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Destination Details

Um Qais, Jordan

 

Site of the famous miracle of the Gadarene swine, Gadara was renowned in its time as a cultural centre. It was the home of several classical poets and philosophers, including Theodorus, founder of a rhetorical school in Rome, and was once called “a new Athens” by a poet. Perched on a splendid hilltop overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, Gadara is known today as Umm Qais, and boasts an impressive colonnaded street, a vaulted terrace, and the ruins of two theatres. You can take in the sights and then dine on the terrace of a fine restaurant with a breathtaking view.
 
 
The Al-Himma therapeutic hot springs are located around 10km north of Umm Qais and were once highly regarded by the Romans. There are two bathing facilities: a privately-run complex, and a public bath complex, with separate timetables for men and women.
 
The town is situated on a ridge, which falls gently to the east but steeply on its other three sides, so that it was always potentially of strategic importance. By the third century BC the town was of some cultural importance. It was the birthplace of the satirist Menippos, a slave who became a Cynic philosopher and satirised the follies of mankind in a mixture of prose and verse. His works have not survived, but were imitated by Varro and by Lucian. The Greek historian Polybius describes Gadara as being in 218 BC the 'strongest of all places in the region'. Nevertheless it capitulated shortly afterwards when besieged by the Seleucid king Antiochus III of Syria. The region passed in and out of the control of the Seleucid kings of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt.
 
In 167 BC the Jews of Jerusalem rebelled against the Seleucids, and in the ensuing conflict in the region Gadara and other cities suffered severe damage. In the early first century BC Gadara gave birth to its most famous son, Meleager. He was one of the most admired Hellenistic Greek poets, not only for his own works but also for his anthology of other poets, which formed the basis of the large collection known as the Greek Anthology.
 
Many visitors come to Umm Qais on day trips from the capital, Amman, roughly 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the south, to see its extensive ruins and enjoy its panoramic views. The Sea of Galilee and Tiberias, Israel, are visible, and just across the valley of the Yarmouk River is the southern end of the Golan Heights - claimed by and recognized as Syria, but under Israeli administration since the Six-Day War in 1967. Mount Hermon bordering Lebanon is visible in the distance on clear days.
 
At Beit Rousan - formerly the house of the Ottoman governor and now part of the complex - are exhibited Greek statues and Christian mosaics.

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