Jerash, Our exploration of the Decapolis Continues

And finally on to another Decapolis city, Jerash. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerash) It can be argued that if you can only visit one Roman site in your lifetime, it should be Jerash. As the city was rarely attacked (most of its life it did not even have walls) and because it was abandoned after an earthquake, there are few other sites in the world where the original layout of a Roman city, with its Cardo and crossing streets is so easy to see. Fred remembers picnics at Jerash as being particularly wonderful.

We arrived in the evening and checked into our hotel. (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g293988-d1212305-Reviews-Hadrian_s_Gate_Hotel-Jerash_Jerash_Governorate.html)

The Hadrian's Gate hotel, literally across the street from the entrance to the ruins.

The Hadrian’s Gate hotel, literally across the street from the entrance to the ruins.

Fred took a quick photographic tour of the street before we stepped out for Jordanian fast food for dinner.

First, a review of the ten cities of the Decapolis:

The Decapolis

We started our visit to Jordan in Philadelphia (Amman) and then went to Gadara (Um Qais) and now we are at Gerasa (Jerash). We were up and about early and into the ruins via Hadrian’s Gate by 8.30 AM.

It was delightfully cool and there were no schoolchildren! The ruins are extensive and much has not been excavated. So get your sunhat, water bottle and come along. The ruins look a bit like this:

Map of the Ruins

We entered at Hadrian’s Gate on the left of the map. Note that the arch was well outside of the walls, which were not, in fact, built until late in the life of the city. Our guidebook had warned that a visit needed 3 to 4 hours to do it justice and indeed, we spent about 4 hours there and saw most of it, including the sheep and goats grazing amongst the ruins. We saw the hippodrome (and imagined the chariot races), the Forum, the Agora, the Cardo Maximus or colonnaded main thoroughfare, temples to Zeus and Artemis, the Nymphaeum (public water fountain), multiple theaters and several churches (dating from the Christian times, often using stones from the aforementioned temples in their construction). Each crossroad had its tetrapylon (archway with four entrances) which solved the problem of roads not quite lining up!

 

The South Theatre is stunning.

South Theatre, looking towards the Temple of Artemis. Forum to the right with the modern city behind.

South Theatre, looking towards the Temple of Artemis. Forum to the right with the modern city behind.

Perhaps the most iconic shot of Jerash is the oval Forum.

View from the Temple of Zeus, looking north down the Cardo. The Temple of Artemis is to the left on the slope. Note the vast expanses still to be excavated.

View from the Temple of Zeus, looking north down the Cardo. The Temple of Artemis is to the left on the slope. Note the vast expanses still to be excavated.

The oval forum

Walking the streets it is easy to imagine life in Jerash in about 150AD.

Denise on Jerash's Rodeo Drive.

Denise on Jerash’s Rodeo Drive.

The Temple of Artemis is one of the main attractions of Jerash. Artemis was the patron goddess of the city.

Temple of Artemis, square on. The central colonnaded building is only a tiny part of what was a huge temple complex. The Crusaders later used it as a fort.

Temple of Artemis, square on. The central colonnaded building is only a tiny part of what was a huge temple complex. The Crusaders later used it as a fort.

The Temple of Artemis as it appeared when I visited as a child. Notice that none of the surrounding space has been excavated.

The Temple of Artemis as it appeared when Fred visited as a child. Notice that none of the surrounding space had been excavated.

 

Worth remembering that Jerash was continuously occupied from Greek times, about 300BC through about 740AD, when an earthquake destroyed much of the historic city. Thus a temple or synagogue became a church, became a mosque, etc. Can be a challenge to know which era you are really looking at. That said, the site is huge and you can really get a sense of the city, even more so than in Um Qais (Gadara) which is tightly wrapped around an acropolis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerash

By the time we reached the top, near the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, we could look back over the ruins and noting the arrival of bus loads of kids, we decided to call it a day.

Looking over the ruins towards the modern city on the left. Temple of Zeus on the right. Notice all of the unexcavated land.

Looking over the ruins towards the modern city on the left. Temple of Zeus on the right. Notice all of the unexcavated land.

After morning in the ruins, we returned to the hotel and Fred went out to get a take away lunch. After a lemon mint drink to revive us and a half a sandwich each, we loaded up our luggage from the hotel into our car and headed south to the Dead Sea, saying “Good bye” to the historic sheep of Jerash.

Historic Sheep

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