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GERASA (gē-ra’sa). A city east of Jordan midway between the
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ger’-a-sa, ger’-a-senz (Gerasa; Gerasenon):
1. Country of the Gerasenes:
The town itself is not named in Scripture, and is referred to only in the expression, "country of the Gerasenes" (
The great and splendid city in the Decapolis is first mentioned as taken after a siege by Alexander Janneus, 85 BC (BJ, I, iv, 8). Josephus names it as marking the eastern limit of Peraea (BJ, III, iii, 3). He calls the inhabitants Syrians, when, at the beginning of the Jewish revolt, the district round Gerasa was laid waste. The Syrians made reprisals, and took many prisoners. With these, however, the Gerasenes dealt mercifully, letting such as wished go free, and escorting them to the border (BJ, II, xviii, 1, 5). Lucius Annius, at the instance of Vespasian, sacked and burned the city, with much slaughter (BJ, IV, ix, 1). From this disaster it appears soon to have recovered, and the period of its greatest prosperity lay, probably, in the 2nd and 3nd centuries of our era. It became the seat of a bishopric, and one of its bishops attended the. Reland (Pal, II, 806) notes certain extant coins of Gerasa, from which it is clear that in the 2nd century it was a center of the worship of Artemis. It was besieged by Baldwin II, in 1121 AD. Mention is made of the strength of the site and the mighty masonry of its walls. calls the city Jarras, and places it 16 miles East of Jordan (Hist, xii, 16). The distance is about 19 miles from the river. It was conquered by the Moslems in the time of Omar (Guy le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems, 462). The sultan of Damascus is said to have fortified it; but there is nothing to show that the Moslems occupied it for any length of time.
Modern Jerash lies on both banks of Wady Jerash, about 6 miles from its confluence with Wady ez-Zerqa (the Jabbok). It is almost 20 miles from Amman (Philadelphia), and 22 from Fahil (Pella). The ruins are wide and imposing and are better preserved than any others on the East of Jordan. They include several splendid temples, theaters, basilica, palaces and baths, with hippodrome and naumachia. The triumphal arch to the South of the city is almost entire. Two paved streets with double colonnades cut through the city at right angles, four massive pedestals still marking the point of intersection. An excellent account of the ruins is given in Thomson’s LB, III, 558 ff.
There is nothing above ground of older date than the 2nd and 3rd centuries of our era; but there is no reason to doubt that the Greek city of Gerasa stood on the same site. The presence of a copious spring of sweet water makes it probable that the site has been occupied from olden time; but no trace remains of any ancient city. Some would identify the place with RAMOTH-GILEAD, which see.
The site is now occupied by a colony of Circassians, and there is reason to fear that, unless something is done to preserve them, many valuable remains of antiquity will perish.