Friday, May 11, 2007

25 March 2007 Jerash

From south Jordan we travelled back up north to Irbid. In the beginning we just wanted to go straight up north to Irbid, but arrived Amman 2:00am, and Sumayyah was so tired and sleepy,couldn't drive in that condition. We stopped by Ina's house in Amman and got a good nice rest and sleep before continued our journey back to Irbid the next morning.

We really appreciate your hospitality Ina.... Thank you for a nice breakfast... around 10am we say thank you and good bye to Ina , InsyaAllah we will meet again sometime.

The journey from Amman to Irbid will take around 1 1/2 hour. We estimated will arrive Irbid noon then the girls will have sometime to rest before attending their classes at 2:00pm.

Anyhow, on the way to Irbid, after one hour drive, we past thru another famous Historical Site in Jordan, which is JERASH or GERASA. Actually, all the girls have been there from previous trip during Semester break, but since Auntie Azzah haven't been there, they were kind enough and stop by to let me have a tour at this ancient Roman city... but only one hour allocated...otherwise they cannot make it to their class!

Hurm... ok let's start our tour of Jerash, acknowledged internationally as one of the largest and most well preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy.

The entrance fee to Jerash is JD8. But again here they used the student ID card to enter. Instead of paying JD8 (equavalent to RM40.00), we paid JD0.75 for each person.

History of Jerash

In the 3rd century BC, during the Hellenistic Era, Jerash became an urban center and a member of the Decapolis, a federation of Greek cities. It was then known as Gerasa.
From the 1st century BC, Jerash drew considerable prestige from the semi-independent status is was given within the Roman province of Syria. It also prospered greatly as a result of its positions on the incense and spice trade route from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria and the Mediterranean.

Jerash lost its autonomy under Emperor Trajan, but his annexation of Petra in 106 AD brought the city even more wealth. By 130 AD, ancient Gerasa was at its zenith. Having become a favorite city of Hadrian, it flourished both economically and socially.

After a period of decline in the 3rd century, Jerash enjoyed as renaissance as a Christian city
under the Byzantines, especially during the reign of Justinian (527-65).The Muslims took over the city in 635 and it was badly damaged by successive earthquakes in the 8th century. The final blow was dealt by King Baldwin II of Jerusalem in 1112 during the Crusades.


Built to commemorate the visit of the Emporer Hadrian to Gerasa in 129AD, this splendid
triumphal arch was intended to become the main southern gate to the city; however, the expansion plans were never completed.

2.HIPPODROME- Sit Where the Romans Sat, See What the Romans Saw

The massive arena, 245m long and 52m wide could seat 15,000 spectators to watch chariot races and other sports. The exact date of its construction is unclear; between mid-second and third centuries.

We were lucky as we arrived, there were The Roman Army and Chariot Show. It is called R.A.C.E. = Roman Army and Chariot Experience . It is a colourful demonstration of Roman
military capability, gladiator fights and that most Roman of all sports, chariot racing.

At Jerash, the newly restored hippodrome, Circus Gerasa, with its original stone seating and carceres (starting gates) provides an ideal arena for a thrilling spectacle such as the citizens of the Roman Empire would have been able to see some twenty centuries ago.

Now take your place on the very seats, on which the Romans sat and prepare to watch the show!

A half century of legionaries, VI Legion Ferrata – the Ironclad – named for the legion that was stationed in the provinces of Arabia and Judea, arrive at the hippodrome to the beat of martial music. They present their equipment and demonstrate battle tactics such as were actually used throughout the Roman army, throwing pilae (spears) and wielding the famous short stabbing sword, the gladius.

Suddenly, the Centurion cries out in Latin, "Are you ready for war?" and the legionaries’ roar echoes around the hippodrome, "Ready, ready, ready." The legionaries attack through the lines and defend the vexillum forming the testudo and the wedge.

VI Legion
Ferrata ends with shots from the scorpion and the catapult, full size war machines that are deadly accurate and effective.


The Greek with sword and spear, the Trojan with his sword and spear, Retiarius with net and trident, Secutor with shield and gladius, Thracian with curved sword and shield…criminals facing death penalty or slaves fighting for freedom.

Gladiator games were savage, but immensely popular during the reign of the Roman Empire.

Ave, imperator, morituri te salutant!

With the words "we who are about to die salute you", four pairs of gladiators with classical weapons enter the fight.

