Jerash, Our Introduction to Roman Jordan

oval plaza from temple zeus jerash jordan 2
The Oval Plaza at Jerash, leading to the main road through the city that is the path to many other treasures worth seeing.

Jordan was a pleasant surprise to us. Since, after all, we started out to go to Israel and just sort of wandered into Jordan to see Petra. And then Wadi Rum, and then the other two Unesco World Heritage sites at Um er-Rasas and Qsair Amra.

hadrians gate jerash jordan
The so called Hadrian's gate, probably built for the emperor's visit in 119-20 AD. Beautifully reconstructed.
Even though I studied Latin and some Roman history in college, I never really considered the edges of the Roman Empire, such as Jordan. So, Jerash was an introduction. If you love Roman and Byzantine architecture–and who doesn't?–this is a great place to visit. It's one of the best preserved Roman cities you'll run across anywhere. Much nicer than Ephesus, for example.

The Romans came here at the end of the 1st Century CE, just after they'd trashed Jerusalem. Since the people here were more “cooperative” with their new masters, the city of Jerash flourished as a trading town. It achieved enough importance that even the Emperor Hadrian visited here, which was the occasion for the construction of a welcoming triumphal arch.

mosaics cosmas damian jerash jordan
Mosaic floor of the Byzantine church of Cosmas and Damian.
The city grew and prospered, and became a center for Christian churches after the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. However, the Roman ruins, as opposed to the Christian churches, are much better preserved.

temple artemis jerash jordan
The Temple of Artemis, the goddess protector of Jerash, sits at a high point on the north end of the city
The city is quite large and will take you at least two or three hours to explore. One of the nice things about Jerash is that it, along with other Jordan sites at Petra and the Amman Citadel, are supported by USAid, i.e. the American foreign aid program. And so the excavation, reconstruction, and explanatory signage at the site are well developed. At least some of our money into this area of the world is being put to good use instead of buying more F-16s.

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14 thoughts on “Jerash, Our Introduction to Roman Jordan”

  1. Jerash was a beautiful site, and I love how you climbed up and got some great views! The day we went was just beautiful, too. There was a group of school kids that clambered all over the ruins in their blue uniforms. Loved it.

    Reply
    • Yes, there was a school group or two there the day we were there, too. And yes, they do clamber. And clamor. We pretty much ran the other direction whenever we saw them coming our way.

      Reply
  2. wonderful photos. we visited here last May and loved it, as well as show some of the other sites you mentioned. School kids were everywhere but easy to escape them and explore. We had a wonderful guide for part of our time there who had a Ph.D from a school in London (not art history related) and was working at the site. Extremely knowledgable man. definitely go when visiting Jordan.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Jane. There was a large school group when we were there, too. But the site is so big, whichever way they went, we went the other. As for guides, when you can find a good, knowledgeable one, it just adds so much to a visit. We’ve now had a few tours with Context Travel in Italy. They’re in much of Europe and their guides are wonderful. They should expand to Jordan.

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  3. I only went to Petra and spent a couple days in Aqaba– I was going to visit my Aunt and cousins in Israel and so I didnt have anyone to go to Petra with– so I went alone– never thought about going back– but now you show me a reason.

    Since I am a golf travel writer, I asked about golf courses in Jordan– I was told there is one in Aman and was told its somewhat of a goat track– but some resort in Aqaba is building one now…
    There are also only two golf courses in all of Israel. I suppose that if I played them both — there could be a book there “How I played the very best golf courses in Israel.

    Maybe when they complete the ones in Jordan someone could sponsor a golf tournament “World Peace Cup” with two Arabs and two Israelis on each foursome– the winning foursome puts forward a mideast peace plan and everyone has to honor it.

    Reply
    • Larry, I know you love desert golf, but I think places like Israel and Jordan just have a higher regard for their limited supplies of water to waste it on golf courses. Alternatively, you could build your own in Wadi Rum. Just think of the whole thing as one big red sand trap.

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  4. First, let me tell you how much I love following your travels and gazing at your pictures! However, I think that Artemis is a goddess, not a god. ;-)).

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    • Of course she was a goddess, and I knew that, but somehow I just messed up that caption. Or, I was trying to not be sexist. Yeah, that’s it. But, now a question for you. If she was the goddess protector of Jerash, does that make her a matron instead of a patron?

      Reply

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