City in the Ḥawrān, present-day southern Syria, ca. 120 km. south of Damascus. Bostra is the Graeco-Latin name, corresponding to Buṣra or Boṣra in Syriac, Jewish Aramaic, Rabbinic Hebrew, and Arabic. Bostra was a Nabataean city which, after the Roman conquest of the Nabataean kingdom by Emperor Trajan, in 106, became the capital of the Roman province of Arabia.
Christianity came to the city no later than the beginning of the 3rd cent. Origen visited Bostra in 214–15 and met with the local bp. Beryllus. Bostra was ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Along with Christianity, there were local pagan cults, Judaism, and, in all likelihood, Manichaeism. One of Bostra’s famous bishops, Titus (d. before 378) is the author of an extensive refutation of Manichaeism. This important work, originally written in Greek (in which language it only partly survives) exists in its entirety in a Syriac translation that is preserved in the earliest dated Syriac ms. of 411 (London, Brit. Libr. Add. 12,150), written in Edessa. In 512, Bp. Julian of Bostra openly opposed Severus’s consecration as patr. of Antioch. He subsequently resigned and was replaced by the Miaphysite bp. Cassian. For the rest of the 6th and for the 7th cent., names of bishops are known on both the Syr. Orth. and the Chalcedonian side, which indicates that the Christians were divided. Several churches were built, renovated, or inaugurated in the 6th cent.
Bostra, which must have had a strong Arab component throughout its history, fell to the Arabs in 635. It is in Bostra that, according to tradition, the meeting between Muḥammad and the Christian monk Sargis Bḥira took place. For several centuries Bostra retained some of its importance, as it was on the pilgrims’ road from Damascus to Mecca. Nowadays it is a modest town, dominated by the ruins which reflect its earlier and more prosperous Christian and Muslim past.
- A. Abel, ‘Boṣrā (Bostra)’, in EI 2, vol. 1, 1275.
- J.-M. Dentzer, ‘Siedlungen und ihre Kirchen in Südsyrien’, in Syrien: Von den Aposteln zu den Kalifen, ed. E. M. Ruprechtsberger (1993), 82–101.
- Fiey, Pour un Oriens christianus novus, 168 (s.v. ‘Arabie’).
- Honigmann, Évêques et évêchés monophysites, 76–77.
- N. A. Pedersen, Demonstrative Proof in Defence of God: A Study of Titus of Bostra’s Contra Manichaeos — The Work’s Sources, Aims and Relation to Contemporary Theology (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 66; 2004), esp. 120–9.
- M. Sartre, Bostra: Des origines à l’Islam (Institut français d’archéologie du Proche-Orient. Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 117; 1985).
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Lucas Van Rompay, “Bostra,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Bostra.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Van Rompay, Lucas. “Bostra.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Bostra.
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