We arrived in the modern town of Jerash to explore its ancient part, Gerasa. The imposing Hadrian’s Arch marks its boundary. The ruined city of Gerasa is Jordan’s largest and most interesting Roman site. Its imposing ceremonial gates, colonnaded avenues, temples, and theatres all speak to when this city was of great wealth and importance.

Gerasa grew from a small village to a thriving city during Alexander the Great’s rule in the 4th century BC. It was conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, and under Roman rule, it was named one of the great Roman cities of the Decapolis League. But during the 3rd century, the city started to decline. The Persians later invaded it, and then the Muslims. It suffered earthquakes, causing damage to the town, and soon it was abandoned. The ancient city of Gerasa was hidden for centuries, buried under the sand. It was discovered in 1806 by a German traveler, Ulrich Jasper Seezten, who recognized part of the ruins. It has been excavated since 1925.

The site covers a vast area with no signage. The major sites are the Triumphal Arch (built in 129 AD in honor of Emperor Hadrian’s visit), the Hippodrome (built for chariot races, it could host 15,000 spectators), the South Gate (built 130 AD), the Forum (56 Ionic columns surround the paved limestone plaza), Temple of Zeus, the South Theatre (with a capacity of 5000 spectators), the Cardo Maximus (800m long colonnaded street), the Nymphaeum (city’s main fountain), the Temple of Artemis, the North Theatre (built 165 AD).

Parking location – Jerash: 32.274976N 35.891167E (🚻)