This article may need to be rewritten to comply with Wikipedia's quality standards. (September 2016)
|Region of Macedonian Empire / Ptolemaic Kingdom / Seleucid Empire/ Kingdom of Armenia (antiquity)|
|332 BCE-64 BCE|
|Historical era||Hellenistic era|
o Secession of Kingdom of Chalcis
|c. 80 BCE|
Coele-Syria (, also spelt Coele Syria, Coelesyria, Celesyria) alternatively Coelo-Syria or Coelosyria (; Greek: , Koíl? Syría, 'Hollow Syria'; Latin: Coel? Syria or Cava Syria), was a region of Syria in classical antiquity. It probably derived from the Aramaic word for all of the region of Syria, but it was most often applied to the Beqaa Valley between the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges. The area is now part of the modern-day Syria and Lebanon.
It is widely accepted that the term Coele is a transcription of Aramaic kul, meaning "all, the entire", such that the term originally identified all of Syria. The word "Coele", which literally means "hollow" in Koine Greek, is thought to have come about via a folk etymology referring to the "hollow" Beqaa Valley between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountains. However, the term Coele-Syria was also used in a wider sense to indicate "all Syria" or "all Syria except Phoenicia", by the writers; Pliny, Arrian, Ptolemy and also Diodorus Siculus, who indicated Coele-Syria to at least stretch as far south as Joppa, while Polybius stated that the border between Egypt and Coele-Syria lay between the towns of Rhinocolara and Rhaphia.
The first and only official use of the term was during the period of Seleucid rule of the region, between c. 200 BCE and 64 BCE. During this period, the term "Coele Syria and Phoenicia" or "Coele Syria" was also used in a narrower sense to refer to the former Ptolemaic territory which the Seleucids now controlled, being the area south of the river Eleutherus. This usage was adopted by Strabo and the Books of the Maccabees. However, Greek writers such as Agatharchides and Polemon of Athens used the term Palestine to refer to the region during this period, which was a term originally given circa 450 BCE by Herodotus. Later during the Roman Period c.350 CE, Eunapius wrote that the capital of Coele-Syria was the Seleucid city of Antioch, north of the Eleutherus.
According to Polybius, a former officer of the Ptolemaic Empire named Ptolemy Thrasea, having fought in the 217 BCE Battle of Raphia, defected to the Seleucid king Antiochus III the Great. Antiochus gave him the title "Strategos and Archiereus of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia". Some scholars speculate that this title may have been used previously by the Ptolemies, but no direct evidence exists to support this.
The region was disputed between the Seleucid dynasty and the Ptolemaic dynasty during the Syrian Wars. Alexander the Great's general Ptolemy first occupied Coele-Syria in 318 BC. However, when Ptolemy joined the coalition against Antigonus I Monophthalmus in 313 BC, he quickly withdrew from Coele-Syria. In 312 BC Seleucus I Nicator, defeated Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, in the Battle of Gaza which again allowed Ptolemy to occupy Coele-Syria. Though he was again to pull out after only a few months, after Demetrius had won a battle over his general and Antigonus entered Syria in force up to Antigonuses, this brief success had enabled Seleucus to make a dash for Babylonia which Seleucus secured. In 302 BC, Ptolemy joined a new coalition against Antigonus and reoccupied Coele-Syria, but quickly withdrew on hearing a false report that Antigonus had won a victory. He was only to return when Antigonus had been defeated at Ipsus in 301 BC. Coele-Syria was assigned to Seleucus, by the victors of Ipsus, as Ptolemy had added nothing to the victory. Though, given Ptolemy's track record, he was unlikely to organize a serious defense of Coele-Syria, Seleucus acquiesced in Ptolemy's occupation, probably because Seleucus remembered how it had been with Ptolemy's help he had reestablished himself in Babylonia.
The later Seleucids were not to be so understanding, resulting in the century of Syrian Wars between the Ptolemies and Seleucids. The Battle of Panium in 200 BC, during the Fifth Syrian War, was the final decisive battle between the two sides in ending Ptolemaic control over the region. The 171–168 BC conflicts over Coele-Syria, between Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Ptolemy VI Philometor, are discussed in Livy's The History of Rome from its Foundation (in XLII. 29 and XLV. 11–12).
