A Soupçon of Jordan
in the lush land of
Gilead, half of the
Roman city has been covered by the modern town, the other half exposed
visitors to see. A huge triumphal arch commemorates the visit of the
Hadrian to the city in AD 129: he was the first (and one of the only)
the emperors to visit all the provinces in the empire, and a series of
was minted to mark this achievement. It must have given him a bad case
'As soon as we had rounded the tell we saw it in front of us, its black towers and walls standing so boldly out of the desert that it was impossible to believe it had been ruined and deserted for thirteen hundred years.' Gertrude Bell, The Desert and the Sown.
Literally 'Mother of the Camel'
(seems as good a name as any for a
it is built of basalt and, although Roman (and possibly even Nabatean)
origin, what survives is mainly Byzantine in date. Looks to me like the
of nuclear warfare, rather than an ancient ruin, but at least it has
been dismantled to make more recent housing, as was the fate of Umm
el-Quttein. I visited Umm el-Jimal when I
had a bad dose of
what polite people call the colly-wobbles: to this day it remains the
archaeological site upon whose spoil heap I have thrown up. Fond
Located in the northern desert,
Azraq is a major oasis and the fort,
was probably built by the Romans in the 4th century AD (although there
hints of an earlier base), was rebuilt under the Ayyubids, and finally
by T.E. Lawrence as a base for his winter operations against the Turks.
Gertrude Bell visited the site, she noted that at the oasis 'there are
full of wild boar.'
be one of the best-preserved Roman
although it is badly damaged by earthquakes and in need of some
attention. It is almost certainly the only Roman fort
its original dedicatory inscription, dated to AD 306, still in place
the gateway and this records the construction of Castra Praetorii
Mobeni by Aurelius Asclepiades, praeses of the province
Arabia. Square in plan, with corner towers and buildings placed against
internal walls, the defences appear never to have been slighted by man.
site is not easy to find, even with someone who has been
(eh, Phil?). Why not enjoy some
The Wadi Mujib
modern road is hair-raising, its Roman
predecessor - the via nova Traiana - probably
premature hair loss. As is the case at a number of places in Jordan,
original milestations still have their milestones in situ, and this particular
example (sadly now blown up!) is important because it includes the
phrase 'redacta in formam
provinciae Arabiae' ('reduced to the form of an Arabian
marking the acquisition of Arabia by the Romans in AD 106 under the
Trajan. Another, later, stone stood next to it.
crusader castle that is
famed as the stronghold of Reynald
de Chatillon, surely one of the most objectionable people of all time.
of the greatest services ever done to mankind occurred when Saladin had
beheaded after the Horns of Hattin. Saladin had laid siege to the
with eight siege engines in AD 1183, the inhabitants 'terrified by the
and roar of the incoming missiles, which seemed like thunder' according
William of Tyre.