Those ancient Romans, they knew how to conquer the world and left a clear mark. Even as far away as modern-day Jordan, you’ll find stunning Roman history laying around. As you know by now, I love Roman ruins, so obviously, I had to explore the Roman ruins in Jordan. Are you looking for historic inspiration for planning your trip to Jordan? Don’t miss out on the next 5 Roman ruins in Jordan that are worth a visit.
Short Roman history in Jordan
Since 63 BCE, the area of Jordan, Palestine and Syria were under Roman rule. This lasted for over 4 centuries and left us with extensive Roman remains in the region. The cities of Philadelphia (modern Amman), Gerasa (modern Jerash), Gadara (Umm Qais) and Pella and Arbila (modern Irbid) were part of the Roman Decapolis League. Although the local people of the time transitioned from Greek to Latin languages and also (needed) to adopt the Roman gods and religion, this period was one of peace in the region.
Roman ruins in Amman
Most travelers start their Jordan trip in Amman or at some point cross the capital of Jordan. And for good reason. Amman feels like the center of Jordan with its never ending flow of traffic, falafel vendors and honking taxis. As a tourist destination, Amman is a great hub to explore this part of Jordan. I stayed 4 days in Amman at Amman Tower Hostel and had a great time. They offer great day tours in Jordan and were located right in the heart of town. A perfect place to explore the Roman Ruins of Amman.
Amphitheater in Amman
Right next door to the Jordan Tower Hotel, sits the rock-hewn Roman Amphitheater of Amman. Located at a busy farrow through down in the center of the city, it cannot be missed. A giant square sits in front of the main ruins, although there are several side entrances with tourniquet style gates. As I entered from the side, I first took in all the pillars that surround the square. I dodged a few soccer balls that were shot off target by the playing kids in the square as I strolled around. The sun was shining down fiercely making it hard to see the whole site. I entered through the wall and showed my Jordan Pass to the guard who let me in right away.
Entrance to the Amphitheater
Through the wall, you enter straight onto the stage, which is a bit weird but a great way to see the Roman Amphitheater in all its glory. As you look up to the steep steps in the hill in front of you, your eyes climb higher and higher to the top. Built in the 2nd century, the Amphitheater of Amman could seat over 6,000 spectators. If you climb to the top seats, you’ll have a staggering view over this part of Amman and still can hear everything that is said on stage.
Museums in Amman’s Theater
Pop your head into the Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition or the Jordan Folklore Museum on either sides of the stage. Once you’ll leave the main theater, walk around the square and take in the much smaller Odeon on the side. At the moment, the entry price for foreigners is 2JD but free with your Jordan pass. Calculate an hour to see the sight and take in the views.
Citadel of Amman
Situated at the top of a hill overlooking modern-day Amman, the citadel of Amman is a not to miss attraction in Jordan. The Roman ruins are spectacular, the views are breathtaking and they have the amazing Hercules Temple in the center of it all. Especially popular at sunset, the sight can be reached by taxi from downtown Amman. Expect to pay 3 to 5JD for a taxi, depending on your haggling skills. You can also try the steep climb uphill through steps and side streets if you’re fit. Once you enter the main guide of the Citadel of Amman, you’ll find a cafe and toilets and numerous maps to show you what to see. The citadel of Amman was inhabited since Neolithic times but today, the most important sights to see are the Roman temple of Hercules, Byzantine church and the Umayyad palace.
Umayyad Palace Amman
I first explored the water cisterns, watchtowers, and the Umayyad Palace. Built between 661-750 CE, the palace is shaped like a Greek cross and you’ll find several niches and halls. The views at the back on the other side of Amman are something new and you can see the skyscrapers in the distance. After the palace, I returned to the main sight of the citadel of Amman, to take in the views of the city. I tried to spot my hotel, which was easy as the Jordan Tower Hotel is situated in a cross section in the road. The Roman Amphitheater is clearly visible from there which gives you a good idea of the distances and layout of the city.
Temple of Hercules Amman
But the main sight at the citadel must be the Temple of Hercules. The Roman Temple was built around 162-166 CE under Geminius Marcianus’s rule in the Province of Arabia. A few of the 10m (33ft.) tall columns remain as well as the outline of the temple and the sanctum. Walking around the temple gives you great views of the Roman ruins and the modern city behind it. In front of the temple, you can see the remains of a hand and elbow that belonged to a colossal statue in Roman times. As the statue was said to me over 12m (39ft.) tall it was believed to be of Hercules. Hence the name of the temple: Temple of Hercules.
Roman Ruins in Jordan
After exploring Amman, I booked a tour with the Jordan Tower Hotel to the north of Jordan. On this trip, we visited Jerash, the castle of Ajloun and we went to Umm Qais archaeological site. A long day of sightseeing but worth it. You can also take a bus from Amman to Jerash and explore on your own.
Roman Ruins of Jerash
I was all giddy and excited to go to Jerash. By now, I’ve visited quite a few ancient Roman cities, but the fact that Jordan houses one of the finest Roman ruins outside Rome made me very excited. And I wasn’t disappointed. Follow me as we walk through this city together.
Free to enter, as Hadrian’s Arch of Jerash is even before the ticket office, this is a striking welcome to the city of Jerash. The 3-arched structure was built to celebrate the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 129-130 CE. Now measuring 21 meters in height (36 ft.) the marble structure welcomes you to explore more of Jerash. Pay extra attention to the base of the columns that have capitals at the base, instead of the top as is normal for other columns.
