|With early arrivals in front of the Temple of Hercules on the citadel of ancient Amman.|
Abdullah I, who later became king of Transjordan, a new country east of the Jordan River. The city exploded in size in 1948, when Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War streamed across the river. Many more came after the 1967 War, and today almost half the population of Jordan lives in its capital.
The reason that a visit to Amman is part of our "Holy Land 2017" tour is because modern Amman was the site of biblical Rabbath-Ammon, the capital of the Ammonites, who were cousins to the Israelites and Moabites.
Rachel and I started our day off at the new Jordan Museum. This is a spacious, modern facility that was built with generous help from Japan. Only the bottom floor is currently set up for exhibitions, but it is full of a representative collection of fine artifacts from the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) Period up through the Byzantine Period (Byzantine: repeat after me, "Greek-speaking, Christian Romans").
The Paleolithic artifacts include some of the earliest known representative statues yet discovered, dating as early as c. 7600 B.C.! One of them, oddly, has two heads. Archaeologists still have not decided what this may represent. There are items from the biblical Ammonites, the Hellenistic period when Amman was the Greek city of Philadelphia, the Roman period, and finally the Byzantine period. Rachel spent part of last summer digging at Petra (more on that Wednesday, I am sure), so she was like a kid in a candy store, racing from display to display.
|Double-headed bust from `Ayn Ghazal|
|Statue of an Ammonite king|
|Detail from the Mesha Inscription (original in the Louvre)|
|Zodiac figures from the Greco-Roman temple at Kirbaht-adh-Dhariah|
|First Rabbath-ammon, then Philadelphia, now Amman.|
The Ammonites were vassals of David and Solomon, often at war with Judah and Israel after that, and, like all the petty kingdoms in the area, were often subject to larger neighbors---the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians in rather quick succession. When Alexander the Great conquered the region in the late fourth century B.C., like many cities, Ammon was "Hellenized." Some Greeks settled here and many local notables adopted Greek language and culture. In this period a Greek king of Egypt renamed the city Philadelphia. Local gods, such as the Ammonite Milcom, received Greek names, and in the Hellenistic and Roman period he was worshiped as Hercules.
|Temple of Hercules (formerly Milcom) on the citadel.|
|The largest of the many cisterns|
The site of the citadel has monuments and remains of buildings from each of the following ancient periods. One of my favorite, of course, is the Byzantine, represented by a fine little church. After the Arab conquest, the name of the city went back to Amman, and the Ummayad dynasty later built a large mosque and palace complex on the site.
|Rachel and I standing in the nave of what remains of the Byzantine church on the Citadel.|
|The back of the Byzantine church|