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Oval Plaza

Oval Plaza / © Foto: Haupt and Binder, Universes in Universe

Oval Plaza

The unique design of the Oval Plaza, also called the Oval Forum, cleverly connects two divergent main axes of the ancient city. The much older Sanctuary of Zeus faces northeast toward the original settlement core of Gerasa on the opposite hill (where the museum stands today). When, at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the new Cardo was laid out as the city's north-south connection and main street, it had to incorporate the central Sanctuary of Zeus in a representative way, which was not possible through a frontal approach because of the river valley and the rules of Roman urban planning with a rectangular street network.

1 - Oval Plaza. 2 - Sanctuary of Zeus. 3 - South Theatre. 4 - South Gate. 5 - Museum on the so-called Camp Hill.
(© Map: Universes in Universe)

The sophisticated architectural solution is an elongated, elliptical plaza (approx. 90 x 80 m), whose elegantly curved colonnades place the Sanctuary of Zeus as the dominant feature in the center. The paving of the square with large stone slabs was adapted to the curves of the colonnades.

The east colonnade leads directly to the staircase of the temenos. Behind the colonnades of the square there were probably stores.

The distance between the columns with Ionic capitals, on which rests a continuous architrave, is 2.75 m. Only in the western colonnade (in the photo above) there are two wider intercolumnia of 3.65 m and 3.55 m with a slightly higher architrave. In these locations, streets opened into the square.

There was probably an arch at the transition of the plaza to the Cardo. At the very back of the Cardo you can see the north tetrapylon.

On the square stood two small monuments. On one pedestal for statues a column was placed in modern times. On the second smaller pedestal four columns are said to have framed a statue (information from a text at the site).

View from the upper terrace of the Sanctuary of Zeus.

The construction of the Oval Plaza (c. 130 AD) has been exceedingly difficult because it lies over a deep depression in the ground between the so-called Camp Hill and the hill of the Sanctuary of Zeus, which had to be leveled. During excavations in the early 1930s, archaeologists found a 6 to 8 m high substructure of large hewn and regularly walled stone blocks on a layer of hard gravel (Kraeling, p. 154/155).

View from northwest. On the right, the temenos terrace of the Sanctuary of Zeus. On the left, the so-called Camp Hill, on which the museum stands.

(© Text by Universes in Universe from information in different sources.)


Oval Plaza
Jerash Archeological City
Location on map

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Compilation of information, editing, translations, photos: Universes in Universe, unless otherwise indicated

See also in Art Destination Jordan:

Web guide for cultural travellers - a wealth of information and photos.

Contemporary art, archaeology, art history, architecture, cultural heritage.

Supported by
Jordan Tourism Board

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