The Citadel of Amman

5 Feb

from the top 'o the Citadel -- the hills and valleys below are completely covered with buildings

Ever heard of a hilltop that has been continuously inhabited for over 7,000 years?  There’s one in Amman, referred to as “The Citadel” in English.  Looking out from the top, I could see why it was repeatedly chosen as a settlement site.  Any invading army can be seen from 360-degrees around and consequently “taken care of” from above before it has a chance to even reach the foot of the hill.  (Side note:  I’ve never understood why so many American homes are built on the downhill slope of a grade of land.  Not only does that invite flooding problems, but it also makes the curb appeal less impressive.  Imagine traveling by foot –or camel– for days and then arriving at the base of the Citadel and looking up to see the Temple of Hercules!)

Ruins of the Temple of Hercules

I’m stealing the next few paragraphs from because they explain the history so much better than I can.

The Hill of the Citadel (Jabal al-Qal’a) in the middle of Amman was occupied as early as the Neolithic period, and fortified during the Bronze Age (1800 BC). The ruins on the hill today are Roman through early Islamic. The name “Amman” comes from “Rabbath Ammon,” or “Great City of the Ammonites,” who settled in the region some time after 1200 BC. The Bible records that King David captured the city in the early 10th century BC; Uriah the Hittite, husband of King David’s paramour Bathsheba, was killed here after the king ordered him to the front line of battle.

In ancient times, Amman with its surrounding region was successively ruled by the then-superpowers of the Middle East: Assyria (8th century BC), Babylonia (6th century), the Ptolemies, the Seleucids (third century BC), Rome (1st century BC), and the Umayyads (7th century AD). Renamed “Philadelphia” after himself by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the city was incorporated into Pompey the Great’s province of Syria, and later into the province of Arabia created by Trajan (106 AD). As the southernmost city of the Decapolis, Philadelphia prospered during Imperial times due to its advantageous location alongside Trajan’s new trade and administrative road, the Via Nova Traiana.

When Transjordan passed into Arab rule in the 7th century AD, its Umayyad rulers restored the city’s original name of Amman. Neglected under the Abbasids and abandoned by the Mamlukes, the city’s fortunes did not revive until the late 19th century, under the Ottoman empire. Amman became the capital of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921, and of the newly-created Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1947. Greater Amman (the core city plus suburbs) today remains by far the most important urban area in Jordan, containing over half of the country’s population or about 3 million out of 5 million people.

 Phillip and I visited the Citadel on January 20th with two friends, Brittany (a visiting co-worker of mine from Mercer’s ELI) and Shawn (a fellow language learner and archeologist we’ve gotten to know since returning to Jordan from our Christmas visit).  Because of all the Roman archetectural influence, it was the closest feeling to being in Europe that I’ve had since arriving to the Middle East back in August.  If you visit Amman, don’t neglect the chance to see this place.  It’s just about US $3 to get in, and there is plenty of history and downright cool stuff to walk around and take in.

This is from the museum — take note of the fantastic English translation about the figurines

5 Responses to “The Citadel of Amman”

  1. Kevin Wade February 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Very cool.

  2. Barbara Derrick February 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Rachel, this is Spectacular!!! How wonderful for you and Phillip…and Brittany!!!

  3. Sharon Dyar February 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Thanks very interesting!

  4. Jenny February 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Thanks for posting this! I’m so glad you guys got to go…super cool!

  5. Joanna February 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm #

    I love your blog! The pictures are gorgeous and the tales of your adventures are so interesting. Thanks for sharing them with all of us! :)

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