There was a visit to the ancient city of Jerash, or Gerasa, on our return from Petra. Again Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s description is the one given during or visit. He recounts that the ancient Gerasa was founded by Alexander the Great or one of his officers in the twenties of the fourth century BC and that in 63 BC it received its autonomy from Pompey and became a member of the Decapolis, a league of wealthy commercial cities east of the Jordan. It remained largely under the Nabatean influence until Rome took political control of the area at the beginning of the second century AD. ‘In AD 129 the much-travelled Emperor Hadrian came here, and on the approach from Amman the visitor is still greeted by the remains of the triumphal arch which commemorates the Imperial occasion’. 10
Besides the triumphal arch, the site contains the temple of Jupiter, the agora, the theatre, the temple of Artemis with its rows of Corinthian columns and the colonnaded street or cardo. From memory, confirmed by photographs taken during the visit there is no sign of cipollino. Charles March describes all the classical monuments in great detail and writes that, ‘The Triumphal Arch (Hadrian’s Arch) was constructed of the finest local limestone and its finished surfaces were well carved; the structural core was made of a softer, lesser grade material.’11 The use of local limestone and the carving would seem to confirm the lack of coloured marble. There is always the possibility of the existence of some fragments of cipollino which were not obvious on a short visit to a complicated site. Hankey writes in the notes to her article, ‘Jerash: the Nymphaeum; C.H. Kraeling, Gerasa, 21. Mr G.L. Harding found no cipollino at Jerash, and I have found none on several visits.’12
Writing now in November 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, watching each evening on television the confusion and turbulence, in Egypt and Syria, the unsettled post-revolutionary calm in Libya after the death of Gadaffi, and the capture of his son, Saif al-Islam during the last few days, one must be grateful for the information from previous journeys and not regret the impossibility of returning in the near future. At the same time these references might inspire a younger generation to fill in any gaps which have been left by the present situation.
10 Wheeler, Jerash, pp. 416-417, notes provided by the travel company organising the tour.
11 Detweiler, A. H.,‘The Arch’, Gerash,City of the Decapolis, Carl H. Kreiling, (ed), New Haven: Yale University Press, 1938, p.402, note 7 to Charles March, Spatial and Religious Transformations in the Late Antique Polis; A multi-disciplinary analysis with a case study of the city of Gerasa, BAR International Series 1981, 2009, p. 60.
12 Hankey, V., A Marble Quarry at Karystos, Extrait du Bullletin du Musée de Beyrouth, t. XVIII, Beyrouth, 1965, pp. 53-59.