Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Roman Theatre of Gadara, a rare jewel made from black stone.

I was in Gadara in February 2004 during a 9-day trip through Jordan. On the top of a hill surrounded by the Tiberiad lake, the Galilee Sea and the Golan there is an amazing Roman Citadel built entirely from black stone. Gadara was one of the Decapolis, or "Ten Cities," that were originally inhabited primarily by Greek people who settled in the region after the time of Alexander the Great's conquest. After the Romans occupied the region on about 65 B.C., Gadara was made the capital of the Roman province of Peraea. This city was known since Greek times because of its poets and philosophers such as Filodemo of Gadara and Oinomaos. It was also important for religious reasons, some Jew and Christian myths originated there and it is said Jesus was here during his adolescence, and some passages of the new testament mention the city as a stage of his fight with the devil.

In Gadara there are two theatres: on the north side of the citadel was the biggest, but now it’s only ruins; the west theatre near the citadel is smaller but is the best preserved of them. Built completely from basalt, the theatre offers a strange and original image of ancient Roman Theatres. Because of my background, basalt stone is familiar to my memory, I used to lived in the south of Mexico City in an area where volcanic stone was common. So, coming across this kind of material on the top of a hill in Jordan with a biblical and classical background was truly surprising.

There is not much of the proscenium left to see (only we can notice the base of the three classic gates), but the rows of seats and some tunnels are very well preserved. There are even some vomitories left in good condition and some VIP seats still keep some details of their decoration.
With the wall behind the stage destroyed, the view from the seats is spectacular (remember we are on the top of a hill). Of course, this view was not the originally intended one for the Roman audience.

For more information about Gadara here’s a link to a website:

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