JORDAN'S HISTORY AT A GLANCE
The capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since the country gained independence in 1946, Amman is an ultra-modem metropolis that boasts a history of nearly continuous inhabitation over the past 9,000 years. Recently, it has grown dramatically. Its residential and business districts extend over an ever-growing number of hills that are connected by a sophisticated and efficient road network, and its population numbers 1.5 million people.
Amman is Jordan's business and administrative center. By day, its open-air markets bustle with people buying everything from food to furniture in stalls and shops that line the streets and alleyways. Countless grill restaurants beckon, offering local delicacies such as kabob, felafel, hoummus and assorted other meats and salads.
First mentioned in the Bible in Deuteronomy 3, as Rabbat-Ammon, the capital of the Ammonites, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel each predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer the city, but they were proved wrong; the Babylonian ruler took Jerusalem instead.
In the Hellenistic Period (about 300-65 BC), the city was ruled by the Syrian Seleucids and the Egyptian Ptolemies, who conquered it from each other several times. In the third century BC, it was renamed Philadelphia by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who conquered the city and wanted to associate it with his own name. Later, the Nabateans held it briefly, but Herod took it from them.
Philadelphia was one of the ten cities of the Roman Decapolis, and the Romans built it rapidly and ambitiously. The most impressive remnant of their rule is the well-preserved theatre at the heart of the city. Philadelphia prospered throughout the Roman, Byzantine and Arab periods, but it then began to decline. By the fifteenth century, it was empty and in veritable ruins.
Through 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule, the city remained neglected, although the Sultan did send a small community of Circassians to settle among the ruins in 1878.
Only in 1921, when Emir Abdullah of the prestigious Beduin Hashemite family took the reins of the new entity of Transjordan and chose Amman as his capital did the city begin to thrive again. It grew steadily, and after Jordan gained independence in 1946 its population was bolstered by successive influxes of newcomers.
Today, the historic area of Philadelphia lies at the heart of a sprawling, aesthetically pleasing mixture of private homes, apartment complexes, office buildings, public facilities, parks and open spaces.
THE ROMAN THEATER
Built into the side of a mountain in the late second century AD by Antoninus Pius, the theatre has room for 6,000 people. Restoration began in 1960, and the theatre today is a prime example of Roman architecture. Adjacent is the remain of the Odeon, or covered hall, which was built in the third century AD.
High atop the Roman Theatre and the rest of downtown Amman, this plateau
is the site of the ancient city of Rabbat-Ammon. Amid the Byzantine and
Umayyad ruins, the main attractions are the panoramic view of the
sprawling city and the surrounding desert plains, and the Amman
Archeological Museum, which is nestled behind the remains of a second
century Roman temple.
Copyright ©1999 by
John Walter. All
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