Seleucid control over the area of Judea began diminishing with the eruption of the Maccabean Revolt in 165 BC. With Seleucid troops being involved in warfare on the Parthian front, Judea succeeded in securing its independence by 140 BC. Despite attempts of Seleucid rulers to regain territories, the conquests of Pompey in 64 BC were a decisive blow to them, and Syria became part of the Roman Republic.
Under the Macedonian kings, Upper Syria (Syria Superior) was divided into four parts (tetrarchies) which were named after their capitals. Later in the Roman Pompeian era, the province was divided into nine districts.
Judging from Arrian and The Anabasis of Alexander, the historians of Alexander the Great, as well as more ancient authors, gave the name of Syria to all the country comprehended between the Tigris and the Mediterranean. The part to the east of the Euphrates, afterwards named Mesopotamia was called "Syria between the rivers;" that to the west was called by the general name Coele-Syria, and although Phoenicia and Palestine were sometimes separated from it. Yet, it was often comprehended as the whole country as far as Egypt.
In the Wars of the Diadochi, Coele-Syria came under the control of Antigonus I Monophthalmus. Then in 301 BCE, Ptolemy I Soter exploited events surrounding the Battle of Ipsus to take control of the region. The victors at Ipsus finalized the breakup of Alexander's empire. Coele-Syria was allocated to Ptolemy's former ally Seleucus I Nicator, who--having been previously aided by Ptolemy--took no military action to gain control of the region. Their successors, however, became embroiled in a series of conflicts over this issue.
And king Demetrius made Apollonius his general, who was governor of Celesyria: and he gathered together a great army, and came to Jamnia.
Antiochus was so incensed, ...He at once sent his fleet to Cyprus, and in the first days of spring set his army in motion for Egypt and advanced into Coelo-Syria. When near Rhinocolura he was met by envoys from Ptolemy, who ...begged him to say clearly what he wanted rather than to attack Ptolemy as an enemy--by force of arms--after previously being his friend.
Authors of the Roman period differ on the limits of Coele-Syria, some extending and others contracting them. The Geography of Strabo notes that Coele Syria Propria (Proper) is defined by the Libanus and Anti-libanus mountain ranges, running parallel to each other. In the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, the name Coele (or Hollow Syria) was applied to the whole of the southern portion of Syria, but under the Romans, it was confined to "Coelesyria Proper" and variously included the district east of Anti-Libanus, about Damascus, and a portion of Palestine east of the Jordan river (possibly of: Trans-Jordan, Perea, or the Decapolis).
When then [Moses] he received the supreme authority, with the good will of all his subjects, God himself being the regulator and approver of all his actions, he conducted his people as a colony into Phoenicia, and into the hollow Syria (Coele-syria), and Palestine, which was at that time called the land of the Canaanites, the borders of which country were three days' journey distant from Egypt.
Syria holds a broad expanse of the littoral, as well as lands that extend rather broadly into the interior, and it is designated by different names in different places. For example, it is called Coele, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Commagene, and Sophene. It is Palestine at the point where Syria abuts the Arabs, then Phoenicia, and then--where it reaches Cilicia--Antiochia. [...] In Palestine, however, is Gaza, a mighty and well fortified city.
The name Syria comes from the ancient Greek regional name for the Levantine colonies and colonial territories which they had established and which were "formerly comprehended as part of Assyria" (see Name of Syria). Syria had an uncertain border to the northeast that Pliny the Elder describes as including from west to east; Commagene, Sophene, and Adiabene. In Pliny's time, Syria was administratively divided into a number of provinces with various degrees of autonomy under the Roman Empire, such as the Ityraei or Ituraei, who were a people of Coelo-Syria famous for shooting with a bow, [The wood of the trees called] "yews are bent into Ituraean bows".
