Saturday, June 28, 2008


It's hot up here!

I was in Jordan last week and managed to escape for half a day and visit the very well preserved Roman city of Jerash, which is about 30 miles north of Amman.

Unlike Sabratha, which I visited earlier in the year, Jerash is an earlier city: in wargaming terms it is an Early Imperial Roman city rather than a Late Roman city. Some of the columns are first century and much of the buildings are first half of the second century.

Jerash (or Gerasa as the Romans called it) has been occupied since the Bronze Age. Later it was a Greek city, until the Romans conquered the region in 63BC. It became part of the Decapolis, an unofficial grouping of ten Roman cities in the area which also included Amman (known as Philadelphia) and Damascus.

Hadrian's Arch

I visited it on a very hot Saturday afternoon when there were only a few dozen people there. You enter the city through Hadrian's Arch, built to commemorate the visit by the Emperor in 129 AD. The intention was for this to become the new southern gate of the city but the expansion plans were never completed.

The Hippodrome: the starting gates can be seen at the far end.

Next you come to the Hippodrome, where they do Roman Army, gladiatoral and chariot racing re-enactments. These are, apparently, quite well done but I arrived too late to see them. Nevertheless, the hippodrome was very impressive, even if it was considered a small one and, unlike the Circus Maximus, the starting gates survive.

The South Gate

You enter the city proper through the main South Gate set in fourth century walls, built in the time of Diocletian although most of the surviving walls are Byzantine.

The Oval Plaza

The most striking feature of Jerash is its 90m diameter oval plaza. I've never seen one like this before; the Romans were usually so rectangular!

Inside the Oval Plaza

There are two extant theatres on the site.

The South Theatre

The South Theatre seats more than 3000 people and is now the prime site for the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts. it was built around .90 AD. The North theatre is later (165AD) and smaller (1600 seats but is more complete.

The North Theatre

You can still walk around the inside corridor which was a relief, having reached half way around the site, as it was over 35 degrees when I was there and there is not a lot of shade!

Inside the North Theatre

Although there are many impressive ruins at the site the most impressive for me was The Cardo, the collonaded street which runs for half a mile down the centre of the town.

This is still paved with the original stones and the height of the buildings next to the columns give you a real idea of what the city must have felt like. Most Impressive!

From the Cardo a long flight of steps leads up to an esplanade and then on to the Temple of Artemis.

The Temple of Artemis

So, for anyone interested in Roman Architecture, I would say thet Jerash is one of the best sites I have visited. Next time I go to Jordan I really must try and get to Petra.

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