Syria Palaestina

Syria Palaestina (literally, "Palestinian Syria";[1][2] Latin: Sȳria Palaestīna [ˈsyː.ri.a pa.ɫ̪ae̯sˈt̪iː.na];[3] Koinē Greek: Συρία ἡ Παλαιστίνη, romanized: Syría hē Palaistínē, Koine Greek: [syˈri.a (h)e̝ pa.lɛsˈt̪i.ne̝]) was the name given to the Roman province of Judea by the emperor Hadrian following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 AD.[4][2][5]

The province was divided into Palaestina Prima and Palaestina Secunda in about 390.

Syria was an early Roman province, annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey in the Third Mithridatic War, following the defeat of Armenian King Tigranes the Great.[6] Following the partition of the Herodian kingdom into tetrarchies in 6 AD, it was gradually absorbed into Roman provinces, with Roman Syria annexing Iturea and Trachonitis.

The Roman province of Judea incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, and extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel. It was named after Herod Archelaus's Tetrarchy of Judea, but the Roman province encompassed a much larger territory.

The capital of Roman Syria was established in Antioch from the very beginning of Roman rule, while the capital of the Judaea province was shifted to Caesarea Maritima, which, according to historian H. H. Ben-Sasson, had been the "administrative capital" of the region beginning in 6 AD.[7]

Judea province was the scene of unrest at its founding in 6 AD during the Census of Quirinius and several wars were fought in its history, known as the Jewish–Roman wars. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD as part of the First Jewish–Roman War resulting in the institution of the Fiscus Judaicus. The Provinces of Judaea and Syria were key scenes of an increasing conflict between Judaean and Hellenistic population, which exploded into full scale Jewish–Roman wars, beginning with the First Jewish–Roman War of 66–70. Disturbances followed throughout the region during the Kitos War in 117–118. Between 132–135, Simon bar Kokhba led a revolt against the Roman Empire, controlling parts of Judea, for three years. As a result, Hadrian sent Sextus Julius Severus to the region, who brutally crushed the revolt. Shortly before or after the Bar Kokhba's revolt (132–135), the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the Judea province to Syria Palaestina, and founded Aelia Capitolina on the ruins of Jerusalem, which some scholars conclude was done in an attempt to remove the relationship of the Jewish people to the region.[8][9][10][11]

Hadrian's connection to the name change and the reason behind it is disputed.[12][13]

After crushing the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Roman Emperor Hadrian applied the name Syria Palaestina, meaning "Palestinian Syria",[1][2] to Judea province.

Some say that Hadrian wanted to choose a name that was based on the name "philistine" and combine it with that of the neighboring province of Syria in an attempt to suppress Jewish connection to the land.

The combined name Syria Palaestina could be said to predate Hadrian's naming decision by at least five centuries, as a similar term was already in use by the Greeks. Herodotus, writing The Histories in the Ionic dialect of Ancient Greek in 440 BC, repeatedly refers to "The Syrian Palestinia"(Ionic Greek: Συρίη ἡ Παλαιστίνη, romanized: Suríē hē Palaistínē) as a combined name single phrase.[14] This Greek name is also probably based on the biblical Mycenean/Greek city of Philistine which had a strong Mycenean/Greek influence and existed during Herodotus time, research suggests it formed via massive migration from Cyprus and Anatolia (hence the connection to Greece and Herodotus).[15] Or it could be based on the actual area called Palestina which is in Syria[16] Hence the literal translation of this greek sentence "The Syrian Palestina" (in Ionic Greek: Συρίη ἡ Παλαιστίνη, romanized: Suríē hē Palaistínē)


The city of Aelia Capitolina was built by the emperor Hadrian on the ruins of Jerusalem. The capital of the province of Syria proper remained in Antiochia.[citation needed]

Beginning in 212, Palmyra's trade diminished as the Sassanids occupied the mouth of the Tigris and the Euphrates. In 232, the Syrian Legion rebelled against the Roman Empire, but the uprising went unsuccessful.[citation needed]

Septimius Odaenathus, a Prince of the Aramean state of Palmyra, was appointed by Valerian as the governor of the province of Syria Palaestina. After Valerian was captured by the Sassanids in 260, and died in captivity in Bishapur, Odaenathus campaigned as far as Ctesiphon (near modern-day Baghdad) for revenge, invading the city twice. When Odaenathus was assassinated by his nephew Maconius, his wife Septimia Zenobia took power, ruling Palmyra on behalf of her son, Vabalathus.[citation needed]

Inscription honouring Julius Aurelius Zenobius, the father of Queen Zenobia, at Palmyra.