Next to these countries on the coast is Syria, once the greatest of lands. It had a multitude of divisions with different names, the part adjacent to Arabia was previously known as Palestine (who's northernmost city was Caesarea, Plin. NH 5.69: "Caesarea ..finis Palastine") or Judaea or Coele.
Intending to write the history of the Romans, I have deemed it necessary to begin with the boundaries of the nations under their sway.... Here turning our course and passing round, we take in Palestine-Syria, and beyond it a part of Arabia. The Phoenicians hold the country next to Palestine on the sea, and beyond the Phoenician territory are Coele-Syria, and the parts stretching from the sea as far inland as the river Euphrates, namely Palmyra and the sandy country round about, extending even to the Euphrates itself.
The Decapolis was so called from its ten cities enumerated by Pliny. What Pliny calls Decapolis, Ptolomy makes his Coele-Syria; and the Coele-Syria of Pliny, is that part of Syria about Aleppo.
The governor of Syria retained the civil administration of the whole large province undiminished, and held for long alone in all Asia a command of the first rank. It was only in the course of the second century that a diminution of his prerogatives occurred, when Hadrian took one of the four legions from the governor of Syria and handed it over to the governor of Palestine. It was Severus who at length withdrew the first place in the Roman military hierarchy from the Syrian governor. After having subdued the province --which had wished at that time to make Niger emperor, as it had formerly done with its governor Vespasian --amidst resistance from the capital Antioch in particular, he ordained its partition into a northern and a southern half, and gave to the governor of the former, which was called Coele-Syria, two legions, to the governor of the latter, the province of Syro-Phoenicia, one [legion].
There is also the colony of Laodicea, in Coele Syria, to which also the divine Severus granted the Italian Law on account of its services in the Civil War.
You may delineate the Promised Land of Moses from the Book of Numbers (ch. 34): as bounded on the south by the desert tract called Sina, between the Dead Sea and the city of Kadesh-barnea, [which is located with the Arabah to the east] and continues to the west, as far as the river of Egypt, that discharges into the open sea near the city of Rhinocolara; as bounded on the west by the sea along the coasts of Palestine, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, and Cilicia; as bounded on the north by the circle formed by the Taurus Mountains and Zephyrium and extending to Hamath, called Epiphany-Syria; as bounded on the east by the city of Antioch Hippos and Lake Kinneret, now called Tiberias, and then the Jordan River which discharges into the salt sea, now called the Dead Sea.
80. Having marched to Pelusium Ptolemy made his first halt in that town; and having been there joined by the stragglers, and having given out their rations of corn to his men, he got the army in motion, and led them by a line of march which goes through the waterless region skirting Mount Casius and the Marshes.(Called Barathra, See Strabo, 17, 1, 21.) On the fifth day's march he reached his destination, and pitched his camp a distance of fifty stades from Rhaphia, which is the first city of Coele-Syria towards Egypt. (p. 431 at Google Books)
"The mariner passing by this country of palms, arrives at an island near to a promontory of the continent, which is called the Island of Sea-calves, from the great multitudes of those creatures that frequent this place. The sea here so abounds with them that it is to the admiration of the beholders. The promontory that shoots out towards this island lies over against Petra in Arabia and Palestine. It is said that the Gerrheans and Mineans bring out of the higher Arabia frankincense and other oderiferous gums into this island (Tiran Island)." p. 183 at Google Books
Polemon, &c.] He seems to have lived in the Time of Ptolemy Epiphanes; concerning which, see that very useful Book of the famous Gerrard Vossius, of the Greek Historians. Africanus says, the Greek Histories were wrote by him; which is the same Book Athenæus calls, . His Words are these: "In the Reign of Apis the Son of Phoroneus, Part of the Egyptian Army went out of Egypt, and dwelt in Syria called Palestine, not far from Arabia." As Africanus preserved the Place of Polemon, so Eusebius in his Chronology preserved that of Africanus. (p. 64 at Google Books)
