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GERASA

GERASA (Γέρασα: Eth. Γερασηνός), a city of Coelesyria, according to Ptolemy (5.15); reckoned to the Decapolis by Pliny, for it is clear that Gerasa must be substituted for Galasa, as by Harduin. (Plin. Nat. 5.18.) It is associated with Philadelphia, as the eastern boundary of Peraea, by Josephus (B. J. 3.2), and mentioned in conjunction with Pella and Scythopolis (1.4; 2.19). But, according to Ptolemy, it was 35 miles from Pella. Its site is marked by the very extensive ruins of Gerash, about 35 miles east of the Jordan, at the eastern extremity of the land of Basihan, and on the borders of the great desert of--the Hauvan. It is remarkable, considering [p. 1.989]the importance of the ruins, that the historical notices are so scanty; but it appears to have attained its celebrity posterior to the classical geographers, as all the fragments of the inscriptions to be found among the ruins bear the name of the emperor Antoninus. It is much to be regretted that the results of the careful survey of this interesting city by Captains Irby and Mangles, in company with Mr. Bankes, have never yet been given to the world. It was first discovered by Seetzen, in 1805--1806, and afterwards described by the enterprising Burckhardt; since which time it has been frequently visited and described by European travellers. The summary description of those most accurate observers Captains Irby and Mangles must suffice in this place; but for fuller particulars the reader may consult Burckhardt (Syria, pp. 252--264) and Buckingham (Travels in Palestine, caps. xx. xxi.), the former of whom has furnished a general plan of the city, and the latter a more accurate plan, with details of the principal buildings. But the best idea of the extent and grandeur of the ruins may be obtained from the wonderfully accurate reproduction in three engravings from Daguerreotype drawings by Dr. Keith, published in illustration of the 36th edition of his father's work on “The Evidence of Prophecy,” in which the principal streets and buildings are clearly to be distinguished. The summary description above alluded to is as follows:--

“It has been a splendid city, built on two sides of a valley, with a fine stream running through it; the situation is beautiful. The town has been principally composed of two main streets, crossing each other in the centre at right angles, like Antinoe. The streets have been lined with a double row of columns, some of which are Ionic and some Co, rinthian; the pavement is exceedingly good, and there is an elevated space on each side for foot passengers; the marks of the chariot wheels are visible in many. parts of the streets. Djerash, supposed to be either Pella or Gerasa, but in some respects answering to neither, can. boast of more public edifices than any city we have seen. There are two theatres, two grand temples, one, as appears by a Greek inscription, dedicated to the sun, like that at Palmyra, and not unlike that edifice, being constructed in the centre of an immense double peristyle court. The diameter of the columns of the temple is five feet, and the height of just proportions; tile capitals are Corinthian and well executed. One singularity in this edifice is a chamber under ground, below the principal hall of the temple, with a bath in the centre. Five or six inferior temples are scattered about the town, and a magnificent Ionic oval space, of 309 feet long, adds greatly to the beauty of the ruins. The scene of the larger theatre is nearly perfect, presenting a singularity very rarely to be met with. There are two grand baths, and also two bridges crossing the valley and river. The temples, and both theatres, are built of marble, but not of very fine sort. Three hundred yards from SW. gate is the Circus or Stadium, and near it is the triumphal arch. The cemetery surrounds the city, but the sarcophagi are not very highly finished; upwards of 230 columns are now standing in the city. There is to the NE., about 200′ yards distance, a very large reservoir for water, and a. picturesque tomb fronted by 4 Corinthian columns; near it also is an aqueduct. These ruins, being overgrown with wood, are objects of considerable interest. There are numerous inscriptions in all directions, chiefly of the time of Antoninus Pins; most of them are much mutilated; but the one I allude to about the Temple.of the Sun, was on the propyleum of that edifice, which has been a grand piece of architecture. On the whole, we hold Djerash to be a much finer mass of ruins than Palmyra; the city has three entrances of richly ornamented gateways, and the remains of the wall, with its occasional towers, are in wonderful preservation.”

[G.W]

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    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.18
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