Like Rome, Amman in Jordan was built on seven hills. These hills, or jabals, are impressive to see from the Jabal al-Qal’a, or Citadel, an L shaped hill that gives you a sense of ancient history as you approach its summit and you see for the first time the Roman ampitheatre.
Even more impressive as I approached the summit, was the call to prayer had just started across this ancient city of four million people, and the sound of multiple voices echoing across the city sent shivers down my spine. I couldn’t have timed my visit any better.
A Neolithic site known as ‘Ain Ghazal’ is the earliest known settlement in the area, with human statues found dating back to 7250 BC. The city, known as Ammon, during the Iron Age, was home to the Ammonites. During the Greek/Roman period the city was renamed Philadelphia after Ptolemy II Philadelphus who was the son of one of Alexander the Great’s generals who founded the Ptolemic Kingdom in Egypt.
As the Roman Empire split into two halves and the eastern half became the Byzantine Empire, only to be conquered and re-conqured, the city was once more renamed and became Amman. Amman was abandoned through much of the medieval and post-medieval period. Modern Amman dates back to the late 19th century when immigrants were settled there by the Ottoman Empire in 1867.
As I walked further up I came across the magnificent site of the Temple of Hercules. Having seen the ancient Forum in Rome, this temple was equally impressive.
A museum close by houses some important archaeological finds going back a million years. Outside the museum is a small cordoned off section with parts of a statue, including the so-called colossal hand of Hercules. Don’t be fooled by images on the likes of Wikipedia, it’s big, but not as big as some images depict.
Then I came across the old entrance to the governor’s residence. If you wanted a chat with the governor during the city’s Greek/Roman period this is the building you would pass through first.
As you look around this sweeping and popular ancient tourist attraction, your eyes will take in a vision of the new, framed by the ancient, the towering spires of modern-day Amman reaching up into the perfect blue sky.
As we marvel at the spectacle of what our ancestor built, and built to last, it makes you wonder if in a few thousand years time the new towers of Amman will still be seen. I somehow doubt it.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2019
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