The Onomasticon of Iudaea • Palaestina and Arabia in the Greek and Latin Sources (henceforth: Onomasticon) is a comprehensive collection of Greek and Latin texts from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods that mention individual names of settlements, geographical entities (such as regions, mountains and rivers), administrative units (names of provinces and districts) and ethnic names (nations,tribes and clans) within the geographical and chronological limits of the research.
References to biblical and mythological places are included if the ancient authors identified them (even wrongly) with sites known in their own times, but not if they appear only in the context of the citation of a verse or a non-geographical exegesis. Thus, the Onomasticon supplies information not only about the geography and history of the region, but also about legends, traditions and historical-geographical concepts belonging to its past.

Users of the Onomasticon may find it helpful to consult the maps and gazetteer in our 1994 publication, Tabula Imperii Romani: Iudaea • Palaestina: Maps and Gazetteer (TIR), which also contains information on unidentified archaeological sites; it does not, however, include the areas of present-day Jordan and Syria. The introduction to the TIR provides a general discussion of the region’s political and administrative history, including its changing borders, demography and settlement.

Geographical Scope

The geographical scope of the Onomasticon includes the maximal areas of Iudaea under the Hasmonaean and Herodian dynasties, and of the Roman provinces of Palaestina (Palaestina Prima, Secunda and Tertia in the Byzantine period) and Arabia. For the sake of completeness, and because they have been researched by Israeli scholars for many years, we also include a few areas that were never parts of Iudaea, Palaestina or Arabia: the Upper Galilee, the northern coast of Israel down to Mount Carmel and the northern Golan, which belonged to Phoenice, and northern Sinai, which was included in the Roman province of Aegyptus and later in Augustamnica. Altogether, the Onomasticon covers the entire area presently governed by the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Sinai in Egypt, most of Jordan and parts of southern Syria (the Hauran and Jebel Druz).
Needless to say, these geographical limits reflect the past history of the region and have no modern political connotations.

Chronological Scope

In principle, the Onomasticon covers the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods, from the mid-fourth century BCE to the Muslim conquest of Palestine (640 CE).
However, a few earlier sources, including texts by Alcaeus and Herodotus, are included. At the other end, many Greek and Latin sources from the seventh, eighth and even later centuries CE are included as supplementary texts, if they continue earlier literary traditions (e.g., the hagiographical anecdotes of Anastasius Sinaites and Adamnan’s account of the pilgrimage of Arculfus) or directly depend on earlier sources (e.g., the writings of some Byzantine chronographers, and the lists of episcopal sees in the early Islamic period).


Major texts containing information relevant to many toponyms are collected in Volume I, where they are presented in chronological order and identified by numbers. In the subsequent, alphabetical volumes, only portions of the texts relevant to the individual entries are excerpted. Where these are drawn from fuller versions presented in Volume I, the reader is referred to them by cross references. Volume I also contains an alphabetical, cross-referenced list of all the toponyms to be treated in the Onomasticon, an annotated bibliography of the Primary Sources from which the texts are drawn, and lists of the Bibliographical Abbreviations and Sigla used throughout the Onomasticon. Modern scholarly works cited in the alphabetical entries are listed in the Research Bibliography included in each volume.
The alphabetical presentation of individual toponyms begins in Volume II, whose two parts contain entries starting with the letter A, from Aalac mons to Azzeira.
Texts relating to Arabia are also included in this volume.

In the entry titles, the Latin form of the toponym, if one exists, takes precedence (e.g., Alexandrium, not Alexandrion); if not, whenever possible the Greek version
is given in Latin transcription and form (e.g., Abibeni, not Abibenoi). If there are several names or forms of the name for the same site, the most common one usually appears fijirst, followed by the others (e.g., Adora, Adoraim, Adoreos). If there are several diffferent places by the same name, they are given separate entries, distinguished by Roman numerals (e.g., Adasa I, Adasa II).

Cross references assist the reader in fijinding places that may be known by different names or in diffferent spellings (e.g., Abraham, quercus [Abraham’s Oak] – see Mamre, Terebinthus; Aiamia – see Iamnia, Yavneh). A cross reference to two or more names separated by semicolons indicates that the desired item may be found under two or more diffferent entries. Special classes of sites – e.g., monasteries (monasteria), churches (ecclesiae) and famous tombs (monumenta) – are grouped together.
In choosing the toponyms to be included in each alphabetical list, we were sometimes faced with places known under a double name, one Semitic and the other Greek, e.g., Areopolis/Rabbathmoba (Rabbath Moab). In such cases, we usually chose the form more frequently used in the ancient sources.
Each volume concludes with a Research Bibliography of modern scholarly sources cited in the entries in that volume, an index of all ancient and modern toponyms mentioned in the volume, a comparative chart of coordinates of all the modern places mentioned in the volume, and a map indicating their locations.

The particularly large number of sources on Hierosolyma/Jerusalem, some of them extremely long and quite controversial (such as Flavius Josephus’ description
of the city and the Temple, or the descriptions of the city by Christian pilgrims), calls for a separate volume. Although the sources on Jerusalem have been collected, the huge task of preparing this volume will be carried out after all the other volumes are complete.

