A few kilometers north of the biblical river of Jacob, famous for the wrestling incident between Jacob and god in the image of man, lies the once prosperous Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, known today as Jerash, to become one city in a grouping of a number of classical civil centers that ultimately reached seventeen at one point, collectively known as the Decapolis.
Today half of the classical town is occupied by the modern city of Jerash, fortunately enough the half covered today by urban development is believed to be the residential half of the city, leaving the western public, religious, commercial, entertainment, and political half nearly untouched since the last severe decline of the city, an abandonment and degradation triggered by one of the most severe series of ancient earthquakes through 747and 749 AD afflicting damage to the whole of the region, Gerasa and famous Petra are just naming two major victims.
The site accessible to visitors today is rightfully described as one of the best preserved Roman towns in the world, interestingly also described by many of the visitors today as the “best site I’ve never heard of!”, a more popular world title is also “Pompeii of the east” in a comparison to the level of preservation and perhaps to a degree, the timeline where Gerasa nearly picks up where volcano struck Pompeii stopped, and yet a third more time drenched classical title of old “Antiochus on the river of gold” which draws parallels between the luxury and prosperity of Gerasa with the Mediterranean city of Antiochus with the addition of the river of gold which still has remnants today; a stream running right through the middle of town, starting from a spring where two roughly half Olympic size Roman swimming pools still can be seen, and ending in the earlier mentioned biblical river of Jabboc.
The titles through time come as no surprise, with all the extraordinarily lavish civil structures the city boasts, to mention some; the unique non-symmetrical oval plaza, the grandiose temple of Artemis with columns compared to those of the Pantheon in size and quality, a fully intact Cardo Maximus which reflects the lively commercial aspect of the city along with the markets it leads to, one of the biggest Roman bath complexes in the region a famous Roman tradition where it’s reported much of the politics actually were decided , a huge monumental gate to Emperor Hadrian marking his visit and stay, a Hippodrome which interestingly is the smallest discovered in the Roman empire thus far suggesting the city was although relatively small in the number of occupants witch might have reached 25 thousand in it’s heyday, was still wealthy and important enough to have one, and last but certainly not least an Amphitheatre which till this day is where the annual cultural festival of Jerash takes place.
To put things in clear words, no holiday tour of today’s Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is complete without a visit to Gerasa, guaranteed to surprise even the most travelled in the Greco-Roman world.