Searching for Hercules Temple
It was a wonderful day, a bit unexpected as we made our way to the Amman Citadel right in the middle of downtown. The Citadel occupies a whole mountain, an enclosure, yet an extension of a living metropolis, majestically looking an ancient city that was once termed Ammon and Philadelphia.
From its edge to the east, the Citadel is a backdrop to the downtown proper. Below there is the bustle of hooting cars and pedestrians making their way in different directions.
Further on, and at a downward elevation one sees the seated Roman amphitheater were once gladiators fought and today surrounded by nooks and crannies of urban life. From where we were standing the amphitheater looked crammed, bloated from its sides by urban sprawl of housing that made it seem insignificant from a distance.
From afar, at least from where we were standing, you gazed unto what seemed like panorama of match boxes of different homes, not slums, but houses haphazardly erected to look at one another. There were the short ones, long ones, flat, and those that looked as if they were going to fall.
Yet, at this Citadel, which purportedly existed for the last 7000 years, and inhabited throughout millennia, centuries and ages, the atmosphere was peaceful and serene. Cool, light brushes of breeze stroked your face and hair at a gentle speed with the occasional gusts of winds.
The Amman Citadel is one of the cradles of civilizations, passing from the mid-Bronze Age, Iron Age, to the Hellenistic period, Romans and Islamic rule under the Ummayad Dynasty.
I went there on an outing, just 10 minutes from where I lived. It was certainly a lot different than when I first visited it. Noticeable was the sense of decorum, tidiness of the place, the light asphalted roads, taking special care of the environs and the cultural place for we were treading on mother earth, one which held in its wombs rare artifacts of civilizations.
My first smack with history was when I saw the ruins of the Temple of Hercules, standing in a sober manner over the horizons with its thick columns, rocks and stones. It beamed of a once glorious past but today, huddling conurbations and residential areas that spoke of a knitted social fabric that is much different than when the Romans were here.
This area was indeed part of what is now called the Roman Precinct. My daughter and niece took many pictures for mementos sake, one was supposedly of one hand and elbow of a 13-meter statute of Hercules that once existed on the grounds.
Surrounding us were French and Dutch tourists making their way to the small Archaeology Museum that was established in 1951 and contained valuable pieces that documented the area since ancient times.
Dressed very casually, almost barefooted but not quite they were deeply ensconced in the business of tourism. Some standing akimbo, they were the eco-tourists, looking around and reading about every artifact, cistern and water well.
It was indeed a walk through the majestic past as we made our way backwards and turned to the left only to find on the corner the remains of a church thumped in the ground. A long corridor upwards led to what is called as the Palace built during the Ummayed period sometimes in the 9th Century.
It has a courtyard in front you go through, and inside, it underlined a splendid architecture. Out the other side you are confronted by another relatively spacious courtyard. On the left, there exists the remains of rooms and dwellings of government courtiers and staff that must have formed the machinery of a once-busy government.
The courtyard center led to another short colonnaded street, and opened to another view of Amman. This street did not have columns, but in total, depicting an area of history whose Roman relics and heritage had survived, the best of which is in Jeresh, 40 minutes north-west of Amman and one of the best preserved cities of the Decapolis, the 10 urban conurbations representing Roman glory east of the Mediterranean.
In the Amman Citadel there is much evidence of the coexistence of religions, cultures and civilizations that once existed, surpassed, and overtook each other. Here civilizations, shot up, existed, withered away with remains and then replaced by another.
There were more tourists and locals passing each other, speaking different languages and dialects. Two British ladies were enjoying the surroundings, one elderly American gentleman was gently egging what must have been his wife to move on in between bouts of local tourists.
With Bag pipes in the background that sounded faintly Scottish but tunes of Arabic songs, there was a festive, refreshing atmosphere. More people taking pictures, some sitting, some strolling others not wanting to loss another minute.
One chic Dutch lady in a short skirt with flip-flops was looking almost meditatively. She told me she was a leader of a group from Amsterdam who already went to the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum and who through 4 by 4 Jeeps grabbed the captivating fullness of the desert experience.
For us, it was an afternoon journey of going back into history, and quickly coming back. We hadn't realized that just around the corner from where we lived, there exists historical treasures of immense proportions.