GADARA, an ancient town of the Syrian Decapolis, the capital of Peraea, and the political centre of the small district of Gadaris. It was a Greek city, probably entirely non-Syrian in origin. The earliest recorded event in its history is its capture by Antiochus III. of Syria in 218 B.C.; how long it may have existed before this date is unknown. About twenty years later it was besieged for ten months by Alexander Jannaeus. It was restored by Pompey, and in 30 B.C. was presented by Augustus to Herod the Great; on Herod's death it was reunited to Syria. The coins of the place bear Greek legends, and such inscriptions as have been found on its site are Greek. Its governing and wealthy classes were probably Greek, the common people being Hellenized and Judaized Aramaeans. The community was Hellenistically organized, and though dependent on Syria and acknowledging the supremacy of Rome it was governed by a democratic senate and managed its own internal affairs. In the Jewish war it surrendered to Vespasian, but in the Byzantine period it again flourished and was the seat of a bishop. It was renowned for its hot sulphur baths; the springs still exist and show the remains of bath-houses. The temperature of the springs is 110° F. This town was the birthplace of Meleager the anthologist. There is a confusion in the narrative of the healing of the demoniac between the very similar names Gadara, Gerasa and Gergesa; but the probabilities, both textual and geographical, are in favour of the reading of Mark (Gerasenes, ch. v. 1, revised version); and that the miracle has nothing to do with Gadara, but took place at Kersa, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Gadara is now represented by Umm Kais, a group of ruins about 6 m. S.E. of the Sea of Galilee, and 1194 ft. above the sea-level. There are very fine tombs with carved sarcophagi in the neighbourhood. There are the remains of two theatres and (probably) a temple, and many heaps of carved stones, representing ancient buildings of various kinds. The walls are, or were, traceable for a circuit of 2 m., and there are also the remains of a street of columns. The natives are rapidly destroying the ruins by quarrying building material out of them.
(R. A. S. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)