Once a forgotten city, Jerash owes its extraordinary character to its past history.
There is evidence of early human settlement in Jerash – prehistoric Neolithic flint implements east of Hadrian’s Arch and to the north, beyond the city walls are remains of an Early Bronze Age village dating to 2500 BC. Named “Antioch-on-the Chrysorrhoas” or “Golden River” – for the stream that ambles through it – later known as Garshu to the Romans, it was given the Hellenistic name of Gerasa. Its present Arabic name is Jerash.
There are many suggestions as to the founding of the city. “Antioch” may be a reference to Antiochus IV, one of the Seleucid Kings; other inscriptions attribute its founding to Alexander the Great, and still others to Ptolomy II (285-246 BC).
It is believed that Theodorus, the tyrant of Philadelphia, hid his treasure in the Temple of Zeus, in Gerasa, for safekeeping. Theodorus soon lost Jerash to Alexander Jannaeus, the High Priest and ruler (102-76 BC).
Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins. Conquered by Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and in its golden age was one of the ten great Roman cities, the Decapolis League.