Located in the Jordan valley, about 50 miles northwest of Amman, Pella was a thriving city in the Roman and Byzantine periods. Today, Pella’s archaeological site presents some fascinating finds from the Classical periods.
History and Archaeology of Pella
Nestling in fertile valley, 3 miles east of the Jordan river, Pella was inhabited from prehistorical times. However, its hey days began in the first century, when Pella was developed into a Roman city, as well as a member of a league of ten pagan cities – the Decapolis.
Pella, the Decapolis, and Jesus
Decapolis was a term used to describe a group of ten cities in the southern Levant that were culturally were affiliated during the Roman period. These cities were all centers of Greek and Roman culture and were well supported by the Romans. Some of these cities exist to this day, and some have become archaeological sites. Six of these cities are today 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). Pella is not mentioned by name in the New Testament, but the Gospels do records Jesus visiting the Decapolis cities (e.g. Mark 7:31). Being so, it is possible that Jesus also visited Pella. Furthermore, according to 3rd century CE historian Eusebius of Caesarea, Pella was the refuge for Christians who fled from Jerusalem on during the Great Jewish Revolt (66-73 CE).
Pella continued to thrive through the Byzantine period, but it declined after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE. After the 749 CE devastating earthquake the city was finally abandoned. The site was identified in the late 19th century during a regional survey of G. Shumacher. Since 1958 it was excavated by several archaeological expedition. Since 1978 an Australian expedition is excavating at the site. Aside the finds from Classical periods, the Australian team also uncovered a Canaanite temple, several structures, and a city wall, all dating to around 3400 BCE.
Called also Tabaqat Pahl, Pella’s archaeological site is open every day of the week and has an admission fee.. Its main finds are from the Roman and Byzantine periods, which include a small theatre (Odeon), a bath and two churches. There is also an Islamic quarter with an Umayyad period mosque and courtyard.
A tour of Pella can be combined with a multi-day tour of Jordan.