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BATHYRA , place in the toparchy of Batanea (i.e., *Bashan, east of Golan) founded by Jewish military settlers from Babylonia. Desirous of defending his borders from attacks by the neighboring Trachonites, *Herod decided to settle a large number of Jews in the area of Bathyra with the further intention that it would serve also as a base for his own military offensives. Upon learning that *Zamaris, a Jew from Babylon, had crossed the Euphrates with five hundred horsemen and was staying near Antioch under the patronage of Saturninus, the governor of Syria, Herod offered them the territory for the proposed buffer-zone, promising to rescind all taxes and tributes. The Babylonians took possession of the land, building fortresses and a village named Bathyra. The settlers defended not only the local population from Trachonite brigandage, but also Jewish pilgrims from Babylonia on their way to Jerusalem.

The family of Zamaris became a major ally of Herod, supporting his policies as well as those of the two Agrippas. Although Bathyra remained their base, members of the family also resided throughout the neighboring territories. Relatives of Philip, grandson of Zamaris, were among the prominent residents of Gamala at the beginning of the Roman War (66 c.e.). Philip played a vital if somewhat ambiguous part during that uprising, as well as in the events in Jerusalem on the eve of the outbreak of the war in 66. It was his task to secure Batanea from insurrection against Agrippa ii and the Romans. Numerous scholars have made the connection between Bathyra and the rabbis referred to in the Talmud as "the sons of *Bathyra," who held high offices in Jerusalem until they were superseded by Hillel. However, it is improbable that there was any connection between the warriors of Bathyra and the rabbinical "sons of Bathyra."


Jos., Ant., 17:23ff.; Jos., Life, 46ff., 177ff.; H. Graetz, in: mgwj, 1 (1851), 115ff.; Stern, in: Tarbiz, 35 (1965/66), 251–3; Neusner, Babylonia, 1 (1965), 38ff.

[Isaiah Gafni]

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