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ARBELA (Arba‘il, i.e. “Four-god-city”), an ancient town in Adiabene, the capital in Assyrian and pre-Assyrian times of the country between the greater and lesser Zab, and seat of an important cult of Ishtar. The battle in which Alexander overthrew Darius in 331 B.C., though named in the old books after Arbela, was probably fought at Gaugamela, some 60 m. away (Yorck von Wartenburg, Kurze Übersicht der Feldzüge A. des Gr.). The modern town of Erbil or Arbil, in the vilayet of Mosul, is about 40 m. from Mosul on the road to Bagdad. The greater part of the town, which seems at one time to have been very large, is situated on an artificial mound about 150 ft. high. It became the seat of the Ayyubite sultan Saladin in 1184; was bequeathed in 1233 to the caliphs of Bagdad; was plundered by the Mongols in 1236 and in 1393 by Timur, and was taken in 1732 by the Persians under Nadir Shah. In the 14th century the Christians were almost exterminated. The population, which varies from 2000 to 6000, is chiefly composed of Kurds.

The ruins of another Arbela (Irbid, Beth-Arbel) in Palestine, situated near the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, a little north of its centre, are not in themselves of high interest, but the site is noteworthy through its connexion with the neighbouring caves in the lofty flank of the Wadi Hamam, above which Arbela stood. These caves (called by the Arabs Kulat ibn Ma‘an) are apparently natural, but were enlarged and fortified. They were used by the inhabitants of Arbela as a place of refuge from the army of Bacchides, general of Demetrius III., king of Syria, and were the resort of bandits in the reign of Herod the Great. He laid siege to them, and his men could only gain access to the caves by being let down from above. The caves were also fortified against the Romans by Josephus.

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