28 October, 2009

Sights from the Roman Theater, Amman

Situated near the downtown Old part (Al Balad) of Amman, a short distance from shops and the bustling streets; and built on the side of a hill, is the spectacular Roman Amphitheater, known by locals as Al Masrah Al Romani or simply- Al Masrah. Amman was once named Philadelphia; the name Amman was given during the Hellenistic period by the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy Philadelphius in honor of his sister-wife Arsinoe Philadelphia. The theater is said to have been built by Antonio Pio between 138 and 161 AD; some say it was built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 169 to 177 AD.

The Roman Theater, Amman
It is large, is steeply raked, has 33 rows with three orders of seating tiers and can seat up to 6,000 spectators - who face northwards so as to avoid sunlight. The theater was restored in 1957, but not to its exact original form - the stones used in its reconstruction are different to the original ones. Still, it is magnificent and very pleasant. As pleasing as the inside, is the beautiful garden outside at the entrance.
The Roman Theater, Amman
Very cleverly planned and built like most of what the Romans did, it is a sight to behold. Whenever I see such ancient places, I never fail to think of the many who toiled, sweated and died to create them. But, isn't that what all 'civilizations' are about? The Pyramids in Egypt and the Americas; Shibam, London, New York, Paris and now Dubai and the other Gulf 'theaters', have and are all being built with the sweat and toil of poor 'slaves'.
The Roman Theater - the Odeon, Amman
The Odeon, is still being restored. Built at about the same time as the Roman Theater, this intimate 500-seat theater on the side of the main theater is used now as it was in Roman times - for musical concerts. Archaeologists think that the building was originally covered with a wooden or temporary tent roof to shield performers and audiences from the elements. On the upper side of the Odeon is another museum and shops for artifacts.
The Roman Theater, Amman
The columns that still remain standing take you for some moments to the ancient Roman times. I close my eyes and try to imagine what and how it was like then. While slaves labored and toiled, the Roman elite, in their togas - the distinct garment of ancient Rome - moved, worked and enjoyed within this place.
The Roman Theater, Amman
How much thought, planning and work must have gone into creating this splendor, is hard to imagine. So much time and care must have gone, too, into shaping this place.
The Roman Theater, Amman
Within the site, are two small museums on the sides of the Theater - dedicated to Jordanian folklore and traditions.
The Roman Theater - next to the Museum entrance, Amman
Displays include: costumes, fine embroidery, antique jewelry and several 6th century mosaics from Jerash, Madaba and other places in Jordan.
The Roman Theater - the Museum, Amman
It is incredible, that here at this site, it is so quiet; very much unlike a short distance away in the streets where it is very busy and noisy. I was surprised that not many tourists were there when we visited it. To these days the Theater is still being used for musical, cultural and sporting events.
The Roman Theater - the Museum, Amman
Reportedly, the site is said to have been used as a necropolis or a graveyard before the Theater was built.
The Roman Theater, Amman
Next to the Roman Theater, there are still some vestiges of the Forum and the cardo maximus - that is what the main street in old Roman cities were called.
The Roman Theater, Amman
Intricately made mosaics, exquisite decorations and parts of sculptures can still be seen at the site. The old Roman architects, like the present Amman municipal planners, preferred dazzling white for most of their structures. It is this that makes these old structures blend so well and so smoothly with present day Amman.
The Roman Theater, Amman
If you like archaeology, history, art and ancient architecture - like me - then, if in Amman, the huge, impressive Theater is a must see. The landmark is one of the best examples of Roman architecture in Jordan.
The Roman Theater, Amman
The knowledge of acoustics must have been essential in constructing this site to control the sound and the echos - for the displays and dramas taking place to have a better effect. You can stand on any spot in the Theater, speak in a normal voice, and still be heard throughout.
From the Theater, the Citadel, up above, can be seen
From the Roman Theater, some columns of The Citadel, high, up, above, can be seen. It's a long walk uphill, on winding roads, to the site. If you are not used to walking uphills and don't like walking for long - then, take a taxi to the Citadel.
The Roman Theater, Amman
Note: entering the Roman Theater is cheap: it costs the equivalent of about 1.40 US$ for entrance fees, which is inclusive of entering the two museums on each side of the Theater. Getting to the site is also very easy: taking a bus makes it even cheaper. Anyone afraid of heights, should be very careful when going up between the rows of the Theater; it is easy going up, but when climbing down, the steps are rather slippery and one realizes how incredibly steep they are. All in all, the site is a wonderful place to sit down and take in the views of Amman and the other spectacular Roman ruins that sit up on the hill: the Citadel.

+ Other Wonderful Places in the Kingdom of Jordan:
The River Jordan
The Dead Sea
The Citadel
* Jerash
Kahaf Ahl Kahf