Cheer your favourite. The fate of the loser depends on you and on the Magistrate with thumbs up or down.

A Roman General in a triumphal chariot, drawn by four horses, a quadrigae accompanied, as was the custom, by a slave who reminds him of his mortality with the words, "Memento mori." heralds the next event.

Four chariots with two horses (bigae) each appear in a whirl of dust, one for each of the fiercely supported factions, the Reds, Blues Greens and Whites. Having paraded before you, they take up their position in the carceres. The starter is announced by a fanfare of trumpets and as he drops a white handkerchief the race takes off. The chariots burst forward into the first of seven laps, jostling for position at each turn. Choose your favourite colour and give them the most vocal support – you might even be able to hear a faint echo coming down the years!

The winning charioteer receives the plaudits of the crowd and is covered with the victor's laurels passing before you bearing a palm frond, the classical symbol of triumph.

This is what the hippodrome was built for and you will be reliving a moment in the life of people who were sitting in your place nearly two thousand years ago!


Approaching the city from Visitor's Center, you see the impressive city walls, built at the beginning of the 4th century, most probably by Emperor Diocletian, and repeatedly espanded afterwards. The present walls are Byzantine and had a total length of 3,456m.

The South Gate, through which you enter Jerash, dates back from 130AD and has a characteristics carved acanthus-leaf decoration. The open area inside the gate was used as a marketplace, and a 2nd century olive press is visible behind a wooden screen.


The spacious Oval Plaza, which measures 90 x 80 m is surrounded by a colonnade of 1st-century Ionic columns.

It had two altars in the middle that
were replaced with a fountain in the 7th century AD. A central column was recently erected to carry the Jerash Festival flame .


From the Oval Plaza, a staircase leads up to an espla
nade that was the Temenos, or sacred precinct, of the 2nd-century Temple of Zeus. Originally, a rock in the esplanade served as a high place, and was enclosed into a shrine in 100-80 BC.

This shrine was modified in 69-70 AD and in the 2nd century AD, probably under Emperor Hadrian. From
there, another staircase led to the temple itself, which was originally surrounded by 15 m high Corinthian columns.


Stretching north from the Oval Plaza is the Cardo Maximus, the main Roman road in Jerash. It is still paved with its original stones and bears the ruts of chariot wheels.

As part of a remodeling of the street around 170 AD, the original Ionic columns were replaced with a more decorative Corinthian colonnade. The Cardo was lined with a broad sidewalk and shops and an underground sewage system ran the full length of the street. The holes at the sides of the street drained rainwater into the sewers.

Not far from the Oval Plaza on the right is the onsite Archaeological Museum, which houses a fascinating collection of artifacts found at the site, including gold jewelry, coins, glass and even pottery theater tickets.

Anyway, we didn't have enough time to explore the museum.


The colonnade of the Cardo becomes taller at the entrance to the marketplace (Macellum), a ruined structure on the left. Here there is a fountain with a lion's head dated to 211 AD.

The next structure down the Cardo afte
r the marketplace is a recently excavated Umayyad Mosque.

Shortly after the mosque is the South
Tetrapylon that marks the intersection of the Cardo with the South Decumanus, a smaller street running east to west


The intersection of the Cardo with the first cross street, the South Decumanus, was marked by 4 still visible pedestals, which supported columns and probably a pyramidal structure.


To the right, the south Decumanus runs east to a 73 m bridge which led to the town wall and residential quarter of Gerasa. Most of this is now buried under modern Jerash, with the exception of the East Baths, which can be seen across the modern road to the left of the mosque.


At the western end of the South Decumanus is an Early Islamic Umayyad housing quarter inhabited from 660 to 800 AD. The south bridge led to the residential quarter and to the eastern gate.


Continuing north on the Cardo, the next building on the left is the monumental and
richly carved gateway of the 2nd century Roman Temple of Dionysus. In the 4th century this temple was rebuilt as a
Byzantine church dubbed the Cathedral, but there is no evidence this was the bishop's church. At the top of the stairs, against an outer east wall of the Cathedral, is a Shrine of St. Mary, with a painted inscription to St. Mary and the archangels Michael and Gabriel.

Just behind the Cathedral is the large Church of St. Theodore, built in 496 AD. In between the two churches is a small paved plaza with a fountain in the center, which was originally the Cathedral atrium.

