(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, Mt 4:25; Mr 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, Mt 8:30; a practice which was forbidden by the Mosaic Law.
Thrice mentioned in Scripture: Mr 5:20, which shows that it was around Gadara (Mr 7:31; Mt 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.
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 (Mt 4:25; Mr 5:20; 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.
A district embracing ten cities (as its name implies). After the 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 except Scythopolis: but the name Decapolis seems to have been used for a district on the west of the Jordan as well as on the east. Mt 4:25; Mr 5:20; 7:31. It was to Pella that the Christians fled just before the destruction of Jerusalem.