Little is known of the earliest history of Gadara, a hilltop site in the north-west corner of Jordan with grand views over Lake Tiberias, the Yarmouk River and the Golan Heights.
It is associated with the story of Jesus casting out demons and sending them into a herd of pigs which rushed down a steep slope and drowned in the lake (Matt. 8:28_34). The exact location of the miracle is unknown, but it could hardly have been Gadara itself as it is too far from the lake.
Prosperity continued throughout the Byzantine era when Gadara was the seat of a bishop. Its association with one of Jesus’ miracles gave it high status as a place of pilgrimage, and the five-aisled basilica may well have been built to accommodate pilgrims. Though continuing to flourish after the Islamic conquest of 636, decline set in after the overthrow in 750 of the Umayyads by the Abbasids, who moved the centre of the Caliphate east to Baghdad.