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Roman and Byzantine Ruins at Er Rabba

Rabba (Arabic: الربة‎) is a town in Jordan in the Karak Governorate. As Ancient Areopolis, it is a former bishopric and present Latin Catholic titular see.

It is about 15 kilometers north of the city of Al Karak, it had a population of about 7208 in 2015.[1]


Rabba lies on the historical King's Highway, it is situated on a thin semi-fertile plain, giving way to Wadi Ibn Hammad in the west, and the desert in the east. Located near the northern edge of the town is the Farming College, a branch of Mu'tah University.


Rabba was formerly known as Rabbath Moab. In the Hellenistic and Roman times it was called Areopolis, its Greek name. It was one of the two leading cities of the Karek Plateau at this time.[2]

Areopolis is mentioned by Ptolemy,[3] Eusebius,[4] who cited the terrifying nature of the place, Hierocles[5] and Stephen of Byzantium,[6] Sozomen[7] and also the Notitia Dignitatum[8] The town is shown on the Tabula Peutingeriana and the Madaba map and is attested to on numerous milestones. Areopolis also minted its own coin between 193 and 222 CE.[2]

In 1321 Abu'l-Fida noted: "Maab, or Ar Rabba lies in the Balka Province. According to Muhallabi, this place and Adhruh are two towns in the Jabal Ash Sharah. Maab was a very ancient town the relics of which have completely disappeared, and in its place is a village called Ar Rabbah, it is in the district of Al Karak, and lies about half a day's march from this to the north. Near Ar Rabbah is an extremely high hill, called Shaihan, which you see from afar."[9]

Ottoman era[edit]

In 1596 it appeared in the Ottoman tax registers named as Kafr Rabba, situated in the nahiya (subdistrict) of Karak, part of the Sanjak of Ajlun, it had 16 Muslim and 3 Christian households. They paid a fixed tax-rate of 25% on agricultural products, including wheat, barley, summer crops, vineyards/fruit trees, goats and bee-hives; in addition to occasional revenues; the total tax was 12,000 akçe.[10]

Modern era[edit]

In 1961 there were 1,073 inhabitants in Rabba,[11] of whom 200 were Christian.[12]

Archaeological Remains[edit]

Rabba is home to Nabatean ruins, which are located along the main street in the center of town, they consist of a temple and a cavernous ancient reservoir. There are many smaller ruins scattered all over town albeit not as extensive.[citation needed]


Rabba was traditionally populated largely by the Majali and Zureikat families, the first of which has considerable political influence in the country. However, since 1948 when Israel was formed, many Palestinians, who left their homes in Palestine settled in Rabba as well, now accounting for about a third of the town's population.[citation needed]


The economy in Rabba is largely agrarian, and relies greatly on seasonal crops such as wheat and oats. Many people own sheep goats or cattle.[citation needed]

Ecclesiastical History[edit]

Ancient Bishopric[edit]

Areopolis was important enough in the Late Roman province of Palestina Tertia to become a suffragan of its capital Petra's Metropolitan Archbishopric, but was to fade.

Known bishops include:

Titular see[edit]

In the 18th century, the diocese was nominally restored as a Latin Catholic titular bishopric Areopolis (Areopoli in Curiate Italian) and had the following incumbents of the fitting episcopal (lowest) rank.[17] Bishops include:

  • Pietro d’Alcántara della Santissima Trinità Gagna di Cherasco, Discalced Carmelites (O.C.D.) (1728.01.28 – 1744.11.03)
  • João da Madre de Deus Seixas da Fonseca Borges, Benedictines (O.S.B.) (1733.09.28 – 1768.03.05)
  • Florence of Jesus of Nazareth Szostak, O.C.D. (1746.01.19 – 1773.07.26)
  • pl:Tomasz Ignacy Zienkowicz(1755.07.21 – 1790.12.09)
  • William Wareing (1840.06.05 – 1850.09.29)
  • de:Anton Frenzel (1852.09.27 – 1873.04.03)
  • Blessed Ciriaco María Sancha y Hervás (1876.01.28 – 1882.03.27) (later Cardinal*)
  • Francesco Giordani (1882.07.03 – 1887.11.25)
  • Gabriele Gzele (1888.06.01 – 1903)

In 1903 it was promoted as Titular archbishopric, and as such had the following incumbents of the fitting archiepiscopal (intermediary) rank :

In March 1925 it was demoted back to titular bishopric, it is vacant since decades, having had the following incumbents of fitting episcopal rank :

  • Michael Joseph Keyes, Marists (S.M.) (1935.09.23 – 1959.08.07)
  • Leonardo Gregorio Gallardo Heredia (1960.02.13 – 1961.05.23)
  • René-Noël-Joseph Kérautret (1961.07.22 – 1965.05.09)


  1. ^ "The General Census - 2015" (PDF). Department of Population Statistics.
  2. ^ a b c d The Roman Frontier in Central Jordan: Final Report on the Limes Arabicus Project, 1980-1989, Volume 1(Dumbarton Oaks).
  3. ^ Claudius ptolemy, Geographica 5.17.5-6.
  4. ^ Eusebius, Onounasticon 10.17
  5. ^ Heirocles, Synedemos 721.9
  6. ^ Stephen of Byzantium, Ethnica 156.3.
  7. ^ Sozomen, HE 7.15.
  8. ^ Notitia Dignitatum Or 37.17.
  9. ^ Le Strange, 1890, pp. 494−495
  10. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 171
  11. ^ Government of Jordan, Department of Statistics, 1964, p. 21
  12. ^ Government of Jordan, Department of Statistics, 1964, pp. 115-116
  13. ^ Richard Price, Michael Gaddis, The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, Volume 1 (Liverpool University press, 2005)
  14. ^ By W. M. Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor.(Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  15. ^ Michel Le Quien, [Oriens christianus: in quatuor patriarchatus digestus](ex Typographia Regia, 1740) p892.
  16. ^ Acts of the council, and the Epistle of the decretal, and the Constitutions of the Supreme.
  17. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 842


Sources and external links[edit]

Coordinates: 31°16′N 35°44′E / 31.267°N 35.733°E / 31.267; 35.733