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Hills in the Judean desert.
Judea or Judæa (Hebrew: יהודה, Standard Yəhuda Tiberian , "praised, celebrated"; Greek: Ιουδαία, Ioudaía; ) is the name given to the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel ( Eretz Yisrael), an area now divided between Israelmarker and the West Bankmarker (itself partly under Palestinian Authority administration and Israeli military rule).

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. The area was the site of the Hasmonean Kingdom and the later Kingdom of Judah, a client kingdom of the Roman Empire. In modern times, Jordanmarker renamed Judea and Samaria the West Bank. The name "Yehudah" may be used by Hebrew speakers to refer to a large southern section of Israel and the disputed territories. The combined term Judea and Samaria, refers to land alternatively called the West Bankmarker.

Location and historical boundaries

The Judean hills.
The original boundaries were "Bethsûr" (near Hebronmarker), on the south; Beth-horon (today Beit 'Ur al Fawkamarker on the West Bankmarker), on the north; Latrunmarker or Emaüs, on the west (22 kilometres west of Jerusalemmarker); the Jordan Rivermarker on the east. The classical historian Josephus used a more expanded definition, encompassing the lower half of what is now the West Bankmarker in the north down to Beer Shebamarker in the south, and bordered on the east and west by the Mediterranean and the Jordan river.


Abu Ehmad, an Arab farmer, ploughs his fields in Judea, 1913.
Judea is a mountainous and arid region, much of which is considered to be a desert. It varies greatly in height, rising to an altitude of 1,020 m (3,346 ft) in the south at Mount Hebron, 30 km (19 miles) southwest of Jerusalemmarker, and descending to as much as 400 m (1,312 ft) below sea level in the east of the region. Major urban areas in the region include Jerusalem, Bethlehemmarker, Gush Etzionmarker (including Beitar Illitmarker and Efratmarker), Jerichomarker and Hebronmarker.

Geographers divide Judea into several distinct regions: the Hebron hills, the Jerusalem saddle, the Bethel hills and the Judean desert east of Jerusalem, which descends in a series of steps to the Dead Seamarker. 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 (which have more rainfall) as summer approaches, while the slopes are still layered with centuries-old stone terracing. The region dried out over the centuries and much of the ancient tree cover has since disappeared.


Human settlement in Judea stretches back to the Stone Age and the region is believed by paleoanthropologists to have been one of the routes through which Homo sapiens travelled out of Africa to colonise the rest of the world around 100,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence of human settlement dates back 11,000 years in the case of the city of Jerichomarker, believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world. In historic times, the region was inhabited by a number of peoples, most famously the Israelites. Judea is central to much of the narrative of the Torah, with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said to have been buried at Hebronmarker in the Tomb of the Patriarchsmarker.

Judea was ruled by the Kingdom of Judah, a client kingdom of Persia, and later the Seleucid dynasty of Greece who were eventually expelled from the region by Judas Maccabeus. The Maccabean family established the Hasmonean dynasty of Kings who ruled in Judea for over a century.

Roman conquest

Judea lost its independence to the Romans in the 1st century BCE, by 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, following the end of the Third Mithridatic War, when general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus stayed behind to make the area secure for Rome. Queen Alexandra Salome 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 family, first as procuratores and later as client kings. In 6 CE, Judea came under direct Roman rule as the province of Iudaeamarker. Eventually, the Jews rose against Roman rule in 66 CE in a revolt that was unsuccessful. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE and much of the population was killed or enslaved.

Bar Kokhba revolt

The Jews rebelled again 70 years later under the leadership of Simon bar Kokhba and established the last Kingdom of Israel, which lasted three years, before the Romans managed to conquer the province for good, at a high cost in terms of manpower and expense.

After the defeat of Bar Kokhba (132-135 CE) the Roman Emperor Hadrian was determined to wipe out the identity of Israel-Judah-Judea, and renamed it Philistina (after the ancient enemy of the Israelites; the Philistines). Until that time the area had been called "province of Judea" by the Romans. At the same time, he changed the name of the city of Jerusalemmarker to Aelia Capitolina. The Romans killed many Jews and sold many more into slavery; many Jews departed into the Jewish diaspora, but there was never a complete Jewish abandonment of the area.

20th century

As today's definition of Judea mostly covers the portion of the West Bank south of Jerusalem, the following subdivisions of both Israel and the PNA fall within the demographically-disputed area:

PNA governorates

Israeli settlement councils


[[Image:Levant 830.svg|thumb|272px|Map of the southern Levant, c.830s BCE.



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