Amman the City of Umayyad Castles

Amman, the capital of Jordan, is the 8th most visited city of tourists and business travelers in the Middle East and Africa. It is one of the largest cities of the kingdom with a population of approximately 2.5 million inhabitants and an area of 1680 m2. The city is located in the center of the kingdom and is built in the valley between the mountains, so it is limited to its inhabitants. The Amman is divided into two parts. Eastern Amman is the oldest part, and western Amman is a new part of the city.


Amman Citadel

While most of what we see today on Amman’s citadel dates to the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods, the hill has been inhabited at least since the Neolithic period. By the Middle Bronze Age the small settlement here had become a fortified town, and in the Iron Age, it was the capital of the kingdom of Ammon with the Semitic name, Rabbat Ammon. Renamed Philadelphia in the Hellenistic period, it was one of the Decapolis cities in the Roman era. Since the Islamic period it has reverted to a version of its earlier name Amman.

The outstanding features of the citadel are the Roman Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad palace. The temple, dated to 162-166 AD and dedicated to the co-emperors. Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, stands on the site of an Iron Age temple (and probably an earlier Bronze Age one) very likely dedicated to the Ammonite god, Milcom. Two pieces of carved marble (an elbow and a hand) were found nearby, parts of a nine-meter-tall Roman statue, believed to be of Hercules.

Between 720-750 AD the citadel was the administrative center of the Umayyad governor (amir) of the Balqa province, whose palace stands at the north end of the citadel, next to offices and houses for government officials. There is also a mosque. The most prominent building is a vestibule where people would wait their turn to see the amir or his staff. Its dome is a modern reconstruction by Spanish archaeologists.


Amman’s Roman Theater

Like the temple of Hercules on the Citadel, the theater in the valley immediately below dates to the reign of Marcus Aurelius. With seating for 6,000 people, its alignment at 9 degrees West minimized the low evening sun shining directly into the eyes of the audience. The odeon (the small theater beside the main one) held around 500 people and was used both for smaller performances and as the venue for meetings of the city council. There is evidence that a roof covered the entire structure. A short distance from the theater is another large Roman structure, the nymphaeum, a two-story public fountain dedicated to water nymphs.

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