Amman Citadel and Temple of Hercules Ruins Jordan

Umayyad Palace

Amman Citadel is an impressive open-air archaeological complex – a must-see for anyone visiting Amman. I didn’t realize that there were several significant landmarks at the site. It’s located on the highest hilltop in Amman – Jabal Al Qala’a – one of the seven hills (jabals) that originally made-up Amman.

Roman Temple of Hercules
Umayyad Palace Mosque Dome

Evidence suggests that the area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period 10,000 – 4500 BC. It’s one of the “oldest continuously inhabited places in the world“.

Roman Temple of Hercules

The area near the Citadel dates back to the Bronze Age (3300 BC – 1200 BC), when the heart of the site was encircled by a 1700-meter fortification wall. The ancient area was occupied by many civilizations –Roman, Babylonian, Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Nabataean, Byzantine, and Umayyad. The Citadel “witnessed the rise and fall of several empires“. It was modified and rebuilt many times, and known by different names (‘Ammān, Rabbath Ammon, Philadelphia, Jerash, Antioch) during diverse eras – Roman 63 BCE – 324 AD, Byzantine 324 – 635 AD, and Umayyad 661 – 750 AD.

Umayyad Palace Ruins

Today, the Citadel complex includes the following ruins:

Umayyad Palace Ruins
Umayyad Palace Ruins
Roman Temple of Hercules

The Roman Temple of Hercules is the most famous ruin within the Citadel complex. It was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and its remains are visible from several vantage points throughout the city. Dating to the Roman period in the 2nd century CE (around 161 – 166 AD), the most distinguishable remains are two complete 30-foot-high pillars and their crumbling podiums, the ruins of four other pillars, and Hercules’ stone hand. The hand is the only remaining part of the Statue of Hercules.

6th Century Byzantine Church Ruins
Inside Umayyad Palace Domed Audience Hall
Umayyad Palace, Mosque, Water Cistern

The 8th-century Umayyad Palace complex is a maze of royal residential building ruins. It’s the most beautiful structure in the Citadel, and I was fascinated by the spectacular domed audience hall. During the Umayyad Dynasty, the complex was built over the remains of Roman construction.

Roman Theater from Temple of Hercules


“The city of Amman was originally known as Rabbath Ammon which translated as the royal ancient city of the Ammonites. The Ammonites lived in the kingdom during the Iron Age.” Tourist Jordan


Roman Temple of Hercules Ruins

There’s a column-lined courtyard, an audience hall, and an ancient water cistern that once supplied the surrounding areas. The cistern held up to 1300 cu m of water and was “fed by inlet channels connected to a rainwater collection system“.

City Vista

The well-preserved domed audience hall (mosque) is shaped like a cross, “mirroring the Byzantine church it was built upon”. Archaeologists have been working at the site since the 1920s, but “substantial sections have yet to be excavated”. Most of the palace structures were destroyed by an earthquake.

Umayyad Palace Ruins
Umayyad Palace Ruins

The Mosque is an example of a “Persian-style apadana hall,” normally found only in Persia and Mesopotamia (Iraq). It’s characterised by a “forest of columns”.

Amman Skyscrapers in the Background
Umayyad Palace Ruins with Ancient Pillars in the Background
6th Century Byzantine Church

All that remains of the Byzantine Church are the pillars, floor plan, and some mosaics. It was built in 550 AD, using building elements from the nearby Hercules Temple – “one of the southern columns is a reused upside-down cylindrical block with a Greek inscription”. The cluster of buildings surrounding the church belong to the Umayyad period.

Umayyad Palace Water Cistern


“Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a unique blend of Old and New, situated on a hilly area between the desert and fertile Jordan Valley.” Holy Jordan


Ain Ghazal Statues – cushtravel Photo Copyright Haupt & Binder
Jordan Archaeological Museum

The Jordan Archeological Museum includes Neolithic statues, a Dead Sea bronze scroll written in Aramaic characters, and ancient items of daily life. Artifacts date back to the Bronze Age, and the museum’s spectacular Ain Ghazal Statues date around 600-8000 BCE (8700 to 8500 years ago). They’re some of the oldest known statues in Jordan and are made from lime plaster and reed.

Hand of Hercules – atlasobscura
Dead Sea Bronze Scroll – Wikimedia


“Amman was known as Rabboth Ammon in the Old Testament and Philadelphia in the New Testament.”  Holy Jordan 


Amman from the Citadel
Amman Vista
Wadi Rum

In a few days, I’m headed to Wadi Rum, and looking forward to experiencing the magic of the Jordanian desert. I’m staying with a Bedouin tribe but haven’t decided whether to sleep under the stars, in a cave, or use a Bedouin tent. It’ll be interesting!

Wadi Rum Sunset – Pinterest

More later…

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