Jerash is the capital and largest city of Jerash Governorate, which is situated 48 kilometres north of the capital Amman. Jerash Governorate’s geographical features vary from mountains to fertile valleys from 250 to 300 metres above sea level, suitable for growing a wide variety of crops.
A strong earthquake in 749 AD destroyed large parts of Jerash, while subsequent earthquakes along with the wars and turmoil contributed to its destruction. Its ruins remained buried in the soil for hundreds of years until they were discovered by the German Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806 who began excavation and life returned to the current Jerash by inhabitants of old nearby villages. The community of Muslims, Circassians, emigrated to Jordan from the Caucasus in 1878 after the Ottoman-Russian war and many Syrians came at the beginning of the 20th century.
Jerash is the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. Ancient Greek inscriptions from the city and literary sources from Iamvichou and the Great Etymology, state that the foundation of the city by Alexander the Great, or his general Perdiccas who settled there with Macedonian soldiers during the spring of 331 BC, when Alexander left Egypt, crossed Syria and then went to Mesopotamia. 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). Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the near East.
Recent excavations show that Jerash was already inhabited during the Bronze 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. 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 they encouraged civic building activity.
In the second half of the 1st century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the province and more trade came to Jerash. The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. The triumphal arch (or Arch of Hadrian) was built to celebrate his visit. A remarkable Latin inscription records a religious dedication set up by members of the imperial mounted bodyguard wintering there.
The city finally reached a size of about 800,000 square metres within its walls. The Persian invasion in AD 614 caused the rapid decline of Jerash. However, the city continued to flourish during the Umayyad Period, as shown by recent excavations. In AD 749, a major earthquake destroyed much of Jerash and its surroundings. During the period of the Crusades, some of the monuments were converted to fortresses, including the Temple of Artemis. Small settlements continued in Jerash during the Ayyubid, Mameluk and Ottoman periods. Excavation and restoration of Jerash has been almost continuous since the 1920s.
Photograph taken with D100 & 12-24mm lens at 14mm on 28th April 2008