wall or boundary. Later Talmudic legend associatively connected 'Gader' with the area of the vineyard wall (gader) where an angel is said to have halted the prophet Balaam. It was then that his ass was supposed to have miraculously addressed its master complaining of his ill-treatment (Numbers xxii.24-29). However, the site's history really began when Alexander's successors founded a Greek polis at Gader, Hellenizing it as Gadara, perhaps in memory of their Macedonian village of Gadeira.

Gadara (Hebrew: גדרה‎‎, Gadʾara, or גדר, Gader; Greek: Γάδαρα Gádara) was situated in a defensible position on a ridge accessible to the east but protected by steep falls on the other three sides.It was well-watered, with access to the Ain Qais spring and cisterns.

A member of the Decapolis, Gadara was a center of Greek culture in the region, considered one of its most Hellenized and enjoying special political and religious status. By the third century BC the town was of some cultural importance. It was the birthplace of the satirist Menippus, a slave who became a Cynic philosopher and satirized the follies of mankind in a mixture of prose and verse. His works have not survived, but were imitated by Varro and by Lucian. 

The Greek historian Polybius describes Gadara as being in 218 BC the "strongest of all places in the region". Nevertheless, it capitulated shortly afterwards when besieged by the Seleucid king Antiochus III of Syria. Under the Seleucids, it was also known as Antiochia or Antiochia Semiramis (Ἀντιόχεια Σεμίραμις, Antiókheia Semíramis) and as Seleucia.

The region passed in and out of the control of the Seleucid kings of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt. Gadara was captured and damaged by Alexander Jannaeus. In the early first century BC Gadara gave birth to its most famous son, Meleager. He was one of the most admired Hellenistic Greek poets, not only for his own works but also for his anthology of other poets, which formed the basis of the large collection known as the Greek Anthology. 

In 63 BC, when the Roman general Pompey placed the region under Roman control, he rebuilt Gadara and made it one of the semi-autonomous cities of the Roman Decapolis,[dubious – discuss] and a bulwark against Nabataean expansion. But in 30 BC Augustus placed it under the control of the Jewish king Herod. The historian Josephus relates that after King Herod's death in 4 BC Gadara was made part of the Roman province of Syria.

Josephus relates that in AD 66 at the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Romans the country around Gadara was laid waste,:
"So Vespasian marched to the city of Gadara. He came into it and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever. He set fire to the city and all the villas around it."

The Gadarenes captured some of the boldest of the Jews, of whom several were put to death and others imprisoned. Some in the town surrendered to emperor Vespasian, who placed a garrison there.

The 2nd century AD Roman aqueduct to Gadara supplied drinking water through a qanat 170 km (110 mi) long. Its longest underground section, running for 94 km, is the longest known tunnel from ancient times. Gadara continued to be an important town within the Eastern Roman Empire, and was long the seat of a Christian bishop. With the conquest of the Arabs, following the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 it came under Muslim rule. Around 747 it was largely destroyed by an earthquake, and was abandoned.

The ancient walls may now be traced in almost their entire circuit of 3 km. One of the Roman roads ran eastward to Ḍer‛ah; and an aqueduct has been traced to the pool of Ḳhab, about 20 miles to the north of Ḍer‛ah. The ruins include those of "baths, two theaters, a hippodrome, colonnaded streets and, under the Romans, aqueducts," a temple, a basilica and other buildings, telling of a once splendid city. A paved street, with double colonnade, ran from east to west. The ruts worn in the paved road by the wheels of ancient vehicles are still to be seen.

In the first century, Jesus is said to have driven demons out of a man and into some swine "in the country of the Gadarenes" or "country of the Gerasenes", which has often been associated with Gadara. A story set in the "territory of the Gadarenes", probably referring to the area around Gadara, appears in the Gospel of Matthew, VIII 28-34. It describes an encounter between Jesus and two men "possessed by demons"; Jesus exorcises the demons, driving them into a nearby herd of pigs, which then run "down the steep place into the sea”, evidently intended to refer to the Sea of Galilee. 

In the original version, in the earlier Gospel of Mark, V 1-20, the incident is set in "the territory of the Gerasenes", or Gerasa, around 50 km (31 mi) southeast of the Sea of Galilee. 
The author of the Matthew Gospel appears to have moved the setting to Gadara to make it more plausible. However it is still 10 km (6.2 mi) away, so Origen speculated that there had been a town called "Gergasa" on the shores of the sea. The Jerusalem Talmud (Erubin 5:7) and the Tosefta (Erubin 6:13) refer to a town called "Gader" (sic) within a Sabbath day's walking distance from Hamath, a town situated within one biblical mile to the south of Tiberias.

Ancient Gadara was important enough to become a suffragan bishopric of the Metropolitan Archbishopric of Scythopolis, the capital of the Roman province of Palestina Secunda, but it faded with the city after the Muslim conquest.

