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Aes Grave
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Representations of Alexander the Great
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Jerash, the Roman Gerasa, is one of the best preserved Roman provincial cities in the world. Archeological and literary evidence shows it was founded in the early second century B.C., most likely under the Hellenistic Seleucid kings. It fell under Roman rule when Pompey conquered Syria and created the Decapolis in 63 B.C. Its Roman name, Gerasa, was derived from its earlier Semitic name "Garshu."

Jerash is particularly valuable for both its many splendid monuments and its intact city plan. This is based on an 800-meter-long colonnaded main greet (2625 feet) called the cardo, which is intersected by lateral streets. The Roman ruins include, most notably, three theaters, a hippodrome, two principal temples dedicated to the god Zeus and the goddess Artemis, a triumphal arch built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor Hadrian in A.D. 129/130, an ornate nymphaeum, the odd-shaped Oval Plaza, the ruins of three baths, and several tombs/ mausolea - all enclosed within the thick town wall with its four gates and dozens of towers.

Between the fourth and seventh centuries, Gerasha was an important Byzantine religious center too, as evidenced by the discovery of 15 churches to date. Some of these featured magnificent mosaic floors that can still be appreciated. When the forces of Islam defeated the armies of Byzantium in the early seventh century and soon after established the Umayyad caliphate in Damascus, Jerash continued to flourish as an important regional city, based on trading links with other cities in Jordan, Syria and Palestine. Umayyad ruins excavated at Jerash include a mosque, several pottery kilns and an impressive housing quarter.

History buffs will find a visit to Jerash particularly valuable for the opportunity to wander among the ruins of structures that were built by successive Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic civilizations - spanning a period of over 1,000 years.

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