The ruins of Jerash, which epitomize the spectacular majesty of ancient Roman architecture, horse-drawn chariot races, mosaics and carvings, are the largest and best-preserved site outside of Italy . A city in northern Jordan, this place is home to the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa which was discovered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC according to ancient Greek inscriptions. Dating back over 6,500 years and restored over the past 70 years before being buried for centuries in the sand, the city of Jerash is the second top destination after Petra in Jordan.
About the Ruins of Jerash, Jordan
As a trading center for the Romans, the city of Jerash evokes opulence in the form of theatres, temples, a hippodrome for chariot racing, an oval-shaped plaza surrounded by colonnades. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC. AD, it was one of the most venerated Roman cities, which was then invaded by the Persians and then the Muslims. After being lost in oblivion under the sands for centuries, it was discovered in 1806 by a German traveler, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen. Visitors can now access this city located 48 km north of Amman. Major ruins in Jerash include Temple of Artemis, Hadrian’s Arch, South Gate, Oval Square, Hippodrome, Temple of Zeus, Cathedral Complex, Nymphaeum, Three Ruins of the Church, North Tetra Pylon, North Theater and Jerash Museum. Not only ruins, but a visit to Jerash also offers nearby dense forest, museums, archaeological sites and their culture. The city was at the height of its glory until the 8th century after an earthquake destroyed it. The visit to this incredible site gives a reflection of the functioning of the Roman city at that time.
Temple of Artemis
It was the most crucial and largest complex in Jerash which was built as a sanctuary for Artemis, goddess of hunting, chastity and childbirth. It is built in the middle of the higher of the two terraces of the sanctuary and is supposed to be above the large number of underground vaults. A sage vaulted niche has the sanctuary of the goddess, where only Roman priests were permitted. Either one can enter the inner temple by a path that starts from the Three Churches, or one can enter by the colossal staircase that starts along the Cardo Maximus. The building has a hexastyle portico and is surrounded by Corinthian columns. Eleven Corinthian columns are still standing marking the city’s iconic landmarks. At the top is a terrace with the foundations of an open-air altar and in front of the temple are the remains of a second open-air altar. This original building was made of marble but around the 5th century these marble elements were removed and reused elsewhere.
Built in recognition of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, this arch is considered the greatest arch in the Roman Empire. Commemorating the visit of the Roman Emperor, this arch was built approximately 18 meters high and 12.5 meters wide. The entire monument was made from Pentelic marble and features Nabataean (ancient Arabic) architecture. This arch has two facades, one facing north towards the city and the other facing south towards the road. Four huge Corinthian columns frame the facade. In the center of the lower layer of the monument there is an arched doorway through which people pass, and its architrave has two carved inscriptions. One reads as “Athens, city of Theseus” and the other as “Athens, city of Hadrian and not of Theseus”. In addition, this arch served as a defensive wall at the time.
Known for its detailed tiling and scale, Oval Plaza was one of the most impressive plazas of the Classical era. The oval shape is hardly seen in Roman architecture but was chosen to connect two axes which meet at an angle. The Roman Cardo (the long colonnaded street) with the axis of the Sanctuary of Zeus. It measures approximately 90m by 80m and is surrounded by a wide sidewalk. Having two altars in the middle and a fountain, a central column was recently erected to celebrate the Jerash festival flame.
A hippodrome is a massive area built for ancient Roman horse chariot races and spectators in the 3rd century AD. About 245m long and 52m wide, this area served a variety of purposes. Towards the end of the 4th century, the northern part of the hippodrome was transformed into an amphitheater for gladiator fights. Later, craftsmen reused this part for their workshops and around the 8th century, it was transformed into a cemetery.
Temple of Zeus
The primary Greek god, Zeus is the god of lightning, and the Sanctuary of Zeus served as a place of worship from the Bronze Age through Roman times. The sanctuary has two parts: a lower terrace and an upper terrace. The lower terrace was built in 27 AD by Diodorus, son of an architect from Gerasa, while the larger upper temple was built in 160 AD. The unique features of this sanctuary are the vaulted corridor adorned with columns and the grand staircase connecting from top to bottom. Settlers, farmers and craftsmen used this temple for various purposes until 749 AD when an earthquake turned everything upside down.
Possessing exquisite artifacts such as mosaics, glass, gold jewelry, and coins, the museum showcases plenty of information about the Jerash region and its history. It was founded in 1928 and has nearly 600 pieces of excavated artifacts. The entrance fee is around 10 JD for tourists and 0.50 JD for locals. In summer, the museum operates from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. while in winter, it operates from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
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