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COELE-SYRIA , the official Seleucid designation for those portions of Palestine and southern Syria captured by Antiochus iii from the Ptolemies (c. 200 b.c.e.). Under Ptolemaic rule these territories were known officially as "Syria and Phoenicia," but this title was apparently unacceptable to the Seleucids, who felt it necessary to differentiate between greater Syria, which had been theirs throughout the third century, and those new portions of Syria conquered by Antiochus. Although the name "Coele-Syria" assumed official significance only from the second century b.c.e., it first appears in sources dating back to the early fourth century (Ctesias (Diodorus 2:3, 2) and "Pseudo-Scytax" where its precise geographical implication is uncertain). The author of the apocryphal Esdras substitutes the phrase "Coele-Syria" for the Aramaic expression avar nahara (across the river) which appears in the parallel passages in the biblical Ezra. The term is defined by Herodotus (3:91) as the fifth satrapy of the Persian Kingdom, and would thus refer to all the lands between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, from Cilicia to Egypt. Ptolemy Lagus referred to southern Syria as "Coele-Syria" as a means to claiming the rule of the whole of Syria. The geographical meaning of the term "Coele-Syria" changed during the last century b.c.e.; Strabo took it to mean the land between Lebanon and Antilebanon, while Josephus understood it as referring to some unclearly defined area east of the River Jordan.


Scheurer, Gesch, 4 (19114), 40 (index); U. Kahrstedt, Syrische Territorien in hellenistischer Zeit (1926), index s.v.Koilesyrien; Shalit, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 1 (1954), 64–77; H. Buchheim, Die Orientpolitik des Triumvirn M. Antonius (1960); Avi-Yonah, Geog, 32–33; M. Stern, Ha-Te'udot le-Mered ha-Ḥashmona'im (1965), 45; P.K. Hitti, History of Syria (1951), Sindex.

[Isaiah Gafni]