The valley and hills surrounding Wadi Jerash have been inhabited more or less continuously since Paleolithic times (roughly 7,500 to 15,00 B.C.E.). Think about that for just a minute. The valley has been home to human beings since our highest technology was creating tools out of stone. There is an awful lot of history piled up in this one place. Greeks, Romans, Persians, Muslims, and Circassians have all laid claim to the city at one time or another. Excavations around the South Gate have revealed artifacts from the Middle Bronze Age (approximately 1600 B.C.E.)
On Saturday, August 3, I got up early and
after breakfast pointed my faithful gray Chevrolet Aveo north. Jerash is
only about 80 km from Madaba, just over an hour's drive. I went in the
morning because I wanted to miss the heat of the day, this being August
in a desert country on or about the 30th parallel. Following the advice
of The Rough Guide to Jordan, I parked my car in the free lot
just to the south of Hadrian's Arch, wandered over to the entrance and
through the pseudo-souk to the ticket window. After paying my 8 JD
entrance fee, I was free to wander within the limits of the Jerash
The first thing I saw on arriving
was Hadrian's Arch, an imposing monumental structure built in the 2nd
century. At the time, the plan was to extend the walls of the city all
the way to the arch, but over the next hundred or so years, it became
obvios that the city did not have the money for the expansion. So, there
it sits, an impressive monument just to the west of a very busy Jerash
to the south of the city, but between it and Hadrian's Arch is the
hippodrome. This is one of the smallest hippodromes in the Roman Empire,
seating only 15,000 in contrast to Rome's Circus Maximus which held
157,000, but it has the distinction of being a working facility. A
company called RACE (Roman Arny and Chariot Experiences), conducts
chariot races there throughout the year. Unfortunately, their next show
would be Sunday at 11:15, so I didn't get the opportunity to see some
old time racin'. That would have been cool. Here's a view of the stands:
And a view of the track from the stands:
The folks in the houses to the west of the track get to see old time racin' all year round. How cool is that!
horse stables are just below the grandstands and are made, just like
everything else in the area, out of stone. Nice arch work!
before you enter the South Gate of Jerash proper, you come to the
Visitor Center. There are some maps and explanatory details about Jerash
in there. One large three-part banner illustrates Gerasa's (the ancient
name for Jerash) membership in the Decapolis. During the time when the
Greek's held sway here thanks to Alexander the Great there was a loose
confederation of 10 cities (Decapolis is Greek for ten (deca) cities
(polis)) and Gerasa was one of those. The Decapolis is referenced in the
south end of Jerash is dominated by two large structures that can be
seen from most of the town, the Temple of Zeus and the South Theater.
The two major temples in Jerash, one to Zeus and the other to Artemis,
occupy the highest points of land in the city. The view from the Temple
of Zeus is fabulous and gives you a great look at the Roman plan of
Romans were fanatics for order and builders of extreme skill. Scattered
all over the Mediterranean basin are civil projects they built almost
2,000 years ago that are still standing today. Most Roman towns were
laid out in the same fashion. The main road through town, the Cardo,
runs on a north-south axis and major side streets, the Decumanus
(Decumani?), run east-west. The plaza at the base of the hill where the
South Theater and the Temple of Zeus are located is called the Oval
Plaza for pretty obvious reasons. The collonades surrounding it reminded
me very strongly of St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. In the upper
left of the picture you can see the Temple of Artemis on the highest
hill in town. There are much better pictures of that coming up. Between
the Oval Plaza and the temple you can see that the restoration of Jerash
is still a work in progress. You can see piles of stone like that all
around the town, just waiting for the right folks to come along and
solve the puzzle of how to put it all back together.
has suffered many earthquakes over the years and a particularly
devastating one in 749. These columns from the Temple of Zeus fell then
and have lain there ever since.
the top of the picture is a construction crane that's being used in the
rebuilding effort. I wonder what the Romans would have built if the had
diesel/hydraulic cranes to lift all of that stone. It's a wonder that
they accomplished all they did using the relatively primitve tech that
The South Theater is right next door to the
Temple of Zeus and is the largest of three theaters in Jerash, seating
around 3,000 folks. It was built around 90 AD and still looks pretty
down the hill from the theater/temple complex, you enter the Oval
Plaza. I love the way they laid the paving stones in the same oval
This view is from the center of the plaza looking north up the Cardo.
the east of the Oval Plaza perched on a hill surrounded by trees is a
small museum. I took a detour there to look at the artifacts they
preserved there. The museum is really just one large room with display
cases set all around it. They have representative pieces from all of the
eras of occupation, beginning with the Paleolithic. They had a decent
collection of flaked tools and some nice explanations of how they were
made and what modern tools they correspond to.
the cases contained an amazing collection of intact Roman glassware.
Knowing that some of my faithful readers are fond of Roman glass
jewelry, I just had to include the next two shots.
one wall they had a couple of representative mosaics from the 500-700
AD period. I liked this one for the sense of movement they were able to
on the Cardo, I continued north to the first major intersection, the
South Tetrapylon. This is a view looking west up the South Decumanus.
up the Cardo you come upon a collection of churches from the Byzantine
era. At the top of this staircase is what they call the Cathedral,
though they are really not sure if it was a cathedral or not. I didn't
go up these stairs.
I sat in the shade taking a break and a drink from my trusty
Hydroflask, I noticed this lizard. I've always enjoyed looking at the
wildlife that an area has to offer. Most of the wildlife in Jordan seems
to be rather small. Most of what I've seen has been limited to birds,
insects and lizards so far.
did climb the stairs of this monumental staircase; seven sets of seven
stairs each. What I found at the top was well worth the climb.
is the Temple of Artemis, daughter of Zeus and goddess of forests,
protector of women and bringer of fertility to all creatures.
made the climb all the way up into the temple and took this shot looking
east from the niche where the image of Artemis resided many years ago.
I left the Artemis complex, I took a look to the south and got a great
perspective of the South Theater.and the Temple of Zeus to the left. You
can see part of the collonade that surrounds the Oval Plaza in the
This post, like the Petra post, got too big, so I had to cut it in half. This time I was a bit smarter about it and cut the first part out so that you could read them in order more easily. The story continues in International Adventures: Visit to Jerash, Part 2.
These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along
- ▼ August (6)
- I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.