Antient Divisions of Syria. -Under the Macedonian kings Syria was divided into four parts (tetrarchies), which were named after their capitals, Antioch, Seleuceia, Apamea, and Laodicea. Both the Greeks and the Romans called the northern portion of Syria, that is the whole country with the exception of Coele-Syria, Phoenice, and Palestine, by the name of Upper Syria (, Syria Superior), to distinguish it from Coele Syria (, that is, the Hollow Syria), which was the name given to the valley between the ridges of Libanus and Anti Libanus. Under the Romans the province was divided into nine districts: Cassiotis, Apamene, Chalcidice, Seleucis, Pieria, Commagene, Cyrrhestice, Chalybonitis, Palmyrene.(Image of p. 476 at Google Books)
Strabo below, c. ii. § 21, refers to this ancient division, when he says that the name Coele-Syria extends to the whole country as far as Egypt and Arabia, although in its peculiar acceptation it applied only to the valley between Libanus and Antilibanus. (p. 161 at Google Books)
The toponym "Coele Syria" ( ) has been used by ancient authors to designate various regions of the Levant. The term appeared for the first time in Greek language at the beginning of the fourth century BCE. Schalit (1954) 68-70 and Sartre (1988) 22, 26 among others have convincingly argued that at that time "Coele Syria" signified "the whole of Syria" from the Levantine coast in the west to the river Euphrates in the east covering the entire area of the old Achaemenid satrapy called kul ?awar nahara ("everything beyond the river"). The word in this context does thus not mean "hollow" (), but "whole", and originates probably as a Greek transliteration from the Aramaic word "kul". As a result of administrative changes in the Levant during the following two and a half centuries, the toponym "Coele Syria" acquired additional narrower meanings, whereby it was used to refer to different parts of Syria. Throughout antiquity, though, it never seems to have lost its original meaning.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
4. 12. Syria, was given to Laomedon of Mytilene. Curt. 10. 10. 2; Diod. 18. 3. 1; Arr. Succ. 1. 5; Dexippus, FGrH 100 F 8 §2. Syria here is Coele-Syria (Hollow Syria), in effect, the old Persian satrapy of Abarnahara ('the land beyond the river'; cf. Lehmann-Haupt §26; cf. §§129 ff). By strict definition, 'Hollow Syria' was the area between Lebanon and Antilebanon, though it came to represent the stretch from the Orontes to the Dead Sea. Strabo 16. 2. 16 C755 shows that it includes Damascus and the Jordan River, and that its northern and southern reaches are roughly parallel with Tripolis and Sidon respectively. Since the satrapy lists do not include a separate ruler for Phoenicia, we must conclude that Coele-Syria in the broad sense includes Phoenica as well; see also Pliny, HN 5. 13. 66-7.
The text is in bad shape and has been restored as follows: "Doros (Dor), a city of Sidonioi, <Ioppe (Jaffa), a city;> they say it was here that Androm<eda> was <ex>posed <to the monster. Aska>lon, a city of Tyrioi and a royal seat. Her<e is the boundary of Koile> (Hollow) Syria." (Shipley 2011, Pseudo-Skylax's Periplous, 104,3) Apparently the source lists the major cities on the Palestinian coast, apart from Gaza.
In 301 BCE, Judaea was incorporated into the Ptolemaic province of Coele-Syria. Then in 200 BCE, the Seleucids conquered Coele-Syria.
I shall tell how Antiochus (Antiochus III the Great) and Ptolemy Philopator (Ptolemy IV Philopator) first quarreled and finally went to war with each other for the possession of Coele-Syria. (Syrian Wars 219-217 BCE) [...] (Now I come to) the disturbances in Egypt; (The attempted partition of the dominions of Ptolemy V Epiphanes c.204) how, after the death of King Ptolemy (IV), Antiochus and Philip (Philip V of Macedon) entered into a compact for the partition of the dominions of that monarch's infant son, I shall describe their treacherous dealings. Philip laying hands upon; the islands of the Aegean and Caria and Samos. Antiochus upon; Coele-Syria and Phoenicia.
