Um el-Jimal (City)

Date of Submission: 18/06/2001
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.Department of Antiquities.
Coordinates: Utm East: 2523000 - Utm North: 3580000UTM Zone:36
Ref.: 1548
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Umm el-Jimal is located in the semi-arid region of north Jordan, on the edge of the basalt plain created by prehistoric volcanic eruptions from the slopes of the Jebel Druze, whose peaks are visible on clear winter days fifty km to the north in southern Syria. The great Roman highway, the Via Nova Traiana constructed AD 112-14 during Trajan’s rule ,passes Umm el-Jimal 6 km to the west on its way from Bostra to Philadelphia (Amman).It is best viewed where it crosses the road between Umm el-Jimal and Umm es-Surab, at a point about one km west of Qasr el-Ba’ij, a ten minute drive west of Umm el-Jimal.Umm el-Jimal itself lay on a side road that left the Via Nova at Qasr el-Ba’ij, and went on to Um el-Quttein and Deir el-Kahf to the east. This side road was part of a network of secondary roads that connected the Southerm Hauran’s towns and villages with major market centers like Bostra and Suweida, and the desert oasis of Azraq. The Village’s remains are visible today as a three to four hundred metre diameter oval of moonscape rubble on the gentle slope two hundred meters east of the southeast corner of the still standing town .Umm el-Jimal nestles in a fork created by the joining of two wadis (dry riverbeds) that bring the runoff waters from the lower slopes of the Jebel Druze History Umm el-Jimal was occupied for 700 years from the 1st Century AD to the 8th Century. In its first 700 years Umm el-Jimal had three quite distinct personae. Nabataean-Roman Period In the 2nd-3rd centuries it was a rural village that received its impetus from late Nabataean sedentarization, but its prosperity from the incorporation of the region into the Roman Empire after the peaceful transformation of the Nabataean heartland in Jordan into the Provincia Arabia (The Roman Province of Arabia).Thus from Trajan (AD 106) to the end of the Severan Dynasty (AD 235) ,the village appears to have had an undisturbed and relatively prosperous rural life, with an estimated population of 2,000-3,000 people. Late Roman Period The second Umm el-Jimal was a military station on the limes Arabicus, the 4th-5th Century fortified frontier defensive system created and constructed by the emperors Diocletian and Constantine. Already in the 2nd. Century, the Roman imperial authorities had begun construction of a gate and a wall next to the village, on the site of the standing town. That was followed by the construction of the great reservoir and the Praetorium. But after the destruction of the village, Diocletian’s imperial reorganization caused the construction of a major fortification, the castellum on the east side of what later became the town. Now Umm el-Jimal functioned as a stitch in the blanket of total defensive security in which Diocletian had attempted to swaddle his empire. You have to imagine the 4th-5th Century site with the Commodus Gate, the Praetorium, Reservoir 9 and the fort in place, but without the Barracks,the now standing antique Houses and the churches. Byzantine – Umayyad period This military security may have enabled or forced the civilian resettlement of the site, to set the stage for Um el-Jimal’s third persona, that of a prosperous rural farming and trading town of the 5th to 8th centuries. The transformation from military station to civilian town was gradual, and is typical of the general transformation from imperial to late antique culture that took place in the East Mediterranean in the 4th century. This resulted from the failure of Diocletian’s system of massive defenses along the eastern frontier and reaction to the debilitating economic oppression such a system required. Ironically, as imperial military security weakened and decentralized, the prosperity of the eastern frontier increased to reach a peak in the 6th century. Christianity also through churches of which 15 were constructed in the 5th and 6th centuries.