Judea (Redirected from Judaea)

Coordinates: 31°40′N 35°00′E / 31.667°N 35.000°E / 31.667; 35.000
LocationSouthern Levant
Part of
Native nameיְהוּדָה
Highest elevation1,020 m or 3,350 ft

Judea or Judaea (/dʒuːˈdiːə, dʒuːˈdeɪə/; Hebrew: יהודה, Modern: Yəhūda, Tiberian: Yehūḏā; Greek: Ἰουδαία, Ioudaía; Latin: Iudaea) is a mountainous region of the Levant. Traditionally dominated by the city of Jerusalem, it is now part of Palestine and Israel. The name's usage is historic, having been used in antiquity and still into the present day; it originates from Yehudah, a Hebrew name. Yehudah was a son of Jacob, who was later given the name "Israel" and whose sons collectively headed the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Yehudah's progeny among the Israelites formed the Tribe of Judah, with whom the Kingdom of Judah is associated. Related nomenclature continued to be used under the rule of the Babylonians (the Yehud province), the Persians (the Yehud province), the Greeks (the Hasmonean Kingdom), and the Romans (the Herodian Kingdom and the Judaea province). Under the Hasmoneans, the Herodians, and the Romans, the term was applied to an area larger than the historical region of Judea. In 132 CE, the Roman province of Judaea was merged with Galilee to form the enlarged province of Syria Palaestina.

The term Judea was revived by the Israeli government in the 20th century, as part of the Israeli administrative district name "Judea and Samaria Area" for the territory that is generally referred to as the West Bank.


The name Judea is a Greek and Roman adaptation of the name "Judah", which originally encompassed the territory of the Israelite tribe of that name and later of the ancient Kingdom of Judah. Nimrud Tablet K.3751, dated c. 733 BCE, is the earliest known record of the name Judah (written in Assyrian cuneiform as Yaudaya or KUR.ia-ú-da-a-a).

Judea was sometimes used as the name for the entire region, including parts beyond the river Jordan. In 200 CE Sextus Julius Africanus, cited by Eusebius (Church History 1.7.14), described "Nazara" (Nazareth) as a village in Judea. The King James Version of the Bible refers to the region as "Jewry".

"Judea" was a name used by English speakers for the hilly internal part of Mandatory Palestine until the Jordanian rule of the area in 1948. For example, the borders of the two states to be established according to the UN's 1947 partition scheme were officially described using the terms "Judea" and "Samaria" and in its reports to the League of Nations Mandatory Committee, as in 1937, the geographical terms employed were "Samaria and Judea". Jordan called the area ad-difa'a al-gharbiya (translated into English as the "West Bank"). "Yehuda" is the Hebrew term used for the area in modern Israel since the region was captured and occupied by Israel in 1967.

Historical boundaries

The Judean hills
Old Roman road in Judea

Roman-era definition

The first century Roman-Jewish historian Josephus wrote (The Jewish War 3.3.5):

In the limits of Samaria and Judea lies the village Anuath, which is also named Borceos. This is the northern boundary of Judea. The southern parts of Judea, if they be measured lengthways, are bounded by a village adjoining to the confines of Arabia; the Jews that dwell there call it Jordan. However, its breadth is extended from the river Jordan to Joppa. The city Jerusalem is situated in the very middle; on which account some have, with sagacity enough, called that city the Navel of the country. Nor indeed is Judea destitute of such delights as come from the sea, since its maritime places extend as far as Ptolemais: it was parted into eleven portions, of which the royal city Jerusalem was the supreme, and presided over all the neighboring country, as the head does over the body. As to the other cities that were inferior to it, they presided over their several toparchies; Gophna was the second of those cities, and next to that Acrabatta, after them Thamna, and Lydda, and Emmaus, and Pella, and Idumea, and Engaddi, and Herodium, and Jericho; and after them came Jamnia and Joppa, as presiding over the neighboring people; and besides these there was the region of Gamala, and Gaulonitis, and Batanea, and Trachonitis, which are also parts of the kingdom of Agrippa. This [last] country begins at Mount Libanus, and the fountains of Jordan, and reaches breadthways to Lake Tiberias; and in length is extended from a village called Arpha, as far as Julias. Its inhabitants are a mixture of Jews and Syrians. And thus have I, with all possible brevity, described the country of Judea, and those that lie round about it.

Elsewhere, Josephus wrote that "Arabia is a country that borders on Judea."