80. Ptolemy, marching on Pelusium, made his first halt at that city, and after picking up stragglers and serving out rations to his men moved on marching through the desert and skirting Mount Casius and the marshes called Barathra. Reaching the spot he was bound for on the fifth day he encamped at a distance of fifty stades from Raphia, (Modern Rafah at the border of Egypt and Israel, north of Rhinocolara (El Arish)) which is the first city of Coele-Syria on the Egyptian side after Rhinocolura. (p. 215 at Google Books)
Image of p. 36 at Google Books
Coelesyria, some write it conjoined as here, others, as the Greeks, Coele Syria, separate, which seems the juster way, because Pliny not only separates these words, but also simply says, Coele, an ancient inscription. Authors differ much in settling its limits, some extending, and others contracting, them too much: Strabo says, Coele Syria Propria is defined by Libanus and Anti-libanus, running parallel to each other. Now if we determine the limits of these two mountains, we shall go near to settle those of Coele Syria. They both begin a little above the sea; Libanus near Tripolis; chiefly against the spot called Dei Facies: Antilibanus at Sidon; but they terminate near the mountains of Arabia, above the territory of Damascus, and near the mountains of the Trachonitis, and there they terminate in other mountains, Strabo.
Or the "Hollow" Syria. This was properly the name given, after the Macedonian conquest, to the great valley between the two great ranges of Mount Lebanon, in the south of Syria, bordering upon Phoenicia on the west, and Palestine on the south. In the wars between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, the name was applied to the whole of the southern portion of Syria, which became subject for some time to the kings of Egypt; but under the Romans, it was confined to Coelesyria proper with the district east of Anti-Libanus, about Damascus, and a portion of Palestine east of Jordan. (Image of p. 423 at Google Books)
On Coele-Syria as a geographic designation, see Millar, Roman Near East, pp. 121-23, and .42 with bibliography cited there, including E. Bickerman, "La Coelé-Syria: Notes de géographie historique," RB 54 (1947): 256. The term floated; it did not have the connotations in antiquity that it now has. Most helpful is Strabo, Geog. 16.2.16-22: in 16-20 he discusses Coele-Syria proper, the area between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains; then in 21 he says the whole area between Seleucia (i.e., Syria) and Egypt-Arabia is called Coele-Syria, pointing out that "the country marked off by the Libanus and the Antilibanus is called by that name in a special sense" (see also 22). He is not confused but reports differing contemporary usages.
When then [Moses] he received the supreme authority, with the good will of all his subjects, God himself being the regulator and approver of all his actions, he conducted his people as a colony into Phoenicia, and into the hollow Syria (Coele-syria), and Palestine, which was at that time called the land of the Canaanites, the borders of which country were three days' journey distant from Egypt. (p. 37 at Google Books)
62. Syria holds a broad expanse of the littoral, as well as lands that extend rather broadly into the interior, and it is designated by different names in different places. For example, it is called Coele, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Commagene, and Sophene. 63. It is Palestine at the point where Syria abuts the Arabs, then Phoenicia, and then--where it reaches Cilicia--Antiochia. [...] 64. In Palestine, however, is Gaza, a mighty and well fortified city.
Ityraeos taxi torquentur in arcus (Image of p. 237 at Google Books)
Plin. Nat. 5.13, CHAP. 13. (12.)--SYRIA.
