On Wednesday I went to number two on my list: Jerash or Gerasa. I went with an Englishman from Manchester called Allan, a sculptor turned landscape designer. We managed to get a taxi to take us for a reasonable price, partly because we had consulted with one of the organisers of the Conference, who gave us some useful tips in negotiating with taxis. The taxi driver was however worried about what exactly he had let himself in for and phoned his brother who subsequenlty appeared at the window and whom we had to reassure that for this price he could drop us there and leave straight away to return to Amman. The brother, without consulting our man, then suggested a price for the round trip that was amenable to us, explained the deal to his sibling and so we set of north, everyone happy.
Jerash, the Roman city, sits next to an indifferent modern day city; it is large. The cardo and decamanus are straight as they can be and set at right angles to each other completely ignoring the lay of the land in that inimitable Roman way. Before we got to them we first passed through the large monumental gate and walked past the hippodrome towards the round fully colonnaded forum which is dramatically overlooked by the Temple of Jupiter and the main theatre.
Then we walked up the cardo, past a fabulous temple full of segments of circles and little baroque details common to the time of Hadrian. Looking back we could see the Jupiter temple facing the axis of the cardo with a dramatic three-quarter view. The cardo is colonnaded along its full length and there is still evidence of the cloacae running underneath the paved road.
We went to look at the basilica and the humongous temple of Artemis, with its steps all the way down to the cardo giving a fabulous view; the Romans knew how to put on a good show. There is no longer any evidence of domestic architecture, which is a shame.
Haunting are the numberless fragments of architraves and columns lining the road, stacked according to a loose typology of rough similarity. The columns fronting the temple of Artemis are monstrous in size but as fine as any Grinling Gibbons might have carved. We then arrived at the second, smaller theatre, which was being got ready for a show that night. Another impressive structure flanking the cardo and next to the steps leading up to the Temple of Artemis temple, is the Nymphaeum. It is no more than a tall niche beside the road, but shows a richly ornamented classical gable bent into a concave plan.
The heat was beginning to overmaster us and we returned to the café near the baths and had a coke and water.
Contact me at: email@example.com
copyright © jacob voorthuis 1994-2010
All written material on this page is copyrighted.
Please cite Jacob Voorthuis as the author and Voorthuis.net as the publisher.