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Decapolis Days: Jerash, the Roman city of Gerasa

Temple of ArtemusJerash (Arabic:محافظة جرش) is considered one of the most important cities of the Roman Decapolis – as well as one of the best preserved. I should know, I have the pictures to prove it!

Located at +32° 16′ 54.83″, +35° 53′ 27.61“, Jerash is known for its wealth of ruins from the Roman Decapolis city of Gerasa (sometimes Garasa). Jerash also sometimes referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. It is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the “Pompeii of the Middle East or Asia”, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation (though Jerash was never buried by a volcano).

Bathouse

Recent excavations show that Jerash was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron Age (3200 BC – 1200 BC. After the Roman conquest in 63 BC, Jerash and the land surrounding it were annexed by the Roman province of Syria, and later joined the Decapolis cities.

The photo is of the areas well-known and well preserved amphitheater … where I took the opportunity to test the acoutsics by singing a little solo based on the 23 Psalm.

In AD 90, Jerash was absorbed into the Roman province of Arabia, which included the city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman). The Romans ensured security and peace in this area which enabled its people to devote their efforts and time to economic development and building activity.

amphitheater at jerash - top down view

In the second half of the first century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the provinces and more trade came to Jerash – as seen in the city square pictured here.

city centre

The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. A remarkable Latin inscription records a religious dedication set up by members of the imperial mounted bodyguard “wintering” there. The Triumphal Arch (or Arch of Hadrian) pictured here was built to celebrate his visit.

Southern gates

In fact travelers can get a taste of this culture through a nifty little Roman re-enactment held at the Hippodrome. It includes authentically dressed and drilled soldiers, a gladiator spectacle and a small but exciting chariot race. Here I am getting into the act … with less success than the modern movie’s Maximus.

Short-lived show feature

For those into religious tourism, Jerash is long considered to be the chora ton Gerasenon or “country of the Gerasenes” mentioned to in Mark 5:1; Luke 8:26, and Luke 8:37, a large ecclesiastical complex exists within the city houses a fountain and a church where Byzantine citizens once annually celebrated Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine.

Mosaic floor of Byzantine Church

Today, the “Fountain Court” within Jerash is a popular destination for modern pilgrims who want to commemorate the travels and teachings of Jesus in the most spectacular remains of a city of the Decapolis.

You can explore more details about this amazing city of the Decapolis on our wiki page on Jerash.

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