Image of p. 82 at Google Books
Chapter XII. Syria, Palestine, Phoenicè. Near the Coast is Syria, a Region which in Times past was the chiefest of Lands, and distinguished by many Names. (Image of p. 65 at Google Books)
[Year] 46 [BCE] Herod (the Great) made governor of all Coele-Syria by Sextus Caesar, governor of Syria. (Image of p. 19 at Google Books)
Decapolis was so called from its ten Cities enumerated by Pliny (lib. 5. 18.) And with them he reckons up among others, the Tetrarchy of Abila in the same Decapolis : Which demonstrates the Abila Decapolis and Abila Lysaniæ to be the same Place. And tho'it cannot be denied, but that some of Pliny's ten Cities are not far distant from that near Jordan ; yet it doth not appear that ever this other had the Title of a Tetrarchy. Here it is to be observed, that what Pliny calls Decapolis, Ptolomy makes his Coele-Syria ; and the Coele-Syria of Pliny, is that Part of Syria about Aleppo, formerly call'd Chalcidene, Cyrrhistice, &c. (Image of p. 175 & p. 176 at Google Books)
The problem of indicating precise ancient boundaries in Transjordan is difficult and complex and varies according to the time period under discussion. After the creation of the Roman province of Arabia in 106 A.D. Gerasa and Philadelphia were included in it. Nonetheless, Ptolemy--who was writing in the second century A.D. but did not record places by Roman provinces--described them as being in (the local geographical unit of) Coele Syria (5.14.18). Furthermore, Philadelphia continued to describe itself on its coins and in inscriptions of the second and third centuries A.D. as being a city of Coele Syria; see above, Philadelphia, n. 9. As for the boundaries of the new province, the northern frontier extended to a little beyond the north of Bostra and east; the western border ran somewhat east of the Jordan River valley and the Dead Sea but west of the city of Madaba (see M. Sartre, Trois ét., 17-75; Bowersock, ZPE5,  37-39; id., JRS61  236-42; and especially id.. Arabia, 90-109). Gadara in Peraea is identified today with es-Salt near Tell Jadur, a place that is near the western boundary of the province of Arabia. And this region could have been described by Stephanos as being located "between Coele Syria and Arabia."
Coelosyria properly so called, lay between Libanus and Antilibanus, and was thence called Coelosyria, or the Hollow Syria. Its principal cities were Heliopolis, Abila, Damascus and Laodicea. This geographer styles Abila Abila Lysanioe, which agrees with St. Luke's division of the tetrarchy, chap iii. 1. From Abila, the neighbouring country took the name of Abilene. (Image of p. 441 at Google books)
The governor of Syria retained the civil administration of the whole large province undiminished, and held for long alone in all Asia a command of the first rank. [...] It was only in the course of the second century that a diminution of his prerogatives occurred, when Hadrian took one of the four legions from the governor of Syria and handed it over to the governor of Palestine. It was Severus who at length withdrew the first place in the Roman military hierarchy from the Syrian governor. After having subdued the province --which had wished at that time to make Niger emperor, as it had formerly done with its governor Vespasian --amidst resistance from the capital Antioch in particular, he ordained its partition into a northern and a southern half, and gave to the governor of the former, which was called Coele-Syria, two legions, to the governor of the latter, the province of Syro-Phoenicia, one [legion]. (Image of p. 117 & p. 118 at Google Books)
In Syria, taken largely, there were many small provinces as Coelesyria, which the Latins call Syria Cava, because it lay in that fruitful valley between the mountains of Libanus and Anti-Libanus, in which the famous cities of Antioch, Laodicea, Apamea, with many others were seated. (Raleigh 1829, p. 217, at Google Books)
In 194 A.D. The emperor Septimus Severus divided the province of Syria and made the northern part into a separate province called Coele Syria.
Quod si objeceris terram repromissionis dici, quae in Numerorum volumine continetur (Cap. 34), a meridie maris Salinarum per Sina et Cades-Barne, usque ad torrentem Aegypti, qui juxta Rhinocoruram mari magno influit; et ab occidente ipsum mare, quod Palaestinae, Phoenici, Syriae Coeles, Ciliciaeque pertenditur; ab aquilone Taurum montem et Zephyrium usque Emath, quae appellatur Epiphania Syriae; ad orientem vero per Antiochiam et lacum Cenereth, quae nunc Tiberias appellatur, et Jordanem, qui mari influit Salinarum, quod nunc Mortuum dicitur; (Image of p. 41 at Google Books)
LIBANIUS was born at Antioch, the capital of Coele Syria as it is called. This city was founded by Seleucus surnamed Nicator. Libanius came of a noble family and ranked among the first citizens. (Image of p. 519 at Google Books)
Libanius was born at Antioch, the capital of Coele Syria as it is called. This city was founded by Seleucus surnamed Nicator