One of the best preserved provincial Roman cities in the world,Jerash lies about 50km north of Amman ,in a fair and fertile valley in the heart of the hills of Gilead,with a stream running through the middle of it.Doubtless because of its abundant water supply,the area has been occupied since Neolithic times.In the Hellenistic period the city was known as Antioch on the Chrysorhoas(or Golden River,as the stream was grandly called);but nothing remains of this,nor of the brief Hasmonean occupation, for the glorious new Roman city of Gerasa obliterated everything of an earlier date.As one of the ten cities of the Decapolis,it entered in a long period of great prosperity.

In the first century AD the Romans drew a plan for the new town,with a main colonnaded street,or Cardo Maximus, on the north-south axis;two interesting cross streets,the North and South Decumanus;and an encircling wall.At the south end of the Cardo is the highly unusual and very lovely Oval Piazza.Overlooking it is the second century Temple of Zeus,built on the site of several earlier temples;and beside this is the grander of the two theatres,with a seating capacity of over 3000.It is today used for the annual Jerash Festival.West of the Cardo,between the Piazza and the South Decumanus,a handsome building,only recently excavated,has been identified as the Agora,dating from the second century.

Dominating Jerash still is the great Temple of Artemis,dedicated to its patron goddess,set on a spacious terrace,or temenos,and approached from the Cardo through a monumental gate and stairway.North of this is the smaller north theatre and the North Decumanus.

In the Byzantine period many churches were built,and also a cathedral,utilizing Roman building material.Gerasa's heyday was already past when the Persians invaded in 614,and after the Arab conquest of 636 it continued as a minor town under the Umayyads,until shattered by the great earthquake of 747.A few years later the Caliphate transferred from Damascus to Baghdad, and the city faded into ruinos obscurity.

Afew years later,the city was rediscovered and was passed by,by a large number of travellers.In 1878 a group of Circassians settled Gerasa,and their village grew into the modern town of Jerash.
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