In the center of downtown Amman, Jordan is a remarkable archaeological site, the Citadel, which is considered to be among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It was constructed on the L-shaped hill, which is one of the seven hills that made up Amman originally. This ancient site dates back thousands of years, and contains historical layers with evidence of early inhabitance since the Neolithic Period.
When I had visited the Amman Citadel and stood at the edge of the site, I was in awe of where I was standing. It was a feeling that travelers understand, in a quick instant a mixed bag of ideas happen- being far away from home, standing on a site of ancient civilization, viewing its current modernity, and many other feelings of joy and wanderlust, all at the same time.
The surrounding views of the crowded hillsides were saturated with flat roofed cream colored buildings, and they all seemed to be staring right back at me. It was just breathtaking to take in. I was very far away from home, I had never seen anything like this before, and it was wonderous. Also, standing where centuries of civilizations had stood was a tad mind-blowing, I must admit!
Early Neolithic period pottery busts (7200 – 5000 BCE)
The Amman Citadel has a lengthy history of occupation by many great civilizations, with the hill first becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Ammon after 1200 BCE. Although there is earlier evidence of inhabitance of the area since the Neolithic period, with the hill being fortified during the Bronze Age (1800 BCE).
It has been under other significant empires such as the Neo- Assyrian Empire (8th cent BCE), Neo- Babylonian Empire (6th cent BCE), the Ptolemies, the Seleucids (3rd cent BCE), the Romans (1st cent BCE), Byzantines (3rd cent CE), and then the Umayyads (7th cent CE).
After the Umayyads period, there was a decline for several centuries as the former city became nearly abandoned. The pile of ruins were used sporadically by seasonal farmers and Bedouins until 1878. Despite the years of neglect, the Amman Citadel is considered to be among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places.
The Umayyad Palace
Although there have been several millennia of occupations here, most of the Citadel’s structures that are visible are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. The important remains at the site are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace.
There is also a fascinating museum on site, the Jordan Archaeological Museum, which was built in 1951. It contains artifacts from several archaeological sites throughout Jordan, dating from the prehistoric period to the 15th century. There are a variety of items from artistic jewelry and statues, to everyday things such as glass, metal, flint and pottery.
Visiting Information: Entrance fee to the Amman Citadel is 2JD (2.82 USD) or free with the Jordan Pass.
Saturday to Thursday from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, between April and September
Saturday to Thursday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, between October and March
Fridays from 10:00 to 4:00 PM, throughout the year
Down the hill from the Amman Citadel is the ancient Roman Amphitheater, and is well worth the visit while exploring the city. It dates back to the 2nd century when the city was known as Philadelphia. On one of the pillars there is a Greek inscription indicating that the amphitheater was built in honor of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161 CE). There are 6,000 seats to this theatre, and was built into a hillside with its orientation to the north, in order to keep the sun off the spectators.
Today the theatre is still in use and a venue for different cultural activities, musical concerts and festivals. There have also been modern international artists performing here, including the American rapper Russ, who who held a concert on this stage in August 2019. Check out his performance on YouTube, it was an amazing scene within this ancient Roman amphitheater.
For additional information – Amman’s Ancient Roman Amphitheatre – Discovering Jordan
For additional places to visit while in Jordan – Petra and Beyond | UNESCO & Top Sights To Visit While In Jordan
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