As we passed the Triumphal Arch and storerooms, we went through the South Gate to the city, and came upon this massive wall – it is the sacred courtyard wall, in front of the temple of Zeus. Passageways and stairs made the whole complex accessible to the people of Jerash. I liked the detail work on the stones.
As we walked into the temple area, we passed through the forum.
The columns are striking. They are huge and I marvel at how the Romans managed to erect them without modern machines, and yet, they look so fragile, and so I wonder how they continue to stand after so many centuries of weather, earthquakes, and humanity.
A view from the stairs leading into the temple. (sorry about the photo being a bit crooked – I do not have photoshop installed on this computer and can’t fix it; just tilt your head a little!)
Wandering slowly with playful and distracted kids, meant we had plenty of time to hang about in places and look at details. Our guide book (Jerash, by Prof. Dr. Safwan Kh. Tell, ISBN: 88-8029-727-9; a nice book we picked up at the info building for 5JD) noted that more recent French excavations unearthed many ornamental friezes of floral and figurative motifs resembling Nabataean designs. Perhaps this is one?
I wish these photos could portray the size and feel of this complex. I hate to keep repeating the same adjectives, ‘massive’, ‘huge’, and so on. The grand scale of the place, the whole site, has a physical impact. You can’t help but feel the work and time involved in building these structures. And the details – the elaborate carvings and pretty stones used – reminds you of the people who created these walls and buildings, and art, and of those who worshipped, worked, and lived here.
Looking out at the forum.
And up to the Temple of Zeus. It was built atop a hill overlooking the whole city, a site which made it extremely vulnerable to erosion and damage. The site is known to have been in use even before the temple was built, with archaeological finds that date the construction of the temple to 162AD, on the site of a sanctuary dedicated to Emperor Tiberius in 22-42AD, which stood on ruins that date back even earlier, probably of first or second century BC Hellenistic temple.
Wall opposite the temple, near the entry and courtyard. This wall is in ruins, but detail work is still visible and it must have been a beautiful piece when it was in use.
The stone itself, although very weathered, is also pretty… some of these pieces look naturally pink in color.
Another view of some of the columns of the temple. The guide book notes that they are 15 meters tall.
A view across the courtyard (the temple behind me) with a view of the modern city on the hills in the distance.
I will definitely have to explore this area again. Apparently there is much more to see, including niches and other areas that once contained the statue of Zeus and other objects of worship. I spent most of this portion of our visit watching where kids were climbing – in, on, down, etc. and keeping an eye on what they were touching and picking up!
(more photos later!)