The Dead Sea

Desert Castles


Mt. Nebo








8500-4500 BC                                  Neolithic Period
4500-3300 BC                                  Chalcolithic Period
3300-1200 BC                                  Bronze Age
1200-539 BC                                    Iron Age
539-332 BC                                      Babylonian and Persian Periods
Fourth Century BC-106 BC              Nabatean Kingdom
332-63 BC                                        Hellenistic Period
63 BC-324 AD                                 Roman Empire
324-640                                            Byzantine Period
640-1291                                          Islamic Middle Ages
661-750                                            Umayyad Caliphs
750-969                                            Abbasid Caliphs
969-1171                                          Fatimid Caliphs
1171-1263                                        Ayyubid Caliphs
1099-1291                                        Crusaders
1250-1517                                        Mamluk Caliphs
1517-1918                                        Ottoman Empire
1916-1918                                        Arab Revolt
1921                                                  Ernirate of Transjordan established
1946                                                  Transjordan gains independence
1950                                                  New Name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan


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.


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 rights reserved.
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