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Oval Forum, Gerasa

Gerasa or Jerasch ( Arabic جرش Dscharasch , DMG Ǧaraš , also Jarash and Jerash ) is located in northern Jordan and about 40 kilometers north of Amman . The ancient city ​​of Gerasa was part of the so-called Decapolis ; the well-preserved ruins are now a tourist attraction. The modern city has about 40,000 inhabitants and is the administrative center of the Jarash Governorate .


The first traces of human settlement in Gerasa date back to the 6th millennium BC. There are Bronze Age and Iron Age traces preserved. The name Gerasa also comes from these times .

The city, which was insignificant until the 1st century AD, experienced a rapid rise under Roman rule and under the peace of Rome. It was 64 BC. Part of the province of Syria and member of the Decapolis and increasingly competed with the older Petra as a trading city . Its inhabitants mined ore in the nearby Adschlun Mountains. From the middle of the first century, this upswing led to brisk building activity and a rich, still impressive abundance of architectural monuments.

Map of Gerasa
The ruins of the ancient city in front of the modern city

In AD 106, Gerasa became part of the new Roman province of Arabia Petraea . In the following decades the Roman wars of expansion in the Middle East led to a further increase in importance; Well-developed roads to Pella , Philadelphia , Dion and the provincial capital Bos (t) ra were built . Emperor Hadrian paid a visit to the city in the winter of 129/130. In late antiquity , the political situation in the region changed fundamentally and the city lost its importance. Nevertheless, the upper class remained wealthy. During this time, Christianity was established and many churches were built in the city. Gerasa had its own bishop - it is still a titular bishopric today -; Bishop Placcus (or Plancus) attended the Council of Chalcedon in 451 .

Between 613 and 630 the Sassanids ruled the place. Soon after 636 the city fell to the Muslim Arabs. After an earthquake in 658, the so-called Gerasa Cathedral was abandoned. The portico , which was then restored , was left to its own devices from the first half of the 8th century, and at times the area was used as a landfill. Another earthquake in 749 caused the building to collapse. The 749 earthquake had devastating consequences for Gerasa, as it did for the entire region. However, recent research shows that there was no sudden demolition of the settlement, but rather a longer phase of decline began.

Gerasa seems to have remained uninhabited during the Crusader period. Fulcher of Chartres and William of Tire, however, mention an episode according to which in 1121 King Baldwin II took and then destroyed a fortress in Gerasa that had only been built the year before by Tughtigin , the Atabeg of Damascus . This fortress has not yet been proven archaeologically.

Buildings from the Ayyubid - Mamluk period are also detectable. According to Yāqūt al-Ḥamawī, however , the city was completely deserted as early as the beginning of the 13th century . Towards the end of the 19th century Circassians were also settled in Gerasa , which is how the modern repopulation of the place begins.

Shimon bar Giora and Nicomachus von Gerasa , among others, come from Gerasa .

Architectural monuments

Hadrian's Arch

Reconstructed triumphal arch in 2008
Triumphal arch in honor of Emperor Hadrian, between 1898 and 1914

The arched monument was built in the winter of 129/130 in honor of the emperor Hadrian, who was visiting the city at that time. It was outside of ancient Gerasa. Originally the arch was supposed to serve as a new city gate, because according to an inscription Hadrian wanted to found an entire city district at this point. However, this construction project apparently fell victim to an economic crisis.

After restoration work, which was partly carried out from 2003 to 2008 using the original stones, the three-part gate rises up again to the original height of 21 meters, with a total width of over 25 meters.

Oval forum

The oval forum lies at the foot of the Temple of Jupiter. Its dimensions are 90 × 80 meters. The oval is lined with colonnades. The place was chosen strategically - it covers a natural depression. To compensate for this, the forum was built on a 6 to 8 meter high substructure. The pear-shaped outline is atypical for a Roman forum, as the Romans preferred more regular shapes. In the opinion of many archaeologists, the forum is oval in order to connect the Temple of Zeus with the Roman part of the city on a north-south axis. The purpose of the oval marketplace, however, remains controversial: either it was a trading place or a place of sacrifice.

Jupiter temple
The North Theater (165 AD) with approx. 800 seats
South Theater, Gerasa
Artemis Temple

Jupiter temple

The Jupiter Temple was erected on a huge barrel vault above the oval forum. The entire slope was artificially designed so that the Temple of Jupiter could be built at this point. Its site had previously served as a sanctuary to various deities. It is very likely that a temple of Zeus was built on the site in the Hellenistic period. An indication of this is that the location of the Temple of Jupiter does not fit into a typical Roman city map. The ruins that can still be seen today date from the 2nd century AD. The temple walls, parts of which still stand today, are about 10 meters high. The temple itself rested on a pedestal 41 meters long and 28 meters wide. Following the Syro-Nabataean architecture, a staircase led to the roof of the cella. Originally, the Holy of Holies was surrounded by 38 columns, three of which are still original today. Further columns were erected again as part of the Jordanian Antiquities Administration's restoration program.


The magnificent, 22-meter-wide nymphaeum also dates from the 2nd century. The two-storey sanctuary dedicated to the water nymphs is one of the best preserved buildings in ancient Gerasa. The lower floor of the nymphaeum was covered with marble. The upper one was decorated with frescoes, some of which are still recognizable. The roof construction is striking - a half-dome with a blown gable, which arches over a large magnificent fountain. The facade of the fountain was divided into niches in which there were statues. Some statues held large containers from which water poured into the basin of the magnificent fountain. A complex pipe system brought the water from the surrounding area.

