Situated at 48 kilometers north of the capital Amman towards Syria, Jerash is the capital and the largest city of Jerash Governorate. It is the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. Inhabited since the Bronze Age, it is known for the ruins of the walled Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa, just outside the modern city. These include the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis, the Temple of Zeus, the 2nd-century Triumphal arch or the Hadrian’s Arch, and the huge Forum’s oval colonnade.
During the Hellenistic era in the 3rd century BC, Jerash became a member of the Decapolis, a federation of Greek cities. During those days, it was known as Gerasa. Gerasa and other Decapolis cities were conquered by Rome in 63 BC, and were annexed to the Roman province of Syria. However, Jerash was included into the Roman province of Arabia in AD 90. In AD 106, it was annexed to Petra by the Emperor Trajan, who developed the city, constructed many roads throughout the province, and more trade came to Jerash. It was the favorite city of Emperor Hadrian, who visited it in AD 129 -130. The triumphal arch, known as the Arch of Hadrian, was built in the city to celebrate his visit. Jerash flourished socially and economically during this period and several temples were also built, including the Temple of Artemis, built in 150 AD and the Temple of Zeus, constructed in 162 AD.
After a period of steady decline during the 3rd century, Jerash was reborn as a Christian city under the Byzantines. However, in 614, the city was invaded by the Persians and was captured by the Muslims in 635. In the late Ottoman period, the city’s name was changed to Sakib, yet the original name triumphantly appeared again in Ottoman tax registers by the end of the 16th century.
A large part of Jerash was destroyed by a massive earthquake in 749, which was followed by a series of subsequent earthquakes and additional destructions due to wars and other internal turmoils. By the time the Crusaders arrived in the 12th century, Jerash had been abandoned for some time. The ruins of the glorious city remained neglected and buried in the soil for hundreds of years until they were discovered by German Orientalist Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806.
Hidden for centuries under the ocean of sand and soil, Jerash stands for a fascinating example of Roman Urbanism, which is found throughout the Middle East. With its architecture, religion and language, Jerash represents a magnificent fusion of the Greco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the traditions of the Arab Orient.