Is There No Balm in Gilead?


Hadrian's Arch, one of the two main entrances to the city.
That I can't answer, but there's an awesome city called Jerash there.

From my beloved Rough Guide to Jordan: "Set in the fertile hills of Gilead, Jerash was founded around 170 BC. It was around this time that the idea of a Decapolis first emerged. From the time of Alexander the Great, a group of about ten important cities of the Middle East began to be associated together. Bastions of Greek culture in the midst of a Semitic rural population these cities were founded or re-founded during or following Alexander's consolidation of power in the Levant in the last fourth century BC.

Although it is tempting to imagine the Decapolis cities working together in a formal league of cooperation, no records survive of such a pact, and it seems instead that the term was used simply to refer to the geographical area of northern Transjordan and southern Syria.

The Temple of Zeus.
Jerash and its Decapolis neighbors were  "liberated" by the Romans under Pompey in 63 BC and granted autonomy under the higher authority of the Province of Syria. The century which followed saw unprecedented growth and stability in Jerash and it was during the first century AD that the basic town plan as it survives today was laid down: a colonnaded north-south axis cut by two colonnaded side-streets, along with a temple to Zeus front by an oval plaza, expansion of the temple to Artemis and the construction of the South Theatre."

Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the eastern Mediterranean. There are a lot of ruins in Jordan--I've visited crumbling castles in Iraq al-Amir, Ajloun, Karak, Petra, and Umm Qais (only scratching the surface of all the desert castles there are to see)--and I'd be lying if I said that ruin-hopping wasn't getting old. But even the most jaded of travelers can't help but be impressed by the beauty of this city. The atmosphere there really gives you a sense for what life was like back then. Can't you just imagine walking down that colonnaded street on your way to the theatre, haggling with merchants along the way?

The Oval Plaza (looking down from the Temple of Zeus) and colonnaded cardo leading to the heart of the city.
Our dear friend from church, George, who is an expat here working as a mechanic, shuttled about a dozen of us up to Jerash one morning in a bus that he owns. There is so much history in Jerash, which makes it nearly impossible for tourists to fully appreciate the city, but we had a great time trying! :) For more photos, check out pictures #100-127 in my Facebook album.


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