Considered one of both the largest and most well-preserved Roman cities to still exist outside of Italy, Jerash is a marvel of both history and architecture that still draws the eager and curious eyes of tourists every year. With a story of woe and a set of ruins that still inspire awe, it’s certainly a marvel worth seeing.
The history of this unspoiled city goes back about 6,500 years, with archaeologists having discovered ruins around this once-great city that date back to the Neolithic period. This is the period between 7500–5500 BC, before the Bronze age of 3200 BC–1200 BC, which also contains regional evidence of settlement. However, it wasn’t until much later, some speculate, that the settlements were founded into the great city this would become.
There have been suggestions that Alexander the Great and his general Perdiccas were the ones to found the city of Jerash during the Hellenistic period, having used it to settle some of their older soldiers. And there’s evidence for it too, in the form of Ancient Greek inscriptions found within the city. Since its founding, it would overcome many trials, fortunes, and unfortunate tribulations that would put its prosperity to an end.
One of these tribulations would be the 749 Galilee earthquake, which was responsible for destroying large parts of the city. More destruction would be caused over the following and prior years due to subsequent though less immense earthquakes. It was even overcome by Crusaders in 1121, where it saw major devastation.
It would return during the early 16th century, around the time of Ottoman rule, far less prosperous but continuing life once again. These were smaller settlements that continued to thrive for some years, but in 1838, Jerash was finally noted as a ruin, much of it buried beneath the layers of sands.
That’s all in the past, but what about today? To this day, much of it still stands, such as the Oval Plaza, or the two large and well-preserved temples dedicated to Artemis and Zeus. Even the circuit of the city walls is nearly unspoiled, being almost complete.
There are two museums in the archaeological site of Jerash today, which you can visit to learn even more about the city’s vast history by seeing its many tools and archaeological items that have been uncovered. Jerash remains a major attraction, being the second most popular tourist site in all of Jordan, after the famous Petra. Life continues, with a modernised half of the city remaining a popular place to eat out, and the ancient half being as well-preserved as possible.
Few in the world can claim to have set foot in a settlement as ancient and full of intrigue as Jerash, the city that’s died over and over, but never really stayed dead. The city even hosts festivals, the most famous of them being the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts in 1981, proving without a doubt that the city will continue to go strong for many more years to come.
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