The Alphabetical Entries

Each alphabetical entry begins with the place name or names, followed by a short defijinition of the site. Next come the Greek or Latin texts, each followed by an English translation. Each excerpt is numbered in square brackets and headed by a note of the source from which it is drawn; further information about these sources and, where relevant, the editions from which they are drawn may be found in the annotated list of Primary Sources. Where appropriate, the text may be preceded by a short introductory sentence concerning the source or contextualizing the passage, or it may be followed by a short commentary. The texts are not given a full critical apparatus, but variants of the toponym to which the entry is devoted, and variant readings that change the sense of the text, are noted. Readers seeking further information about textual variants and MSS are invited to consult the relevant critical editions.

In translating the texts, we endeavoured to stay as close as possible to the original wording so that readers less proficient in the classical languages could more easily follow the Greek or Latin text. For this reason, many of the English translations are our own. Others depend on existing works, such as Lewis’ and Cotton’s translations of the Judaean Desert papyri, Kraemer’s translations of the Nessana papyri, etc. We have also quoted or based many of our translations on those appearing in the Loeb Classical Library (LCL). In all these cases, the translator is credited for each verbatim or slightly modified passage (e.g., transl. Marcus, LCL) and, in a somewhat different form, for each of the numerous cases in which we modified the translations but preserved between 5 and 60 percent of the original (e.g.: transl. after Marcus, LCL). In the case of changes to an existing translation, the responsibility for any deviation from the original – or any mistake – is ours.

The arrangement of the passages within each entry is usually chronological, with a few exceptions, of which the most common is the juxtaposition of the entries in Eusebius’ Onomasticon with those in Jerome’s Latin translation, written about a century later. In the case of a source erroneously ascribed to a well known author – such as ps. Origen, whose date is unknown – we locate it after the genuine works of the same author, or in the place chronologically allotted to him. Papyri are inserted according to their place in the chronological order, while inscriptions, as a rule, are grouped together after the literary texts, with a few exceptions, such as the Beersheba edict, the Madaba Map and other topographical mosaics. Coins bearing city names, grouped together after the inscriptions, are given an abbreviated treatment, mentioning only the principal formulas and dates.

Many entries conclude with supplementary texts, comprising excerpts from later Greek and Latin sources and from texts in oriental languages, such as Syriac or Arabic, that are believed to be based on lost original Greek texts. These latter, also presented in chronological order, are given only in English translation. Toponyms occurring in these texts, which are mostly in Syriac, are transcribed in parentheses in the Hebrew-Aramaic alphabet, which parallels the Syriac alphabet but is better known to most readers.

The numbered sources are followed by a short commentary on the site, summarizing its identification (including suggested alternatives), its history and any archaeological finds. Map references, usually consisting of eight digits, are given according to the ICS Grid (also known as the Old Israel Grid [OIG], formerly the Palestine Grid), which originated in the British Mandate period and therefore also includes most of Jordan. Larger sites may be defined by only six digits, or by eight digits pinpointing the centre of the settlement. References to sites in northeastern Transjordan or southern Syria may be less accurate and are often defijined by only six digits, as we could not avail ourselves of detailed topographical maps. We chose the ICS because it has been used in almost all archaeological works until recently, and its abandonment would have cut us offf from the greater part of modern research. However, at the end of each volume, the reader will find a comparative chart of the ICS with three other systems: the Israel Transverse Mercator Grid (ITM, also known as the New Israel Grid [NIG]), the United Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM) and the World Geodetic System (WGS 84), which have become popular mainly since the free publication of Google Earth on the internet. At the end of each volume the reader will also find a map showing the sites mentioned in that volume.

Each entry concludes with the relevant research bibliography. Several comprehensive works, old and new, including Thomsen’s Loca Sancta (LS), Abel’s Géographie de la Palestine (GP), Avi-Yonah’s Gazetteer, Schmitt’s Siedlungen, Reeg’s Ortsnamen, the TIR, and Dauphin’s Palestine byzantine, are cited systematically, and the reader may use these to find references to earlier studies and further bibliography. To these works we add references to monographs and studies specifically concerned with the site under discussion, archaeological reports and recent publications.

Ancient and Modern Names and Toponyms in the Onomasticon

Personal names appear in the translations in their ancient forms, except in the case of well known persons whose names are commonly given an English form. In the discussions, we have usually preferred the English form; thus, Iohannes is referred to as John, Hieronymus as Jerome, Cyrillus as Cyril, etc. There are exceptions, when the use of the ancient or the modern form did not seem appropriate. Similarly, toponyms are given in the English translations in the same form in which they appear in the Greek or Latin text (with the requisite grammatical adaptations), but the discussions may refer to them by their more common modern names. For a small group of places whose names are well known to the general public in their English forms, such as Jerusalem, Jericho and the Jordan River, we have used these forms in the translations as well, except in the specific entries dealing with these places, where attention is drawn to the variant spellings. We also permitted ourselves some freedom, especially with biblical names: e.g., Auranitis is sometimes – but not always – Hauran, and Moabitis is sometimes Moab.
We have chosen to publish the Onomasticon initially in printed form, but we envision a future electronic publication. In spite of all the efforts invested in these volumes, mistakes and lacunas will no doubt be discovered. We shall endeavour to correct them in future volumes. Additional sources published after the editing of these volumes was completed will appear in the Addenda to future volumes.

Leah Di Segni, Yoram Tsafrir and Judith Green
June 2014