Where was the Raphana of the Decapolis located?
Raphana, which is mentioned only once in connection with the Decapolis, is searched by different researchers in completely different places. By omitting Raphana in the second list of the Decapolis cities, some are looking for it in Abila, or Capitolias / Beit Ras.
N. Fuller, who excavated in Abila and the Wadi Queilbeh, did not believe in this connection and searched the location of Raphana in Er-Rafid in the Golan northeast of the Sea of Galilee; due to the reason that the place includes at least a few ruins and a small aqueduct according to G. Schumacher. However, she could not confirm this thesis.
Other researchers noticed a similarity in name to the biblically named Raphon. Due to the reason thatver, this in turn should have rest on the Khirbet er Rafe, they expected the Raphana of the Decapolis. Since R.Dussaud 1927 (p.338f), this thesis was often repeated. Dussaud's estimate already based only on theoretical considerations and inaccurate old maps, as well as comparisons with other potential locations. Dussaud did not know the location and also assigned it to the wrong river course.
However, I am not aware of any excavations there which could prove this to some extent. Until today, the area is occupied by the Syrian military. Even old satellite imagery shows only military positions and a large area that has been overgrown spaciously. Strategically but well located on the banks of the Wadi Ezra river course, it positions itself between the much larger old settlement of Sheik Mishkin in the southwest and Ezra (the ancient Zorava) in the northeast. From the north, the old pilgrim and trade route leads past 1.3km to the west, but even in old pictures no path can be found. Since the 17th century, none of the numerous international travellers has mentioned only one archaeologically relevant remnant, or even a capital or something similar. So only the similarity in name of er-Rafe to the Raphon of Judas Maccabaeus remains, which was used 100 years ago.
East of this location, the Decapolis Aqueduct crosses the Wadi Ezra on a bridge or rather its remains, which has never been described before (Link).
Nevertheless, it can be exluded that Khirbet er Rafe was a decapolis city. There are no indications at all and there are references for a sub channel from the Decapolis aqueduct.
So where was Raphana located?? The Raphanaea (now Zor Baarin), which is also known from the first ecclesiastical councils lying northwest of Emessa (today Homs) in northern Syria, is usually excluded. Due to the reason that it must have been a city with Hellenistic traditions and all Decapolis cities became a bishop seat, except the Dion which is also mentioned here, it is a very plausible and better alternative.
Today's El Musmije at the northwest end of the Trachonitis (El Leddja) was called "Phaena" or "Phanae" at that time. As the bishop seat it bore the Latin name "Phaenesiensis".
Here were Greek Roman temples, an Inn and much more. The travellers of the 19th century wrote about a city which was bigger in size than Bosra, Jerusalem, or even Damascus at that time. Also very interesting and also confirming the thesis first mentioned by, are the Roman legions usually associated with Raphanea. According to J.L.Burckhardt, Waddington and others, several consecration and foundation inscriptions of the 2nd-4th century after Christ were found about the LEG III Gallica as well as the LEG XVI Flavia Firma. The so-called Pretorium, one of the largest structure in the region, was built around 171 AD (A. Segal 164-169 AD). Originally it was one of the temples of the city, in which probably later various statues of military and urban "sizes" were set up. Even later this particular building was used as a church.
It seems that the name of the city had been interpreted differently again during the 4th and 5th centuries. The Notitia Dignitatum refers to Dia-fenis under the Dux Arabia, which is logically equated with Phaina / Phaena by O.Seeck. At this time, as an important centre as well as the location of archer units, Leg. III Gall. was deployed in Danaba near Damascus pursuant to Not. Dign. Raphanaea, located north of Emessa, is not mentioned in this voluminous national handbook.
We owe to the early travellers of the 19th century that we are still aware of this; because between 1870 and 1890 the temple and many other buildings in the village were completely razed by Ottoman troops and the stones were probably reused in military camps of the area. Fortunately, the already described and numerous other inscriptions (found in the surrounding area, at towers and milestones of the road which was built directly through the lava fields of the Leddja) prove that the legions mentioned had their main camp for nearly a century here. They designated themselves as the inhabitants of Phaena.
The proximity to a large legion-sized fort (called Ar-Rafi' ah) farther east, which, like Phaena, enabled to oversee the connecting plain between Arabia and the Jordan Bridge north of the Sea of Galilee (Jisr Bene Jacob), illustrates the strategic importance of its location. Perhaps, this was the predecessor settlement and legion-base of Phaena until the end of the Parthian Wars (162 AD). See also the Decapolis
Similarly, Phaena is one of the selected and ostensible significant places which is found on the Tabula Peutingeriana. There, recorded as Aenos , is the place which lies on the edge of the elevated lava flows of Trachonitis, between Damascus and Kanatha. The distances in miles, shown on the map, are almost identical to reality.
For the sake of completeness, I would like to name another location assumed to be part of the area of the Decapolis: the city of Phiala located on Lake Phiala, southeast of Banias / Paneas - the Caesarea of Philippus. This place also has an ancient Greek Roman tradition and could possibly have corresponded to Raphana.
Regarding to my location of the Raphana of the Decapolis, in the fortress City of Ar-Rafi'ah and the Phaena / el Musmije as his successor, I am looking forward for a good scientific discussion.