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ROME AND THE DECAPOLIS

When Pompey seized Syria and Palestine from the Greeks in 63 BC Rome obtained a wealthy and prosperous area. At that time there were a number of cities scattered throughout Syria and Palestine who had become very important in international and regional trade. Instead of suborning them to Roman rule, Rome allowed them to form a loose confederation that became known as the Decapolis. This confederation became a client state of the Roman Empire.

The Decapolis (literally ten cities) is somewhat of a puzzle for modern scholars. The puzzle comes from texts that name different cities as members of the Decapolis. In general they agree that Damascus, Hippos, Canatha, Dium and Raphana (all in modern Syria) were part of the Decapolis confederation. Biblical Mark identified Scythopolis, the only city to lie west of the Jordan River as the largest city and capitol of the Decapolis. The city-states in present day Jordan include Philadelphia (Amman), Gedara (Umm Qays), Gerasa (Jerash) and Pella (Tabaqat Fahl).

Jerash is perhaps the most well know and most exposed Roman Ruin in Jordan. Although only 15% of ancient Jerash has been excavated there is a large number of free standing and open ruins to be seen. It would be easy to writ 10 or more pages about the different sites in Jerash but we will only list the more prominent features and let you soak it up when you get there.

The first large structure seen by visitors is the Hadrian Arch. This Arch was built to honor the Emperor Hadrian who resided in Jerash for a year.

Passing through the South Gate, visitors enter the city of Ancient City of Jerash. A large oval plaza, surrounded by Roman columns, leads each visitor to the picturesque Cardo or colonnaded street.

The Nympheaum is on the Cardo and is a wonderful piece of ancient architecture. Unlike many Nympheaums in Jordan this is approximately 30 feet high and is decorated by many intricate sculptors. During its time the Nympheaum was a relaxing gathering place for the populace.

Net to the Nymphaeum is a stairway that leads to the Temple of Artemis. The Artemis temple site has extremely high and large columns. From the Artemis temple visitors can get a wonderful view of the ancient and modern city of Jerash.

From the Artemis temple continue south to observe the two Byzantine church complexes mentioned in the section on Christianity.

Past the Church complexes are the nearly entirely preserved Roman Theater and the Temple of Zeus. Both are Brilliant pieces of Architecture. While visiting the south theater be sure to stand in the middle of the theater at ground floor and speak. The shape of the theater will allow you to hear your own voice.

Located in the foothills of the Jordan River Valley, Pella provides a remarkable view of the Jordan River Plain. On a clear day it is possible to see the hills of Haifa. Although the Pella site has bee inhabited since 2,000 BC the Major ruins that are present come from the Roman period. The major Roman pieces in Pella include a theater, several churches and a colonnaded public area.

Smaller than Jerash or Pella, Gedara (Umm Qays) is still impressive. Although excavation continues there is still a lot of work to be done on Umm Qays. There is a Nymphaeum, courtyard with columns and two theaters at Umm Qays. The view from the Western theater is fabulous as you overlook the Jordan Valley, try watching the sun set there sometime.

Philadelphia (Amman) has 2 major sites worth visiting. The first is Citadel Hill. On citadel Hill stand the remains of the Temple of Hercules. Excavations of the Temple as well as the citadel itself are on going. The view from the Hill allows visitors to see the sprawling metropolis that is Amman. Jus south of Citadel hill lies the Roman Amphitheater. The amphitheater is an average size theater (seats about 6,000) but seems steeper than most theaters. There is a small recently rebuilt amphitheater (the Odeon) virtually attached to the main theater.

There are several other sites that re in North Jordan that have roman Ruins. To the most part they haven't been excavated or restructured. These minor sites include Umm Jimal, Abila, and Capitolias.



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