Behind St. Theodore on the far west of the site, the ruins of three Byzantine churches are grouped together around a shared atrium. The northernmost is the Church of St. Cosmos and St. Damian, dedicated to twin brother doctors who were martyred in the 4th century (they have a fine church in Rome as well). This church has the most splendid floor mosaics to be seen in Jerash. An inscription dates the mosaic to 553 AD. The images include the churchwarden Theodore and his wife Georgia praying with widespread arms.

The middle of the three churches is that of St. John the Baptist, dating from 531 AD. Its mosaic floor, now damaged
, included images of the four seasons, plants and animals, and the cities of Alexandria and Memphis in Egypt. The church of St. George, the southernmost, was built in 530 AD. It continued to be used after the earthquake of 749 AD, and its mosaics were destroyed when the 8th century Christian iconoclastic movement banned the representation of humans and animals.


This ornamental fountain was
constructed in 191 AD, and dedicated to the Nymphs. Such fountains were common in Roman cities, and provided a refreshing focal point for the city. This fine example was originally embellished with marble facings on the lower level and painted plaster on the upper level, topped with a half-dome roof Water cascaded through 7 carved lions' heads into small basins on the sidewalk and overflowed from there through drains into the underground sewer system.


The procession to the Temple of Artemis originally started across the river in the part of Gerasa now covered by modern Jerash. Crossing the Cardo, worshippers approached the impressive entrance to the processiona
l way leading up to the Temple of Artemis. Its massive columns and a carved portico were flanked by 2-storey shops.


The monumental staircase, originally enclosed by high walls, leads up to a U-shaped terrace where an open-air altar was built, the foundations of which are still visible. A second staircase leads through a colonnade of 22 Corinthian columns and into the Temenos. This sacred precinct, 162 x 121 m, was defined by Corinthian columns on all 4 sides.

Opposite the Propylaeum, this Byzantine church wa
s built in the 6th century on the site of a colonnaded courtyard which formed part of the processional way. The columns were used as part of the church.

On the right, behind 4 standing Corinthian columns is what seems to be an Ayyubid or Mamluk mosque discovered in 1981. This was probably built sometime during the 12th-15th centuries, using materials from the colonnaded atrium of a Roman house that stood there.

The massive West Baths, on the right, covered an area of 50 x 70 m and now lie where they fell after the earthquake of January 749 AD. Typical of the 2nd century, the Baths were an imposing complex of hot and cold rooms and other facilities.

The second Tetrapylon, located where the North Decumanus or cross street intersects the Cardo, was built during Jerash's redesign, probably as a monumental
entrance to the North Theater. At a later date, it was dedicated to Julia Domna, the Syrian wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, and probably had a domed roof in the 2nd century AD, elaborate carved decoration, arches and 4 sides to allow traffic to pass through.

Beyond the North Tetrapylon is a stretch of the Cardo that was never widened, and retains its simple Ionic columns.


At the end of the Cardo, the North Gate was built in 115 AD. Its odd wedge shape was probably necessary to align the gate on the inside wi
th the Cardo, and on the outside with the Roman road, which led north to the Decapolis city of Pella.

Just off the North Decumanus, the North Theater was built in 165 AD. In front is a colonnaded plaza where a staircase led up to the entrance. The theater originally had only 14 rows of seats, and was used as a performance stage as well as the city council chamber; the names of the tribes represented in the council are inscribed in Greek on some of the seats, along with those of several gods.

In 235 AD, the theater was doubled in size to its present capacity of 1600. Two vaulted passages formed the entrance to the orchestra, and spectators entered through passages between the upper rows of seats. The theater fell into disuse in the 5th century, and in later centuries, many of its stones were taken for use in other buildings.


Artemis, daughter of Zeus and sister of Apollo, was the patron goddess of Gerasa. This Temple was a place of sacrifice dedicated to Artemis and built in 150. Although small, the temple's Corinthian columns soar impressively from the hilltop site; 11 of the 12 front columns are still standing. The temple's inner chamber was originally clad with marble slabs and housed a shrine which probably contained a statue of the goddess.

Lastly, we managed to arrive at JUST at 1:55pm, just 5 minutes before the girls' class started. Alhamdulillah.
While waiting for their classes to finish, I spent the time in the university library and read the books about Jordan and Petra that I bought in Petra and Jerash.

Information taken from:


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