Nestling in a fertile valley about 30 miles north of Amman, Jerash was a thriving metropolis in the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Called Gerasa in antiquity, today, its remains are among the best preserved in the world. Jerash is also a popular tour attraction in Jordan, second only to Petra.
History and Archaeology of Jerash
The Nabateans were apparently the first to build a monument in the city, a temple to Dushara. In Roman times a well-planned city developed around it, with intersecting streets in even angles. The City was also a member of the Decapolis, and one cannot rule out the possibility Jesus visited the City.
Gerasa, the Decapolis, and Jesus
Decapolis was a term used to describe a group of ten cities in the southern Levant that shared a treaty during the Roman period. These cities were all centers of Greek and Roman culture and were supported by the Romans. Today, six of these cities are in Jordan (Gerasa, Gadara, Pella, Amman, Capitolias, and Raphana). Two are in Syria (Damascus and Canatha), and two in Israel (Beit-Shean and Hippos-Sussita). The Gospels record Jesus visiting the Decapolis (e.g. Mark 7:31), but none of them are mentioned by name. Gerasa is mentioned in Mark 5:1 as the city next to where Jesus performed the miracle of the Swine. In Matthew’s version of the story, it was next to the city of Gadara.
In the 2nd century Gerasa was greatly expanded and its population reached 25,000. The city continued to thrive in the Byzantine period, but after the Muslim conquest the city declined and eventually it was abandoned. Since 1925 several archaeological expeditions have excavated at the site, uncovering a wealth of finds. These include a Hippodrome and a triumphal arch from Hadrian’s times, well-preserved colonnaded streets and courtyards, two theatres, two colossal-size temples and a cathedral, a public fountain (nymphaeum), baths, several churches, and more.
Jerash is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Jordan. The site is open every day, from 7:00 till dark. During July and August, the annual ‘Jerash festival’ takes place at the site. The combined Jordanian and Bedouin folk shows, and modern music attract both tourists and locals.
A tour of Jerash can be combined with a multi-day tour of Jordan.