Splendid Remnants of a Golden Age
Widely held to be the best-preserved Roman provincial city in the Middle East – if not the world – Jerash (ancient Gerasa) is an archaeological masterpiece framed by the fertile hills of Gilead. Founded by the soldiers of Alexander the Great during the 4th century B.C., Jerash later joined the affluent and cosmopolitan cities of the Roman Decapolis, reaching its zenith around A.D. 150.
Its prosperity was based on caravan trade, agriculture, and mining, and its citizens spent lavishly, erecting splendid buildings in a distinctive “Oriental Baroque” style. Its golden age was during the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., and the town’s impressive array of fifteen churches dates back to the centuries just after.
The Roman ruins include a triumphal arch, an unusual oval-shaped forum, a stadium, a monumental fountain, hot and cold baths, and numerous temples. A wide street of columns leads to the city’s most splendid monument: the Temple of Artemis, patron goddess of Jerash, which still dominates the town center.
If you time your trip for July or August, you may stumble upon the popular three-week Jerash Festival, when performances of music, dance, and drama take place in timeless open-air venues such as the Forum and the South Theater.