Where Trumpets Resound and a Mirage of Civilisations Passes Before Your Eyes
Upon annexation of the Nabatean Kingdom and its principal city Petra by Rome in 106 AD, wealth resulting from the control of the rich caravan routes passed to Gerasa enabling elaboration and enlargement of the city. This included the now restored hippodrome located adjacent to the South Gate and originally built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) over an earlier Greek style earth banked racing arena.
The hippodrome has ten starting gates (carceres), as opposed to the usual twelve, which have now been re-assembled from the rubble with other missing stones quarried and rebuilt. The seating area (cavea) was four meters deep with sixteen rows of seats. The seats accommodated 15,000 spectators who, it is said, were Greek-speaking even during Roman times. The Gerasa circus was narrow as in the classical Greek circuses and may have had no permanent spina (euripus), the barrier that runs down the centre of the circus.
Although one of the smallest known hippodromes at 244 meters by 52 meters, the degree of reconstruction achieved enables an excitingly clear image of the vastly popular Greco/Roman sport of chariot racing to be appreciated today as it was in days long gone.