Today, the archaeological site of ancient Gadara ajoins the Jordanian village of Um-Qeis (98K), where you can still walk down Gadara's once colonaded city streets (117K), that criss-crossed beneath its basilica. The city's late structures include a mysterious subterranean hypogeion (117K), whose purpose is uncertain, and see its (one of two little Greco-Roman) theatres (137K), an octagonal market-place as well as the basilica (97K) itself.
See Arthur Segal, Monumental Architecture in Roman Palestine and Provincia Arabia(Haifa, 1995)

On the Israeli side of the Yarmuk Valley (98K), adjoining a collective village, is found the valley of Hammat-Gader (el-Hammeh), where there still flow four naturally cold and hot springs, famous for their therapeutic powers. These once filled the large pool (137K) and small pools (98K) of an early Byzantine spa, supplying it with hot and cold waters. Besides the remains of the ancient spa complex, the valley also sites the ruins of Roman baths and a small Greco-Roman theatre.
Y. Hirschfield: The Roman Thermae at Hammat-Gader- Final Report (Jerusalem, 1997)
Close by, on a mound in the valley, there are preserved the remains of a Byzantine Jewish synagogue in which mosaiques with Hebrew-Aramaic inscriptions are preserved.
E.L. Sukenik: The Ancient Synagogue of El-Hammeh (Jerusalem, 1935),

Today one may still bathe in these waters at the spa of the neighbouring spa and park of Hammat Gader, that is also famous for its crocodile farm, kept safely apart from the bathers. 
Tread lightly, the next time you visit Hammat-Gader, there is more beneath your feet than the local crocodiles. 
Ancient Gadara had a fine tradition of philosophy and poetic satire
Cynics of Gadara:
Its first great son, was Menippus,who probably moved to Greece in the middle of the 3rd century B.C. He was a Cynic philosopher and satirist - but allegedly a slave by origin, who on earning his freedom, made money as a ship-broker, but hanged himself on losing it. Fictitious stories about Menippus seem to be derived from his own self-mocking, pseudo-autobiographic works, such as A Descent into Hades, where he mocked the foibles of the living through the mouths of the dead. Considered, the father of the philosophical satire known as Menippean satire, he was much admired by the satirist Lucian (120-200 A.D.):
Is that not that Cynic dog, Menippus? It could not be anyone else unless I have begun to see things. Why, it is Menippus to a hair! But then what is he up to with that piece-meal costume? an oriental felt cap, a harp and a lion's skin? Well, I have no choice now but to go up and greet him. 
Hi, Menippus! Where have you set out from? It is a long time since you last put in an appearnace in town!
I have come from the hide-out of the dead 
the very gates of darkness. 
I have left the home of Hades, 
set apart from other gods.
(Lucian Menippus or the Descent into Hades 1)

A great admiror of Menippus was the poet-philosopher, Meleager of Gadara (1st century B.C.). Meleager wrote satires, that no longer survive, as well as many beautiful epigrams that do. He also was responsible for one of the first poetic anthologies. His choice later formed the basis of our classical Greek Anthology.
An example of his verse is a mock epigram that he composed for his own tomb. Written as if it were a tri-lingual inscription in Aramaic, Phoenician and Greek, it briefly summarises Meleager's work and life as a cosmopolitan Cynic and satirist:
Tread softly, Stranger, over the sacred dead
Here lies in well-earned sleep the aged
Meleager, Son of Eucrates, who composed 
poems about sweet-teared Eros
combining his Muse with delightful grace
The Holy Land of Gadara and Tyre with her divine boys made a man of him
Lovely Cos of the Meropian people received him in old-age
If you are a Syrian, I say to you 'Salam!', if a Phoenician -- 'Naidios!'
and if Greek -- 'Chaire!' and you return me the same.
(Greek Anthology vii. 419)

Another great Cynic of Gadara, was the 2nd century A.D. religious critic and nihilist, Oenomaus, perhaps the prototype of the Talmudic philosophical figure Abnimos, friend of R. Meir of neighbouring Tiberias. Oenomaus wrote satiric speeches against the priests of Apollo who hoodwinked the believers. Why should God, as the priests claim, care where Homer is to be buried:
(16) In our inconsequencies, God gives no thought -- no more for a Homer than for a beetle. (17) As if when a beetle was born, lived and grown old in his dung-heep, he encountered some nasty spirit and harsh beetle God, who then bore him up on high to a life in some far harsh and dung-heep land, and then he came to the oracle in Delphi to ask what dung-heep of a father-land had born him - and what earth should receive him on death" 
Fr. 1 (Hammerstaedt, p. 74 = Eus. P.E.V. 33.16-17)

