ABSTRACT

The Decapolis was a set of approximately ten cities in the southern Levant. Two of these cities, Scythopolis and Gerasa, have been extensively excavated. Both were founded by the successors of Alexander. Scythopolis was not laid out on a Hippodamian plan because the topography did not allow for it, whereas Gerasa was. Both cities underwent a monumentalization phase in the late first and early second century CE. Gerasa was visited by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and the city responded to his visit with the construction of several monuments including the Temple of Artemis and Hadrian’s Gate. In late antiquity, Scythopolis became the capital of a Roman province, which meant that there was active construction for public buildings in the city, but in Gerasa, the only public buildings of this period were churches or, at a very late date, a mosque. The civic center of Scythopolis lacked a church, but at Gerasa, over 20 churches were discovered including many in the heart of the town. At Scythopolis, a round church built on the Tell overlooking the city appears to have been the most important religious building. An earthquake in 749 seems to have heavily damaged both cities, though both remained populated and prosperous.