South Theater

The South Theater was built around 90 to 92 AD. It had 32 rows of seats that could seat up to 5000 spectators. The theater is built into the slope to the west of the Temple of Jupiter, the upper tier was built over barrel vaults. The stage is designed in a classic Roman style and has two arched gates at the side and three access to the backdrop. The audience was not blinded as the theater was facing north.

Artemis Temple

The Artemis Temple, which dates from the 2nd century AD, was particularly imposing with the dimensions of its surrounding wall of 160 × 120 meters and certainly one of the most important buildings in the city. The pilgrims approached the temple via a processional street and stairs leading up from the city. Eleven of the former 32 pillars of the temple have been preserved, nine of which still have their Corinthian capitals and so tower 13 meters high. The cella itself measured 23 × 40 meters.

city ​​wall

The late antique city wall is almost completely preserved in its course. It surrounds the approximately 90 hectare ancient urban area, a good half of which is in an archaeological protection zone (the remainder is built over by the modern city of Jerash). When a new road was started to be built on the west side of the old Gerasa in early 2015, parts of the city wall were badly damaged and a section of the wall including an ancient tower was destroyed down to the foundation walls.

Other structures

  • The Cardo Maximus from the first century AD, an 800 meter long, paved main street between the market square and the northern city gate (built 115). It was lined with a portico, of which 500 are still preserved today.
  • The north theater with approx. 800 seats
Church of St. Cosmas and Damian

Numerous late antique churches, especially from the time of Emperor Justinian (527 to 565), with partially well-preserved mosaic floors:

  • The so-called cathedral , a three-aisled columned basilica from the late 4th century
  • The Theodosius Church , basilica with tall Corinthian columns, 494–496
  • Prokopioskirche , around 526/527
  • George's Church , from 529
  • Synagogue church, converted into a church around 530/531
  • Johanneskirche from 531, a round building with approx. 24 × 30 meters
  • St. Cosmas and Damian , around 533, with a particularly beautiful mosaic floor
  • Peter and Paul Church (pillar basilica), around 540, next to it Memorial Church (hall church)
  • Propylaean Church , around 560
  • Church of Bishop Genesius from 611

Biblical mention

According to the Gospel of Mark ( EU 5.1 ) and the Gospel of Luke ( EU 8.26 ), Jesus healed a man possessed by many demons who lived in grave caves in the Gerasa area . The demons drove into a herd of pigs, which then threw themselves into the nearby Sea of ​​Galilee and drowned. The fact that the evangelists mistakenly locate Gerasa on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee is seen in science as an indication of the author's poor knowledge of the place, who probably did not come from Palestine. Manuscripts corrected this location early on and offered some variants, including a. the today unknown Gergesa . The Evangelist Matthew (chap. 8.28), on the other hand, locates the story in the area of Gadara , southeast of the Sea of ​​Galilee.


  • S. Applebaum, A. Segal: Gerasa. In: E. Stern (Ed.): The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land II . New York et al. 1993, pp. 470-479.
  • AR Bellinger: Coins from Jerash, 1928-1934. In: Numismatic Notes and Monographs 81. New York 1938.
  • Immanuel Benzinger : Gerasa 2 . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume VII, 1, Stuttgart 1910, Col. 1242-1244.
  • I. Browning: Jerash and the Decapolis. London 1982, ISBN 0-7011-2591-8 .
  • John Winter Crowfoot: Churches at Jerash. A Preliminary Report on the Joint Yale-British School Expeditions to Jerash 1928-1930. London 1931.
  • Adolf Hoffmann, Susanne Kerner (ed.): Gadara - Gerasa and the Dekapolis. Zabern, Mainz 2002, ISBN 3-8053-2687-4 . ( Ancient world , special issue; Zabern's illustrated books on archeology )
  • David Kennedy: Gerasa and the Decapolis. A 'virtual island' in northwest Jordan . London 2007, ISBN 978-0-7156-3567-4 .
  • RG Khoury: Jerash. A Frontier City of the Roman East. London / New York 1986, ISBN 0-582-78384-4 .
  • CH Kraeling: Gerasa. City of the Decapolis. An account embodying the record of a joint excavation conducted by Yale University and the British School of Archeology in Jerusalem (1928-1930), and Yale University and the American Schools of Oriental Research (1930-1931). New Haven 1938.
  • Achim Lichtenberger , Rubina Raja : Ǧeraš in the Middle Islamic Period. Connecting Texts and Archeology through New Evidence from the Northwest Quarter, in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Verein 132 (2016), pp. 63–81, panels 7–10.
  • Frank Rainer Scheck: Jordan. Peoples and cultures between the Jordan and the Red Sea. 5th edition. Dumont, Ostfildern 2010, ISBN 978-3-7701-3979-8 , pp. 104-137.

Web links

Commons : Gerasa  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Baedeker: Jordan. ISBN 978-3-8297-1153-1 , pp. 186/187.
  2. ^ Lichtenberger, Achim .: Cults and culture of the Dekapolis: Investigations into numismatic, archaeological and epigraphic evidence . Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 978-3-447-04806-4 .
  3. Ina Eichner, Vasiliki Tsamakda: Syria and its neighbors from late antiquity to the Islamic period . Late Antiquity - Early Christianity - Byzantium. Reichert, Wiesbaden 2009 ( Online pp. 1027/1028 [PDF; accessed December 19, 2011]).
  4. Rubina Raja, Achim Lichtenberger : From the dream of cultural heritage. Road construction destroys parts of the ancient city walls of Jerash in Jordan . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of April 8, 2015, p. 12.

Coordinates: 32 ° 17 '  N , 35 ° 54'  E