Other Philosophers associated with Gadara:
By far its greatest son, was Philodemus (110-43/45 B.C.), the Epicurean philosopher poet, who moved to Herculaneum, where his library was miraculously preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius on the 24th August 79 B.C. His works include his beautiful surviving epigrams, fragmentary histories of the Stoa and Academy, works on Rhetoric and Poetics and more. Many of these are being translated and reedited in the Philodemus Project -- as well as by Prof. Marcello Gigante 
In one of his epigrams, he explains his name, Philodemos = Love (philo-) of the People (demos), self-mockingly giving it a new twist:
Once I loved a girl of Papphos, Demo her name, nothing strange in that 
then a Samian, also called Demo -- nothing strange in that too 
but then a third Demo, a girl of Nysiake. This was no longer 
funny - for worse than that, there was even a fourth Demo, of Argos 
This then is the reason I suppose that the Fates decided 
that I should be called Philodemos 
Since hot love for a 'Demo' has always gripped me! 
(Greek Anthology v. 115)

The important neo-Platonic Philosopher Iamblichus (250-330 A.D.) was not a native of Gadara, but once worked transcendental miracles in its hot-springs at neighbouring Hammat-Gader. There he and his pupils once bathed in its small and large pools. Although the present structures are much later, there still exist at Hammat-Gader remains of Byzantine baths, including a large pool (137K) and a small pool (98K). At any rate, Eunapius relates all the miraculous details of Iamblichus' visit:
Some time after, they decided to go to Gadara, where the warm baths of Syria are situated -- they are second only to the ones in Roman Baeae and cannot be compared to any other. They started out in the high season of the year. He himself set about bathing and they bathed along with him, but pestered him with the same requests as before. Iamblichus smiled and said, 
"Although it is not pious to make a demonstration of my powers, it shall be done for your sakes"
Now there were two hot springs that were smaller than the others but prettier. He commanded his pupils to enquire of the locals how they used to be called in olden times. When they had done what he commanded, they said, 
"There is no pretense, for this one is called 'Eros' and the neighbouring one 'Anti-eros'"
He immediately touched the water - he happened to be sitting at the edge by the overflow, and uttering some brief words, he summoned up from beneath the spring a child who was fair and well proportioned, with golden locks, his back and chest gleaming so as to seem wholy like one who was bathing or had just bathed.
His companions were struck with amazement but he said, 
"Let us go to the next spring"
He lead them out in a thoughtful manner. There he then worked the same (miracle) and summoned up another Eros like the former one, except that his locks were darker and poured down his back loose. Both boys embraced him as if he were their natural father. He sent them back to their own spheres and left to bathe while his companions revered him. 
(Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers459)

Rhetoricians of Gadara:
The founder of a famous 1st century B.C. rhetorical school, was Theodorus of Gadara, whose inscription was found at Athens - and who taught the future emperor Tiberius rhetoric. It is said of Tiberius that:
even in his boyhood, his cruel and cold nature did not lie hidden. Theodorus of Gadara was his teacher of rhetoric and, in all his wisedom, seems to have been the first to have ubderstood Tiberius and to have capped him with a very pithy saying when he taunted Tiberius, calling him 'Mud kneaded with blood' 
(Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars iii: TiberiusLVII.1)

A less famous later rhetorician, called Apsines of Gadara (190-250 A.D.) taught oratory at Athens about 235 A.D. and has left us a handbook of Rhetoric. Philostratus briefly mentioned his abilities:
But I need not write of them and of Apsines the Phoenician who was so advanced in memory and precision, for I would be disbelieved as just handing out compliments since I am personally linked to them all in friendship 
(Lives of the Sophists 628)

Scientists of Gadara
Finally, there is Philo of Gadara (3rd century A.D.), who improved on Archimedes' approximation of mathematical 'pi'. The latter gave a proof for showing that
"the circumference of any circle is greater than the diameter by threefold plus a quantity that is less that a 1/7 of the diameter but greater than 10/71 parts of it" (Archimedes, Measurement of a Circle prop. iii; trans. M. Luz).

This approximation (3.142 857...> pi >3.140 8450....) is inaccurate by comparison with that accepted today (pi=3.141 5927.... ). Although Philo and his pupil, the mathematician Sporus (c. 200 A.D.), were said to have improved on Archimedes' proof producing a better appoximation, Eutocius of Ascalon argued that they both failed to grasp Archimedes's object in reckoning a rough approximation of the relationship between the cirumference and the diameter of a circle:
Sporus observes that his own teacher, Philon of Gadara, reduced (the matter) to a more exact numerical expression than Archimedes did, I mean in (the latter's) 1/7 and 10/71; in fact people seem, one after the other, to have failed to appreciate Archimedes' object 
Eutocius Commentary on Archimedes' Measurement of a Circle (trans. Sir Thomas Heath, History of Mathematics I. p. 234)

Eutocius felt that "Archimedes' object in this book was to find an apporoximate figure suitable for use in daily life" (ibid) -- this would imply that Philo and Sporus had a purely mathematical interest at heart. However, in spite of Eutocius, we do know that Archimedes later attempted a better approximation achieving 3.141 697...> pi >3.141 495... (I. Thomas, Greek Mathematics i. 333) although we do not know where Philo's approximation stood in relation to this.