Mediterranean oak and terebinth woodland in the Valley of Elah, southwestern Judea

Judea is a mountainous region, part of which is considered a desert. It varies greatly in height, rising to an altitude of 1,020 metres (3,350 ft) in the south at the Hebron Hills, 30 km (19 mi) southwest of Jerusalem, and descending to as much as 400 metres (1,300 ft) below sea level in the east of the region. It also varies in rainfall, starting with about 400–500 millimetres (16–20 in) in the western hills, rising to 600 millimetres (24 in) around western Jerusalem (in central Judea), falling back to 400 millimetres (16 in) in eastern Jerusalem and dropping to around 100 millimetres (3.9 in) in the eastern parts, due to a rain shadow: this is the Judaean Desert. The climate, accordingly, moves between Mediterranean in the west and desert climate in the east, with a strip of semi-arid climate in the middle. Major urban areas in the region include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gush Etzion, Jericho and Hebron.

Geographers divide Judea into several regions: the Hebron hills, the Jerusalem saddle, the Bethel hills and the Judaean Desert east of Jerusalem, which descends in a series of steps to the Dead Sea. The hills are distinct for their anticline structure. In ancient times the hills were forested, and the Bible records agriculture and sheep farming being practiced in the area. Animals are still grazed today, with shepherds moving them between the low ground to the hilltops as summer approaches, while the slopes are still layered with centuries-old stone terracing. The Jewish Revolt against the Romans ended in the devastation of vast areas of the Judean countryside.

Mount Hazor marks the geographical boundary between Samaria to its north and Judea to its south.

Narrative of the biblical patriarchs

Judea is central to much of the narrative of the Torah, with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said to have been buried at Hebron in the Tomb of the Patriarchs.[citation needed]


Israel and Judah, Assyrian and Babylonian periods

Map of the southern Levant, c. 830s BCE
 Kingdom of Judah

The early history of Judah is uncertain; the biblical account states that the Kingdom of Judah, along with the Kingdom of Israel, was a successor to a united monarchy of Israel and Judah, but modern scholarship generally holds that the united monarchy is ahistorical. Regardless, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 720 BCE. The Kingdom of Judah remained nominally independent, but paid tribute to the Assyrian Empire from 715 and throughout the first half of the 7th century BCE, regaining its independence as the Assyrian Empire declined after 640 BCE, but after 609 again fell under the sway of imperial rule, this time paying tribute at first to the Egyptians and after 601 BCE to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, until 586 BCE, when it was finally conquered by Babylonia.

Persian and Hellenistic periods

Hasmonean Kingdom at its greatest extent under Salome Alexandra

The Babylonian Empire fell to the conquests of Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE. Judea remained under Persian rule until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, eventually falling under the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire until the revolt of Judas Maccabeus resulted in the Hasmonean dynasty of kings who ruled in Judea for over a century.

Early Roman period

Judea lost its independence to the Romans in the 1st century BCE, becoming first a tributary kingdom, then a province, of the Roman Empire. The Romans had allied themselves to the Maccabees and interfered again in 63 BCE, at the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when the proconsul Pompey ("Pompey the Great") stayed behind to make the area secure for Rome, including his siege of Jerusalem in 63 BCE. Queen Salome Alexandra had recently died, and a civil war broke out between her sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II. Pompeius restored Hyrcanus but political rule passed to the Herodian dynasty, who ruled as client kings.

In 6 CE, Judea came under direct Roman rule as the southern part of the province of Judaea, although Jews living there still maintained some form of independence and could judge offenders by their own laws, including capital offences, until c. 28 CE. The province of Judea, during the late Hellenistic period and early Roman Empire was also divided into five conclaves: Jerusalem, Gadara, Amathus, Jericho, and Sepphoris, and during the Roman period had eleven administrative districts (toparchies): Jerusalem, Gophna, Akrabatta, Thamna, Lod, Emmaus, Pella, Idumaea, Ein Gedi, Herodeion, and Jericho.

Jewish–Roman wars

In 66 CE, the Jewish population rose against Roman rule in a revolt that was unsuccessful. Jerusalem was besieged in 70 CE. The city was razed, the Second Temple was destroyed, and much of the population was killed or enslaved.

In 132 CE, the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–136 CE) broke out. After an initial string of victories, rebel leader Simeon Bar Kokhba was able to form an independent Jewish state that lasted several years and included most of the district of Judea, including the Judean Mountains, the Judean Desert, and northern Negev desert, but probably not other sections of the country. When the Romans finally put an end to the uprising, most of the Jews in Judea were killed or displaced, and a sizable number of captives were sold into slavery, leaving the district mostly depopulated. Jews were expelled from the area surrounding Jerusalem. No village in the district of Judea whose remains have been excavated so far has not been destroyed during the revolt. Roman emperor Hadrian, determined to root out Jewish nationalism, changed the name of the province from Judaea to Syria Palaestina. The province's Jewish population was now mainly concentrated in the Galilee, the coastal plain (especially in Lydda, Joppa, and Caesarea), and smaller Jewish communities continued to live in the Beth She'an Valley, the Carmel, and Judea's northern and southern frontiers, including the southern Hebron Hills and along the shores of the Dead Sea.

The suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt led to widespread destruction and displacement throughout Judea, and the district saw a decline in population. The Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina, which was built on the ruins of Jerusalem, remained a backwater for the duration of its existence. The villages around the city were depopulated, and arable lands in the region were confiscated by the Romans. Having no alternative population to fill the empty villages led the authorities to establish imperial or legionary estates and monasteries on confiscated village lands to benefit the elites and, later, the church. This also initiated a process of romanization that took place during the Late Roman period, with pagan populations penetrating the region and settling alongside Roman veterans. There was only a revival of village settlement on the eastern edges of Jerusalem's hinterland, on the transition between the arable highlands and the Judaean Desert. Those settlements grew on marginal lands with vague ownership and unenforced state land dominion.

Byzantine period

5th century CE: Byzantine provinces of Palaestina I (Philistia, Judea and Samaria) and Palaestina II (Galilee and Perea)

Judea's decline only came to an end in the fifth century CE, when it developed into a monastic center, and Jerusalem became a major Christian pilgrimage and ecclesiastical hub. Under Byzantine rule, the regional population, composed of pagan populations who had migrated there after Jews were driven out following the Bar Kokhba revolt, gradually converted to Christianity.

The Byzantines redrew the borders of the land of Palestine. The various Roman provinces (Syria Palaestina, Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea) were reorganized into three dioceses of Palaestina, reverting to the name first used by Greek historian Herodotus in the mid-5th century BCE: Palaestina Prima, Secunda, and Tertia or Salutaris (First, Second, and Third Palestine), part of the Diocese of the East. Palaestina Prima consisted of Judea, Samaria, the Paralia, and Peraea with the governor residing in Caesarea. Palaestina Secunda consisted of 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 Jordan—once part of Arabia—and most of Sinai, with Petra as the usual residence of the governor. Palestina Tertia was also known as Palaestina Salutaris. According to historian H.H. Ben-Sasson, this reorganisation took place under Diocletian (284–305), although other scholars suggest this change occurred later, in 390.

Crusader period

According to Ellenblum, the Franks tended to settle in the southern half of the region between Jerusalem and Nablus since there was a sizable Christian population there.

Mamluk period

Most of the people living in the northern portion of Judea in the late 16th century were Muslims; some of them resided in towns that today have significant Christian populations. According to the 1596–1597 Ottoman census, Birzeit and Jifna, for instance, were wholly Muslim villages, while Taybeh had 63 Muslim families and 23 Christian families. There were 71 Christian families and 9 Muslim families in Ramallah, although the Christians there were recent arrivals who had moved from the Kerak area only a few years previously. According to Ehrlich, the region's Christian population decreased as a result of a combination of factors including impoverishment, oppression, marginalization, and persecution. Sufi activity took place in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, which most likely pushed Christian villagers in the region to convert to Islam.


Selected towns and cities

Judea, in the generic sense, also incorporates places in Galilee and in Samaria.

Place Names of Judea
English Hebrew (Masoretic, 7th–10th century CE) Greek (Josephus, LXX, 3rd century BCE – 1st century CE) Latin Arabic
Jerusalem ירושלם Ιερουσαλήμ Herusalem (Aelia Capitolina) القدس (al-Quds)
Jericho יריחו Ίεριχω Hiericho / Herichonte أريحا (Ariḥa)
Shechem / Nablus שכם Νεάπολις
Neapoli نابلس (Nablus)
Jaffa יפו Ἰόππῃ Ioppe يَافَا (Yaffa)
Ascalon אשקלון Ἀσκάλων (Askálōn) Ascalone عَسْقَلَان (Asqalān)
Beit Shean בית שאן Σκυθόπολις (Scythopolis)
Βαιθσάν (Beithsan)
Scytopoli بيسان (Beisan)
Beth Gubrin /Maresha בית גוברין Ἐλευθερόπολις
Betogabri بيت جبرين (Bayt Jibrin)
Kefar Othnai (לגיון) כפר עותנאי xxx Caporcotani (Legio) اللجّون (al-Lajjûn)
Peki'in פקיעין Βακὰ xxx البقيعة (al-Buqei'a)
Jamnia יבנה Ιαμνεία Iamnia يبنى (Yibna)
Samaria / Sebaste שומרון / סבסטי Σαμάρεια / Σεβαστή Sebaste سبسطية (Sabastiyah)
Paneas / Caesarea Philippi פנייס Πάνειον (Καισαρεία Φιλίππεια)
Cesareapaneas بانياس (Banias)
Acre / Ptolemais עכו Πτολεμαΐς (Ptolemais)
Ἀκχώ (Akchó)
Ptoloma عكّا (ʻAkka)
Emmaus אמאוס Ἀμμαοῦς (Νικορολις)
Nicopoli عمواس ('Imwas)

See also

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