visit360.net, the guide to wonders of the world in 360°
Amman citadel 360° virtual tour
Stretching above modern Amman at an altitude of 850 meters, the Citadel is a must for all tourists visiting Amman. It used to be the enormous Acropolis of ancient Philadelphia, the predecessor of the present city.
Surrounded by 1700m-long walls, this complex was more than just a fortresses above the city, in fact it was a standalone entity within the ancient city. History buffs will say that there are plenty of other, much better preserved ancient fortresses throughout the Middle-East. However this one is still definitely worth to be visited, because it enables visitors to understand how an antique Roman and Byzantine settlement was transformed into an Umayyad city. In other words: this monument is simply a summary of entire Jordanian history.
1. What to see
Our walking tour around the citadel starts at the visitor centre from which you can get incredible panoramic views on the Roman Theatre, the Forum and the Odeon.
1.1. Temple of Hercules
The first monument to be explored is the Temple of Hercules, that once used to be an important temple of the antique city.
Only a few reconstructed pillars are left from this grandiose building. It is considered to have been the temple of Hercules, a supreme Roman deity, son of Zeus.
There are multiple indirect proofs supporting the theory: excavations unearthed Roman coins minted in the antique city depicting Hercules. Furthermore, gigantic arms of a marble statue of him were discovered close to this temple area. According to an inscription that was once on the top of the façade, the temple was built during the reign of Geminus Marcianos, governor of Provincia Arabia (161-166 AD) in dedication to the co-emperors of Rome, Marcus Aurelius (161–180 AD) and Lucius Verus.
Layout of the building follows Roman traditions: the shrine stands on a large podium to be visible from everywhere in the lower city. It lies within a temenos, an enclosure surrounded by a row of columns.
1.2. Byzantine Basilica
Just a short walk from the Roman temple is a typical 6th-7th century Byzantine Basilica. It has a typical plan that consists of a central nave with two side-naves. The semi-circular apse in the east end of the church is separate from the nave by a chancel screen (or rood screen). The acanthus-leafed Corinthian capitals of the church were taken from the Temple of Hercules. Rectangular rooms complete the aisles, some of which where added by the Ummayads. A mosaic floor was excavated in the nave but now it is covered for protection.
1.3. Umayyad Courtyard with Mosque
The trail from the Basilica continues to the Umayyad palace complex, the most intact part of the citadel. It is believed to have been built about 720 AD, as an extension to the Roman and Byzantine city that unluckily only existed till 749 AD when an earthquake levelled the city.
Visitors arrive at a huge courtyard surrounded by the mosque and a domed audience hall that is visible fast everywhere within the citadel.
1.4. Umayyad Audience Hall
Being partially filled with rubble in the early 20th century, this audience hall was the only building of the citadel that was visible prior to the excavations.
It served as an entrance of the palace complex, designed to impress visitors. It has a Greek-cross shape plan, probably because of being built over a former Byzantine church. There was a debate regarding its original roofing, finally archaeologists decided to build the present dome to cover it. Inside it is worth having a look at the fine carvings, inspired by Persian-Sassanian motifs.
1.5. Colonnaded street
Passing the hall, our next monument is the palace complex itself. There is a 10m wide colonnaded street flanked by a cistern and ruins of residential and administrative buildings.
1.6. Iwan and Throne Room
At the end of the street lies the open-fronted Iwan (audience hall) that used to be covered with a barrel vault. Recess doors connect with side rooms while the main gate leads to the cruciform-shaped throne room which is believed to have been covered with a dome.
Both the Iwan and the throne room reflect Persian-Sassanian inspiration.
1.7. North corner
Just a short walking distance away, the north corner of the citadel offers incredible views on the modern city and the world's tallest flagpole with a height of 127m.
1.8. Neolithic cave
After walking back to the Temple of Hercules we can continue our visit to the Archaeological Museum.
If doing so, we'll pass by an early Bronze-Age cave tomb dating back to about 2250 BC. Similar neolithic tombs with multiple burials inside exist in several places in Amman. This one was reused during the Umayyad period by stonecutters who were working on the massive building projects of the citadel.
2. When to see
Amman citadel is open daily from 8am till 4pm between October and March, and till 7pm during April to September. Fridays it is only between 10am-4pm. Although it is a rather large open area, if you stick to the above guideline, 1,5 hour should be enough to visit the entire citadel with the Archaeological Museum.