Inscriptions and Papyri
A papyrus fragment also gives poetic recipees ascribed to a Gadarene witch in the 1st century B.C. Philinna Papyrus. She prescribed charms against over-heating just as the Thessalian witch Philinna trated achingÝ(the papyrus text is fragmentary):
A charm of the Syrian Gadarene for every heat
...and in the mountain it was burned: the springs of seven wolves, of seven bears, of seven lions -- and seven maids, dark eyed drew water 
in their dark jugs and they put out the inextinguishable fire.
A charm of Philinna the Thesallian for head-ache
Flee head-ache, flee beneath the stone, the wolves flee, the single-hoved horses flee beneath the whip" 
(Journal of Hellenic Studies 62.1943 pp 33-38)

Another inscription describe the Graces of Gadara and calls the city 'blessed in the Muses', as it truly was.
My father was Quintus, my Mother Philous
My name was Apion, and my father-land
was the community of Gadara blessed in the Muses
I left a childless home
and at these three cross-roads inhabit this tomb
that my father built. He came after to join me here
mourning (a son) who lived only twenty-two years 
(Palestine Exploration Quarterly 1897 pp 185)

A few of the Inscriptions, newly discovered at the Baths
In the excavations of 1979/1980, there were uncovered at the baths of Hammat-Gader, a number of interesting inscriptions, a few of them reflecting the cultural and literary atmosphere of the city.

Text and historical background in: Leah di Segni, 'The Greek Inscriptions of Hammat-Gader' in: Y. Hirschfield: The Roman Thermae at Hammat-Gader- Final Report (Jerusalem, 1997), 228-233.

South-west of the large pool (137K), was found a marble slab inscribed with a poem in Homeric verse ascribed in its heading to the learned poetess, the Empress Eudocia, a known admiror of Homer. The latter had formerly been the wife of Theodosius II and the image of "Aelia Eudocia Augusta" appears on gold coins. However, by the year 443/2 A.D., the emperor's sister conspired to bring about Eudocia's exile to Jerusalem, where the Empress spent the remainder of her life in mosaiques record in Hebew and Aramaic lists of contributors and donations made for laying out the building and its mosaiques:-

[Remembered for good]: - Ada son of Tanhum son of Monik(os), who gave one tremissis (of a denarius), Jose [son] of Karusa and Monik(os), who contributed halves of a [de]narius for this mosaique (psephasa).
May they have blessing. Amnen Sela Peace!
trans. M. Luz; text and commentary: E.L. Sukenik: The Ancient Synagogue of El-Hammeh (Jerusalem, 1935), 56-5.

Many of the conributors were apparently Galileans, but originated from outside of this immediate area. They may have come to Hammat-Gader in order to be cured by its therapeutic waters:-
Re[membered for g]ood:- Rab[bi] Tanhum ha-Levi son of [Hal]ifa who donated one tremissis (of a denarius). 
Remembered for good:- Monik(os) of Susi(tha) the Sepphorite,
the K[yros P]atrik(os) of [Ke]far Akabia and Jose son of Dosi[theos] from Capernaum, who all three donated three scruples. 
May the King of the U[niverse g]ive them a blessing for [their] work. Amen Amen Sela Peace! 
Remembered for good:- Judan of Arada (?) from Haimais (?) who gave three. 
Re[membered for g]ood:- the men of Arbela who donated their linen. May the King of the Univer[se] give them a blessing for their work. Amen Amen Sela.
trans. M. Luz; text: Sukenik, op. cit., 48-58

One should also note how many of the personal names are are Greco-Roman in origin. Nonetheless, many of them are also translations of traditional Hebrew-Aramaic names. This shows how while still being active Jews, they saw themselves as part of Greco-Roman society. Inscriptions like the following also attest the lives of a single family of local (?) Jews, who acted in the family as office-bearers with Greek titles:
Re[membered for g]ood:- the Kyros Hoples and the Kyra Protone; their son-in-law, the Kyros Sallustes and his son, the Comes Pheroros; their (second) son-in-law, the Kyros Photes, and his son, Haninah. They and their children, whose good deeds are constant in every place - and who have here donated five denarii of gold.
May the King of the Universe give them a blessing for their work. Amen Amen Sela.
trans. M. Luz; text: Sukenik, op. cit., 41-47

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