Beneath its external Graeco - Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted - The Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the traditions of the Arab Orient.
The modern city of Jerash can be found to the east of the ruins. While the old and new share a city wall, careful preservation and planning has seen the city itself develop well away from the ruins so there is no encroachment on the sites of old.
Built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Hadrian to Jerash in 129 AD, this splendid triumphal arch was intended to become the main Southern gate to the city; however, the expansion plans were never completed.
This massive arena was 245m long and 52m wide and could seat 15,000 spectators at a time for chariot races and other sports. The exact date of its construction is unclear but it is estimated between the mid-2nd to 3rd century AD. It is now also possible to relive the days when gladiators and charioteers appeared before the crowds, with regular re-enactments by the Roman Army and Chariot Experience (RACE).
The North Theatre was built in 165 AD. In front is a colonnaded plaza where a staircase led up to the entrance. The theatre originally only had 14 rows of seats and was used for performances, city council meetings, etc. In 235 AD, the theatre was doubled in size to its current capacity of 1,600. The theatre fell into disuse in the 5th century and many of its stones were taken for use in other buildings.
Built during the reign of Emperor Domitian, between 90-92 AD, the South Theatre can seat more than 3,000 spectators. The 1st level of the ornate stage, which was originally a two-storey structure, has been reconstructed and is still used today. The theatre's remarkable acoustics allow a speaker at the centre of the orchestra floor to be heard throughout the entire auditorium without raising his voice. Two vaulted passages lead into the orchestra, and four passages at the back of the theatre give access to the upper rows of seats. Some seats could be reserved and the Greek letters which designate them can still be seen.
HISTORY & CULTURE
Ancient Jerash was an open city of freestanding structures richly embellished with marble and granite. Its engineering was so advanced that large parts of the city still survive today. Much more has been painstakingly restored by archeological teams from around the world.
The main attractions in Jerash are, not surprisingly, the ruins themselves. Guidebooks, maps and further information are readily available from the Visitors’ Centre near the South Gate.