BOSTRA BOSRA

I. City and council. The etymology of the city’s name is uncertain. Perhaps it is from Beesterah house of Astarte. Its name appears in 1 Macc 5:25-28 in connection with the expedition beyond the Jordan of Judas Maccabeus 164 161 BC to protect the Jewish communities there. In the preRoman period Bostra was a fortress in the Nabataean kingdom, whose capital was Petra. Due to its location at the intersection of transportation routes and the fertility of the surrounding plain, Bostra was the most important urban center S of Damascus. With the end of the Nabataean kingdom in AD 106 Bostra, now called Nova Traiana Colonia, became the administrative center of the province of Arabia and, probably after 132 135, headquarters of the III Cyrenaica Legion. Through the work of the Syrian emperors, esp. Alexander Severus 222 235, the city saw an accelerated development and embellishment, interrupted, however, by the devastation of the Palmyran queen Zenobia’s 269 battle with the Roman Empire. With the division of Arabia into two provinces a few decades later, Bostra remained the principal city of Arabia, while ancient Petra was chosen as capital of Palaestina Tertia or Palaestina Salutaris. In 634 Bostra came under Arab control. Unlike other Syrian cities, information on the Christian community at Bostra is abundant, leading to the conclusion that already by the 2nd c. it had been evangelized by the church of Alexandria. Eusebius mentions how in 215 the governor of Arabia capital Bostra sent letters to Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria and to the prefect of Egypt, asking them to send Origen because of his doctrinal prowess. The mission completed, Origen returned to Alexandria HE VI 19,15; 19,33; 19,37.

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