COELE-SYRIA se’ lĭ sĭr’ ĭ ə (Κοίλη Συρία, Hollow Syria). A geographical term used with varying connotation, of parts of Syro-Pal. The term is first attested in the early 4th cent. b.c., when it seems to have referred to the whole of the great rift valley which extends from the ’Amq plain in the N to the Dead Sea in the S, and often more particularly to the Biqâ’ plain between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains. During the Hel. period the Biqâ’ lay in the region where the Seleucid and Ptolemaic claims met. In the 3rd cent. the Ptolemies controlled it from Egypt and referred to the area as “Syria,” but in 200 b.c. the Seleucids conquered this part of Syria, and to distinguish it from those parts already in their possession, they called it “Coele-Syria,” the first official use of the term. With the end of the Seleucid empire in the 1st cent. b.c., and the rise of the Hasmonean kings in Pal., the term was confined to the Biqâ’ and the area to the E of it. From the time of Augustus it was further limited to the Biqâ’ alone. Finally in the late 2nd cent. a.d., Septimius Severus created a new province under this name, comprising the whole of N Syria, and excluding the Biqâ’ which fell in “Syria Phoenice.”
E. Bikerman, “La Coelé-Syrie,” RB (1947), 256-268.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
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