Zenobia rebelled against Roman authority with the help of Cassius Longinus and took over Bosra and lands as far to the west as Egypt, establishing the short-lived Palmyrene Empire. Next, she took Antioch and large sections of Asia Minor to the north. In 272, the Roman Emperor Aurelian finally restored Roman control and Palmyra was besieged and sacked, never to recover her former glory. Aurelian captured Zenobia, bringing her back to Rome. He paraded her in golden chains in the presence of the senator Marcellus Petrus Nutenus, but allowed her to retire to a villa in Tibur, where she took an active part in society for years. A legionary fortress was established in Palmyra and although no longer an important trade center, it nevertheless remained an important junction of Roman roads in the Syrian desert.[17]

Diocletian built the Camp of Diocletian in the city of Palmyra to harbor even more legions and walled it in to try and save it from the Sassanid threat. The Byzantine period following the Roman Empire only resulted in the building of a few churches; much of the city went to ruin.[citation needed]

In circa 390, Syria Palaestina was reorganised into several administrative units: Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda, and Palaestina Tertia (in the 6th century),[18] Syria Prima and Phoenice and Phoenice Lebanensis. All were included within the larger Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Diocese of the East, together with the provinces of Isauria, Cilicia, Cyprus (until 536), Euphratensis, Mesopotamia, Osroene, and Arabia Petraea.[citation needed]

Palaestina Prima consisted of Judea, Samaria, the Paralia, and Peraea, with the governor residing in Caesarea. Palaestina Secunda consisted of the Galilee, the lower Jezreel Valley, the regions east of Galilee, and the western part of the former Decapolis, with the seat of government at Scythopolis. Palaestina Tertia included the Negev, southern Transjordan part of Arabia, and most of Sinai, with Petra as the usual residence of the governor. Palestina Tertia was also known as Palaestina Salutaris.[19]

After the Jewish–Roman wars (66–135), which Epiphanius believed the Cenacle survived,[20] the significance of Jerusalem to Christians entered a period of decline, Jerusalem having been temporarily converted to the pagan Aelia Capitolina, but interest resumed again with the pilgrimage of Helena (the mother of Constantine the Great) to the Holy Land c. 326–28.[citation needed]

New pagan cities were founded in Judea at Eleutheropolis (Bayt Jibrin), Diopolis (Lydd), and Nicopolis (Emmaus).[21][22]

The Romans destroyed the Jewish community of the Church in Jerusalem, which had existed since the time of Jesus.[23][verification needed] Traditionally it is believed the Jerusalem Christians waited out the Jewish–Roman wars in Pella in the Decapolis.[citation needed]

The line of Jewish bishops in Jerusalem, which is claimed to have started with Jesus's brother James the Righteous as its first bishop, ceased to exist, within the Empire. Hans Kung in "Islam: Past Present and Future", suggests that the Jewish Christians sought refuge in Arabia and he quotes with approval Clemen et al.:

"This produces the paradox of truly historic significance that while Jewish Christianity was swallowed up in the Christian church, it preserved itself in Islam."[24]

Christianity was practiced in secret and the Hellenization of Palaestina continued under Septimius Severus (193–211 AD).[21]

In Southern Levant, until about 200 AD, and despite the genocide of Jewish–Roman wars, Jews had formed a majority of the population[25] with Samaritans and Pagans[clarification needed] forming the rest of the population.

By the beginning of the Byzantine period (disestablishment of Syria-Palaestina), the Jews had become a minority and were living alongside Samaritans, pagan Greco-Syriacs and a large Syriac Christian community.[26]