Jerash Ruins, epitomizing the spectacular majesty of ancient Rome's architecture, horse-drawn chariot races, mosaics, and carvings is the largest and most well-preserved site outside Italy. A city in Northern Jordan, this place beholds the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa which was discovered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC as per ancient Greek inscriptions. Dating back to more than 6500 years and restored over the past 70 years before being hidden for centuries in the sand, the city of Jerash is the second prominent destination after Petra in Jordan.
About Jerash Ruins, Jordan
Being a trading center for Romans, the city of Jerash spells opulence in form of theaters, temples, a hippodrome for chariot races, an oval-shaped plaza surrounded by colonnades. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it was one of the most revered Roman cities, which was later invaded by the Persians and then Muslims. After being lost in oblivion under sands for centuries, this was discovered in 1806 by a German traveler, Ulrich Jasper Seetzen. Visitors can now access this city, which is located 48kms north of Amman. The main ruins of Jerash include the Temple of Artemis, Arch of Hadrian, The South Gate, Oval Plaza, Hippodrome, Temple of Zeus, Cathedral Complex, Nymphaeum, Three Church Ruins, North Tetra pylon, North Theater, and Jerash Museum. Not only ruins, but a visit to Jerash also offers one dense forest nearby, museums, archeological spots, and their culture. The town was at the peak of its glory until the 8th century after an earthquake brought it to ruins. A visit to this incredible site gives a reflection of the functioning of Roman city back then.
Temple of Artemis
This was the most crucial and largest complex of Jerash which was constructed as a shrine to the Artemis, Goddess of hunt, chastity, and childbirth. It is built in the middle of the highest of the two terraces of the sanctuary and is believed to be above the extensive number of underground vaults. A wise vaulted niche has the shrine of the goddess, where the Roman priests were solely permitted. Either one can enter the inner temple by a trail that runs from the Three Churches or one can enter from the colossal staircase which starts along the Cardo Maximus. The building has a hexastyle portico and is encircled by Corinthian columns. Eleven Corinthian columns are still standing marking the iconic landmarks of the city. 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 in marble but around the 5th century, these marble elements were removed and reused somewhere else.
Arch of Hadrian
Built in the recognition of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, this arch is deemed to be the largest arch in the Roman Empire. Commemorating the Roman emperor’s visit, this arch was built about 18 meters high and 12.5 meters wide. The entire monument was made from Pentelic marble, and it features Nabataean (ancient Arab) architecture. This arch has two facades, one looking north towards the city and the other, southwards towards the road. There are four huge Corinthian columns framing the facade. At the center of the lower layer of the monument, there is an arched gate through which people pass, and its architrave has two carved inscriptions. One reads as “Athens, City of Theseus” and the other reads as “Athens, City of Hadrian and not Theseus”. Also, this arch served as a defensive wall back then.
Known for its detailed tiling and size, Oval Plaza was one of the most impressive squares of classical times. The oval shape is barely seen in Roman architecture but was chosen to connect two axes that meet an angle. The Roman Cardo (the long colonnaded street ) with the axis of the Sanctuary of Zeus. It measures around 90m by 80m and is surrounded by a broad sidewalk. Having two altars in the middle and a fountain, a central column was recently erected to celebrate the Jerash Festival Flame.
The Jerash Hippodrome
A hippodrome is a massive area built for ancient Roman horse chariot racing and spectators during the 3rd century AD. Around 245 m long and 52 m wide, this area served various purposes. Around the late 4th century, the northern part of the hippodrome was transformed into an amphitheater for gladiator fights. Later, artisans reused this part for their workshops and around the 8th century, it turned into a graveyard.
Temple of Zeus
The chief Greek God, Zeus is the God of Lightning, and the Sanctuary of Zeus served as a place of worship from the Bronze Age to the Roman Era. The sanctuary comprises two parts: A Lower and an Upper Terrace. The lower terrace was built in 27 A.D by Diodoros, son of an architect from Gerasa meanwhile the upper, larger temple was built in 160 A.D. The unique features of this sanctuary are the vaulted corridor embellished with columns and the grand staircase joining from top to the bottom. The settlers, farmers, and craftsmen used this temple for various purposes until 749 AD, when an earthquake shattered everything.
Having some exquisite artifacts such as mosaics, glass, gold jewelry, and coins, the museum depicts a lot of information about the Jerash region and its history. It was founded in 1928 and has almost 600 pieces of artifacts excavated. The entrance fee is around 10JD for tourists and 0.50 JD for locals. In summers, the museum operates from 8 AM to 7 PM while in winters, it operates from 8 AM to 5.30 PM.