Monday, November 07, 2011

Gerasa

After Ajloun, we headed down to Gerasa (modern day Jerash), one of the best preserved Roman cities today. Gerasa, like Gadara, was one of the cities of the Decapolis. Sts. Mark and Luke record that Jesus' sending of the demons into the swine took place in the region of the Gerasenes, while St. Matthew, as we quoted in the last post, identifies it as the region of the Gadarenes. Gerasa was by far the larger city and the whole region, including up to Gadara, was known as the region of Gerasa. St. Matthew, who seems to be the most familiar with the biblical geography, was simply more precise in his description.

Gerasa features the best preserved Roman hippodrome in the world, which also happens to be one of the smallest, seating about 10,000-15,000 spectators. (The Circus Maximus in Rome, by comparison, seated about 150,000.) Above is my dad standing on the track.

They also offer a daily show that recreates some of what a Roman spectator would have seen at the hippodrome. The show is quite well researched by classicists and involves the man who worked as the technical advisor for the movie Gladiator. A large part of the show involved various drills by a Roman military detachment (see above). It also included a mock gladiator contest.

It ended with the chariot race.

Above, the huge Oval Plaza. The circle you see in the photo was actually a manhole that led the city's underground sewer system.

Above were the legs of a butcher's table in the forum. Each leg depicts an animal, including (if I remember correctly, a cow, a pig, and somewhat strangely, a lion).

The city was fully Christian in Byzantine times (ca. 350-650), with over 13 churches. Above are the remains of a large cross-shaped baptistery.

Above, my dad in front of the Nymphaeum.

Above is a photo we took of ourselves inside the enormous Temple of Artemis: "The Temple of Artemis was built in the 2nd century A.D. The columns are 12 m high and each drum weighs 20-40 tons. Artemis was the virgin goddess of nature and the hunt (the Romans called her Diana). The daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo, Artemis was one of the most popular Greek deities. She was like “Mother Nature,” life-giving and supportive on the one hand, but cruel and destructive on another. Artemis was also the patron goddess of a temple at Ephesus, whose well-being was threatened by the presence of the Gospel (Acts 19)."

A view from the highest part of the Temple of Artemis back toward the entrance to the temple. The square area at the bottom of the photo appears to have been an area for sacrifice.

This is a photo of the mosaic floor of one of the 13 churches built between 350-650 .

After this long day of sightseeing, we headed back to Amman, where we had a fantastic supper of hummus and falafel at a local joint, followed by some sweets at this place.

For more photos of this first day, click here.

3 comments:

Don Lightfoot said...

great photos, great text at one of the most exciting sites representing our western historical roots.

David Bridge said...

I was interested in the cross shaped baptistery.

Our guide told us that this was the central fountain for a posh shopping arcade.

Can you provide sources for the view that it is a baptistery?

Thanks in anticipation.

Fr. Gregory said...

Honestly, I can't remember now where I read that. It was either in a tourist guidebook or from an actual tour guide.