([ἡ] Γέρασα, of Heb. origin), a celebrated city on the eastern borders of Peraea (Josephus, War, 3:3, 3), placed lay some is the province of Coele- Syria and region of Decapolis (Steph. s.v.), by others in Arabia (Epiph. adv. Har.; Origen, in Johan.). It is undoubtless the Gelasa assigned by Pliny (5:18) to the Decapolis. These various statements do not arise from any' doubts as to the locality of the city, but from the ill-defined boundaries of the provinces mentioned. In the Roman age no city of Palestine was better known than Gerasa (Smith, Dict. of Class. Geog. s.v.). It lay on elevated ground, according to Ptolemy, in 680 15' 310 45' (Reland, Palaest. page 459), who distinguishes it from the Gerassa (Γέρασσα) of Arabia Petraea (ib. page 463). It is not mentioned in the O.T., nor in the New, unless in the reading Gerasene (q.v.) at Mt 7:28. It is not known when or by whom Gerasa was founded.. Its inhabitants were mostly heathen (Josephus, War, 3:3, 3; comp. 4:9, 1; 2:18, 5; Ant. 13:15, 5). It is first mentioned by Josephus as having been captured by Alexander Jannaeus (B.C. cir. 85), who was actuated by a desire of gaining a large treasure (Josephus, War, 1:4, 8; Ant. 8:2, 3). That king died near it while besieging Regaba (Ant. 15:5). Before the place had time to recover from this capture, it was included among the number of those cities which were burnt by the enraged Jews in their vengeance on the Syrians, and on the Roman power generally, for the massacre of a number of their nation at Caesarea (Josephus, War, 2:18, 1). A terrible revenge was taken by other cities, but Gerasa is honorably excepted (War, 2:18, 5) it had scarcely recovered from this calamity when the emperor Vespasian dispatched Annius, his general, to capture it. Annius, having carried the city at the first assault, put to the sword one thousand of the youth who had not effected their escape, enslaved their families, and plundered and fired their dwellings. It appears to have been nearly a century subsequent to this period that Gerasa attained its greatest prosperity, and was adorned with those monuments which give it a place among the proudest cities of Syria. History tells us nothing of this, but the fragments of-inscriptions found among its ruined palaces and temples show that it is indebted for its architectural splendor to the age and genius of the Antonines (A.D. 138- 80). It subsequently became the seat of a bishopric. Baldwin II of Jerusalem destroyed its castle in the year 1122 (Will. Tyr. page 825;
Histor. Hierosol. page 615). This was the native place of Nicomachus Gerasenus. Coins of Gerasa may be seen in Eckhel (Nuns. Vet. 3:350). There is no evidence that the city was ever occupied by theSaracens. There are no traces of their architecture — no mosques, no inscriptions, no reconstruction of old edifices, such as are found in most other great cities in Syria. All here is Roman, or at least anti-Islamic; every structure remains as the hand of the destroyer or the earthquake shock left it, ruinous and deserted. It is now called Jerash. Its ruins were first discovered by Seetzen (1:388 sq.), and have often been subsequently visited. They are by far the most beautiful and extensive east of the Jordan. They are situated on both sides of a shallow valley that runs from north to south through a high undulating plain, and falls into the Zurka (the ancient Jabbok) at the distance of about five miles. A little rivulet, thickly fringed with oleander, winds through the valley, giving life and beauty to the deserted city. The first view of the ruins is very striking, and such as have enjoyed it will not soon forget the impression made upon the mind. The long colonnade running through the center of the city, terminating at one end in the graceful circle of the forum; the groups of columns clustered here and there round the crumbling walls of the temples; the heavy masses of masonry that distinguish the positions of the great theatres; and the vast field of shapeless ruins rising gradually from the green banks of the rivulet to the battlemented heights on each side — all combine in forming a picture such as is rarely equalled. The form of the city is an irregular square, each side measuring nearly a mile. It was surrounded by a strong wall, a large portion of which, with its flanking towers at intervals, is in a good state of preservation. Three gateways are still nearly perfect, and within the city upwards of two hundred and thirty columns remain on their pedestals. A description of them may be found in Burckhardt's Syria, pages 252-64; also in those of Lord Lindsay and others, which are well condensed in Kelley's Syria, page 448 sq. See also Buckingham's Palestine, page 405; Keith, Evidence of Prophecy (36th ed.).