48 kilometres north of Amman lies Jerash—one of the best preserved Roman cities outside of Italy. The city is an incredible model of grand Roman urbanism and includes colonnaded paved streets; hilltop temples; amphitheatres; public plazas and squares; fountains and baths; and city walls sporting immense towers and gates. Within the city walls, ruins dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages have been found, confirming human habitation for 6,500 years.
The foundation of Jerash (ancient Gerasa) can be dated back to the time of Alexander the Great (331 BC) when he settled retired Macedonian soldiers there on his way to Mesopotamia. However, excavations have revealed that this area was inhabited long before his time, during the Bronze Age (3200 BC – 1200 BC).
In 63 BC General Pompey conquered Gerasa and as result, it fell under Roman rule, becoming one of the ten great Roman cities of the Decapolis and part of the Province of Syria. Gerasa prospered with trade and the majority of its foundations we see today were built during this period.
The late 2nd century Roman civil war, and the subsequent Persian invasion in 614 AD set Gerasa into a steady decline. However, there is archaeological evidence that it continued to survive during the Umayyad period until 749 AD when an earthquake destroyed the city.
Gerasa remained hidden for thousands of years until it was ‘discovered’ again in the early 19th century by European explorers. By the end of 19th century, the Circassians and Arabs had settled and changed its name to what we now know as Jerash.