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Gadara (Modern Um Qeis or Qays)

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:757200 - Utm North:3616500 UTM Zone:36
Ref.: 1558

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The ancient classical period city of Gadara , and a member city of the Decapolis(Greek Ten Cities), is one of Jordan's most dramatic antiquities sites-both for the many substantial ruins of black basalt and white lime stone ,and for the city's impressive setting overlooking the north Jordan Valley, the Sea of Galilee The extensive site has scores of standing and still buried monuments covering an area of several hectares. These include rock- cut tombs with architectural ornaments, facades and Greek inscriptions; two theatres, one of which is built of black basalt and has a marble sculpture of a goddess seated in the orchestra; a basilica and atrium-shaped courtyard on a semi-artificial terrace ,partly restored by the Department of Antiquities and the German Protestant Institute; a street lined on one side with barrel-vaulted shops; the foundations of the north mausoleum with adjacent traces of the ancient city fortifications ;a well preserved underground Roman era mausoleum with an apsidal entrance hall and a crypto-portico; two excavated Byzantine baths complexes; the partly excavated monumental entrance gate to the city; traces of a possible stadium; and various other built structures that have not been excavated. The late Ottoman village, built from re-used ancient cut stones, is virtually intact on the summit of the site, and some of its houses are being restored and preserved for future use. History The name Gadara derives from a Semitic term meaning "fortification", and it is likely that a pre-Hellenistic stronghold secured this stretch of the land route between southern Syria and the north Palestine coastal ports. The change in the name Gadar/Gadara to Umm Qeis in the Middle Ages(from mkes, early Arabic "frontier station") probably reflects the settlement's ancient role as a border post. Gadara first appears in historical record shortly after the conquest of the region by the forces of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Alexander's successors in Egypt, the Ptolemies, refounded Gadara as a military colony along the Yarmouk Valley frontier with their perennial rivals the Seleucids, Alexander's successors who were based in Antioch, north Syria. The Roman general Pompey conquered the region of south Syria in 63BC. and liberated Gadara and other Hellenistic towns in north Jordan from the grip of the Hasmonaeans. Josephus mentions that due to the damage the city suffered from the siege, Pompey rebuilt it to please Demetrius the Gadarene, one of his favorite freedmen and quite a notable personality in the annals of the late Roman Republic. It was rumored in Rome that Demetrius the Gadarene initiated and financed the monumental theatre that was built in Pompey's honor on the Campus Martius in Rome in 61-54 BC. After 63 BC, an autonomous Gadara minted its own coins and adopted a new calendar based on the Pompeian era. It was one of the leading cities of the Decapolis (the "ten cities" in Greek), a loose association of at least ten Greco-Roman cities in north Jordan and south Syria, including Gerasa (modern Jerash), Pella (Tabaqat Fahl), Scythopolis (Beisan), Abila(Qweilbeh) and Philadelphia (Amman). The Decapolis was a fountainhead of Hellenistic culture in the land of south Syria and north Jordan, and a loyal ally of Rome. The cities shared common political, cultural, commercial and security interests and, for about 150 years, formed an effective check to expansion by the Nabataeans or the Hasmonaeans of Judaea. The security which came with the Pax Romana (Roman peace) reinvigorated international trade and boosted the commercial and tax income which the Decapolis cities derived from it. With regional stability completely assured as of the late 1st Century AD, Gadara and the Decapolis entered into their Golden Age of municipal expansion, architectural splendor, economic growth and artistic and cultural vitality.