Abila (Decapolis)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 32°40′52″N 35°52′11″E / 32.68111°N 35.86972°E / 32.68111; 35.86972

Abila DekapoleosAbila in the Decapolis or Abila (Greek: Ἄβιλα; and for a time, Seleucia; Greek: Σελεύχεια, also transliterated as Seleuceia, Seleukeia, and Seleukheia) was an ancient city, near the Hieromax river in the Decapolis; the site is occupied by two tells and the village of Hartha, approximately 13 km (8 mi) north-northeast of Irbid, Jordan. The site is 25 km east of the Sea of Galilee and 4 km south of Wadi Yarmouk river. The name "Abila" is derived from the Semitic word Abel (in Hebrew, "meadow" and in Arabic, "green growth")[1]

The town was also a Christian episcopal see and, since it was part of the late Roman province of Palaestina Secunda, it is distinguished from another town and bishopric of the same name in the province of Phoenicia by being called Abila in Palaestina. It is listed under that name among the titular sees in the Annuario Pontificio.[2]


Abila or Ancient Raphana lies (15 km) to the north of Irbid, east of Umm Qais, 2 km (1 mi) east of Hartha. The largest site is located amidst verdant agricultural fields near the modern Ain Quweilbeh spring. Abila is more brutal than Jerash and Umm Qais. Roman temples, Byzantine churches and early mosques lie amidst olive groves and wheat fields.

Excavations indicate that the site was inhabited more than 5000 years ago in the early Bronze Age, and appears to have been continually used by man since then. The site was in use from the Neolithic period until the Abbasid/Fatimid and Ayyubid/Mamluk periods, though its use in these later periods was limited. While several of its ancient structures have been excavated including aqueducts, tombs, gates and public buildings, Abila is especially fascinating because so much of its remains unexcavated, yet visible of the surface of the ground.


The first known European to visit the site was Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806. The ruins have been described in published literature as early as 1889 by Guy Le Strange.

The site is subdivided into distinct areas based on their location and archaeological features. These areas are defined as: Area A, Area AA, Area B, Area C, Area D, Area DD, Area E, and Area H.[3]

Megalithic columns can be found at Um el-‘Amad (the mother of columns).

The site has been extensively excavated since 1980. The excavations have shown habitation at Abila from c. 4000 BC to 1500 AD, and have yielded numerous artifacts, and unearthed remains of city walls, a theater, and a sixth-century church.[4]

Archaeological evidence suggests that a temple at the site was used to worship Herakles, Tyche, and Athena.[5] Further evidence has shown that the site was used for Christian worship from at least the seventh- to eighth-century A.D.[6]

The site was submitted to the list of tentative World Heritage sites under criteras i, iii and iv. It was submitted June 18, 2001, by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The bishopric is now a titular see of the Catholic Church, under the name Abila in Palaestina.[7] The see has been vacant since 1977.[8]


The main threats to the site have been identified as development pressures, insufficient management, unsustainable tourism, water erosion (rain and spring). Both urban and agricultural development pressures are increasing in the area, due to its fertile soil, gentle climate and water availability. Tourism is unmonitored and there is little interpretation and no facilities provided for tourists. The site is not expected to be a large tourism draw given its proximity to the more popular Umm Qais site.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wadi Quailibah". Abila Archaeological Project. 2009. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 822
  3. ^ "Site Map". Abila Archaeological Project. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ W. Harold Mare, Ph.D. Director, Abila Excavations Professor, Covenant Theological Seminary St. Louis, Missouri. "Excavations at Abila of the Decapolis, Northern Jordan", March 2004.
  5. ^ "Abila City (Modern Qweilbeh". UNESCO. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ Mare, W. Harold (March 2004). "Excavations at Abila of the Decapolis, Northern Jordan". bibleinterp.com. Archived from the original on 10 June 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  7. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 822
  8. ^ Abila in Palaestina (Titular See)
  9. ^ Magablih, Khalid. "A Proposed Management Plan for Abila". UNESCO. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 


External links[edit]