Hippodrome of Jerash
As you walked through the Arch of Hadrian a couple of times, you’ll leave it behind and find the remains of the Hippodrome of Jerash on your left. Used for chariot races and the reenact battles in the Roman empire, it is easy to imagine how the people got their entertainment.
Oval Plaza Jerash
After we entered the sight via the South Gate and inspected some of the ruins on the right, the space opened up and we found ourselves in the middle of the Oval Plaza. I’ve never seen anything quite like this before. The immense plaza of Jerash is surrounded by Ionic columns in an oval shape (90x80m). In the middle you’ll find an altar and great views of the surrounding columns that almost form a wall of stone trees.
Cardo Maximus street
The Oval Plaza leads to the Cardo Maximus. The main thoroughfare of the ancient city with shops and important structures flanking the street. I love Roman streets like this because it is not hard to imagine the past while walking along them. You can find several arches, columns and ruined churches here.
After the main street of Jerash, we found the ancient baths and the northern Theater. Not as big as the Southern Theater, it was still a great reconstruction of the Roman ruins. Make sure you take in the view from the top seats.
Temple of Artemis
We continued to climb uphill and reached the highest point and the Temple of Artemis. Imposingly, never finished because all funds would go to the later commissioned Temple of Zeus, the Temple of Artemis is still a striking textbook example of an ancient Roman temple. Eleven out of twelve columns still stand tall against the indigo-colored sky and the inside altar area feels cramped and devote. Pay special attention to the well-preserved Corinthian capitals at the top of the columns.
We continued on the higher road back to where we came from and found the Southern Theater. Much larger than the northern sister, this theater had on sight entertainment by local Bedouin musicians who invited us to enjoy their little performance.
Temple of Zeus
After the theater, it was time to visit the Temple of Zeus. By now, it was a lot busier in Jerash and we were not the only people exploring the Roman ruins of Jerash anymore. The view from the Temple of Zeus on the Oval Plaza and the rest of Jerash is striking, but the interior of the temple was not so interesting from up close. The best views of the temple were from down below, as it was intended in Roman times. Only the high priests would enter the temple complex via a giant staircase that is now lost.The devotees would remain outside and in my judgement, this was clearly the most impressive sight of the Temple of Zeus.
Ruins of Umm er-Rasas
As I needed to go to Petra from Amman, I decided to join another tour of the Jordan Tower Hotel. We drove along the King’s Highway from Amman to Petra, stopping at big and smaller places of interest. One of them was Umm er-Rasas. Never heard of it before, I was pleasantly surprised by the former Roman Military camp that is now mostly known for their big collection of churches. Among them is the amazing mosaic floor of the Church of St. Stephen. In 2004, the ruins were added to the Unesco World Heritage list which is well deserved, but a bit odd since the Roman ruins of Jerash are not. The site of Um er-Rasas consists of Roman ruins of the old garrison camp of the Roman military, a lot of Byzantine churches and Muslim ruins. The garrison of Umm er-Rasas controlled this part of the Via Nova Triana (New Trajan Road) that was built around 111 CE. This Roman road laid the ground works for the later King’s Highway in Jordan but in Roman times it linked Aqaba in the south all the way to Bosra in now-day Syria.
St. Stephen’s Church in Umm er-Rasas
The top feature of a visit to Umm er-Rasas is the mosaic floor in St. Stephen’s church. Made in 785 CE this is the largest mosaic in Jordan. It shows a colorful and detailed scene of hunting and fishing and great images of the largest cities of that time with their names. It is a great game to see how many names and places you recognize! I wouldn’t go specific to Umm er-Rasas, unless you’re trying to visit the most places in the world (like this man who we met here and is #6 on the list), but it is a great stop if you’re traveling the King’s Highway in Jordan and I’m glad I got to see it.
Roman Ruins in Petra
Of course, Petra is known for the famous Nabatean rock carvings and a must-see on every Jordan itinerary. Who doesn’t recognize the famous rock-hewn Treasury made of red stone of Petra? But did you know Petra was also occupied and extended by the Romans? They were literally everywhere and also left their mark in Petra. Make sure to go beyond the Treasury in Petra and also take a peek inside the Roman ruins of Petra.
in 106 CE, Petra becomes the capital of the region of Arabia Petraea. In this time, the Roman road, the Cado Maximus and Hadrian’s Gate were built. You will find them after the Royal Tombs and before the trail to the Monastery. You’ll find the broad lane flanked by remains of columns easily. Walk past the Roman legionnaire impersonators (or do them a favor and get your picture taken with them) and pass under Hadrian’s gate. This gives you the feeling of ancient Roman times as the city flourished until the rule of Palmyra took over. Honestly, the Roman ruins in Petra are not the best preserved or most spectacular of the Roman ruins in Jordan, but as you’ll probably visit Petra anyway, it would be a shame to miss them that’s why I included them here.
Roman Ruins in Jordan
Jordan might not be the most obvious destination if you’re interested in Roman history and want to see their ruins. But I learned, Jordan hides a lot of Roman history and is worth to explore. If you’re interested in Roman history and want to visit archaeological sites, Jordan has quite the impressive rumble to explore. I hope you can add a few of these 5 roman sites to your Jordan itinerary.
Have you been to Jerash? What did you think of the Roman ruins in Petra? Let me know in the comment section below! I’d love to hear from you. Interested in my search of Roman ruins around the world? Follow me on Instagram!
This post is not sponsored as I paid for hotel, tours and entrance fees in the above mentioned trip myself. As always, this post reflects my personal opinion. This post does contains affiliate links. If you decide to book something via one of my links, I’ll earn a small commission. This is at no extra costs to you.