Jerash, known in ancient times as Gerasa, is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Near East. It was a city of the Decapolis.
Recent excavations show that Jerash was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron 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 building activity.
In the second half of the first century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the provinces and more trade came to Jerash. The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. A remarkable Latin inscription records a religious dedication set up by members of the imperial mounted bodyguard "wintering" there. The Triumphal Arch (or Arch of Hadrian) was built to celebrate his visit.
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 746, 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, and in 1878, Circassians settled in the town after immigrating from their homeland in the Caucausus. Excavation and restoration of Jerash has been almost continuous since the 1920s.
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