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El Norte

El Norte de Gerasa / © Foto: Haupt and Binder, Universes in Universe

El Norte de Gerasa

Usually too little time is planned for the visit of Gerasa / Jerash and therefore the north of the archaeological site is not included, although there are very interesting, and worthwhile attractions. Here you can find them introduced.

1 - Church of Bishop Isaiah. 2 - North Theater. 3 - North Decumanus. 4 - Civic Basilica. 5 - presumed Agora. 6 - Tetrapylon. 7 - West Baths. 8 - Northern Cardo. 9 - North Gate. 10 - City Wall.

Church of Bishop Isaiah

It was not until 1983 that archaeologists discovered the remains of the three-nave basilica right next to the North Theater. According to a mosaic inscription, it was built and consecrated in 558/559, during the time of Bishop Isaias. As with all buildings of the Byzantine period in Gerasa, spolia and stones of Roman buildings have been used. Thus, the Ionic columns are most likely from the North Decumanus.

The three entrances at an atrium on the west side (in the photo in front) were later closed and the main entrance was moved instead to a portico on the south side (right).

The elaborately designed mosaic floor is well preserved in large parts, although iconoclasts mutilated the depictions of humans and animals in the early 8th century.

This church was also still used by a Christian community during the Umayyad period (661 - 750 AD). There is evidence that repair work on the walls and roof took place shortly before a devastating earthquake destroyed the city.

North Theater

The exceptionally well preserved and carefully restored North Theater was originally built in the first half of the 2nd century as a bouleuterion for the meetings of the boule (city councils) and the representatives of other administrative units of the city. More detailed information and photos in the special presentation:
North Theater

North Decumanus

In the foreground, the North Decumanus. On the right, the Tetrapylon, from which the northern part of the Cardo leads to the North Gate at the rear left.

The North Decumanus and the northern part of the Cardo were laid out in the late 1st century AD as part of the overall planning of the city. However, the paving of the North Decumanus and the addition of colonnades did not take place until later, probably starting in 165/166 AD, when a representative access road to the meeting place of the city delegates in the bouleuterion (North Theater), and to other city facilites in the area west of the Cardo was needed. However, this east-west connection was probably never completed, because it did not reach the northwest gate, and east of the Tetrapylon the road remained unpaved and without colonnades.

The North Decumanus had a more than 9 m wide roadway, paved with diagonally laid limestone slabs, and sidewalks more than 4 m in width, so it was quite wide by the standards of the time. Ionic columns were used for the colonnades, which had stood on the cardo south of the Tetrapylon and had been removed when the latter was widened and equipped with Corinthian columns. On the southern side of the North Decumanus there were a number of entrances, probably to stores.

Civic Basilica

On the north side of the Decumanus, directly opposite the North Theater, four Corinthian columns highlight the entrance to an important site: a Civic Basilica, 100 meters long and 28 meters wide. The huge structure was already looted and burned down in antiquity and has been only partially investigated archaeologically to this day.

In the first photo on the left you can see the columns in front of the entrance to the Civic Basilica and opposite them on the right side, the capitals of the portico of the North Theater. In the second photo in the background you can see the walls of the Basilica.


A flat continuous wall on the north side of the North Decumanus demarcated an area of at least 7,500 square meters that may have been the Agora (forum, meeting place of the polis) of Gerasa. A comprehensive exploration of the site is still pending. It is believed that the remains of a colonnade found today along the North Decumanos do not belong to the first perimeter development of the Agora. (T. Lepaon, p. 140). In the photo on the right appears the North Cardo and in the background the North Gate.

North Tetrapylon

This monument is designated with the addition "North" to distinguish it from the southern one on the intersection of the Cardo and the South Decumanus. But actually this would not be necessary, because the building in the south is a Tetrakionion (see the differences). Nevertheless, we keep the usual naming here.

The North Tetrapylon was built in the second half of the 2nd century AD, probably before 180 AD, as part of the expansion of this part of the city at the intersection of the Cardo and the North Decumanus. The section to the south of it was widened and equipped with Corinthian columns only afterwards. For a long time, an inscription found on the structure from the period 193-211 AD, in which Julia Domna, the wife of Emperor Septimius Severus, is mentioned, was considered to be the date of origin, but this does not belong to the Tetrapylon. In 2001 the monument was completely reconstructed.

The North Tetrapylon has a side length of about 12 m. The passages between the four mighty pylons supporting a dome are about 5.5 m wide and 8.5 m high.

Around the whole building there is an entablature decorated with dentil frieze and other ornamental moldings, finished by an protruding cornice. The attic zone is not decorated and is divided only by triangular gables on the north and south sides (second photo) and round gables on the east and west sides (first photo), which are decorated in the same way as the entablature. The opposite sides are identical.

On the north and south façades there are Corinthian columns on high pedestals. Double holes with decorated borders in the pedestals probably served as holders for torches.

There are no columns on the east and west façades. Instead, two niches with rounded tops are inserted into the wall above pedestals (first photo). On the outer left and right of these two façades, flat pilasters extend up to the attic, interrupted only by the entablature.

Interior view of the Tetrapylon with dome. In the pylons there are semicircular niches with pedestals quite far above.

West Baths

The thermal complex in the north has a chamber with a dome which is the oldest in situ example of this type of stone roofing in the world. See the special presentation:
West Baths

Northern Cardo

The section of the Cardo between the North Tetrapylon and the North Gate is the oldest part of the 800 m long north-south axis of Gerasa. It was laid out as a road towards the end of the 1st century AD and lined with columns just over 5 m high during the Trajan-Hadrian period (Trajan ruled until 117, Hadrian subsequently until 138). They are more closely spaced than on the other widened sections of the Cardo, and their Ionic capitals resemble those on the contemporaneous Oval Plaza. An exception are two taller columns with Corinthian capitals on the west side, which possibly highlighted an entrance to the plaza of the presumed Agora (see above).

It is probable that the rows of columns of the Cardo were initially continuous even at the junction with the North Decumanus and were removed there only later, when the north tetrapylon was built.

North Gate

The building was erected in 115 AD as a freestanding arch at the main northern entrance to the city. Its year of origin is recorded in a dedicatory inscription on the façade, in which Emperor Trajan (98 - 117 AD) is called the founder and savior of the city. (R. Parapetti, p. 25) Like the South Gate, the North Gate was integrated into the city wall much later, when it was built in several phases from the end of the 3rd or beginning of the 4th century.

The façade of the compact structure is articulated on both sides of the high gateway by semi-columns with Corinthian capitals supporting an entablature and broken pediments with a disk in the center. Basically, this is a similar, though here much simpler, design principle as on Hadrian's Arch, which was built 15 years later and is much larger and elaborately decorated. The niches between the two columns also correspond to this in a certain way, the large lower ones at Hadrian's Arch being the lateral passages.

A peculiarity of the North Gate is its trapezoidal plan, as can be seen well on this diagram simplified by UiU after a sign at the site. This was necessary to create a connection between the northern road and the course of the Cardo. The only passage, about 5.5 m wide, was shared by pedestrians and carts, whose wheel tracks are still visible in the pavement on the west side (left).

The south façade is about 20 m wide, the angled north façade is almost 22 m wide.

From the north gate important trade routes led to Pella, Scythopolis, Gadara and the Mediterranean Sea.

A part of the old city wall west of the North Gate.

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

Sitio Arqueológico de Jerash
Aprox. 50 km al norte al centro de Amán
Ubicación en el mapa

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