Umm Qais

Umm Qais
أم قيس
Gadara (Ancient Greek)

Umm Qais from north
Umm Qais

Location in Jordan

Coordinates: 32°39′22.94″N 35°40′40.61″E / 32.6563722°N 35.6779472°E / 32.6563722; 35.6779472
Country  Jordan
Governorate Irbid
Department Bani Kinanah
Elevation 1,240 ft (378 m)
Time zone UTC+2 (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) UTC+3 (UTC+3)
Area code(s) +(962)2

Umm Qais or Qays (Arabic: أم قيس, lit. "Mother of Qais") is a town in northern Jordan principally known for its proximity to the ruins of the ancient Gadara. It lies in the Bani Kinanah Department and Irbid Governorate in the extreme northwest of the country, near Jordan's borders with Israel and Syria. It is perched on a hilltop 378 metres (1,240 ft) above sea level overlooking the Sea of Tiberias, the Golan Heights, and the Yarmouk River gorge.


Map of the Decapolis showing location of Gadara

Gadara (Hebrew: גדרה, Gadʾara, or גדר, Gader; Greek: Γάδαρα Gádara) was situated in a defensible position on a ridge accessible to the east but protected by steep falls on the other three sides. It was well-watered, with access to the Ain Qais spring and cisterns.[1]

A member of the Decapolis,[2] Gadara was a center of Greek culture in the region, considered one of its most Hellenized[3] and enjoying special political and religious status.[2] By the third century BC the town was of some cultural importance. It was the birthplace of the satirist Menippus, a slave who became a Cynic philosopher and satirized 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. Under the Seleucids, it was also known as Antiochia or Antiochia Semiramis (Ἀντιόχεια Σεμίραμις, Antiókheia Semíramis) and as Seleucia. The region passed in and out of the control of the Seleucid kings of Syria and the Ptolemies of Egypt. Gadara was captured and damaged by Alexander Jannaeus.[4] 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. In 63 BC, when the Roman general Pompey placed the region under Roman control, he rebuilt Gadara and made it one of the semi-autonomous cities of the Roman Decapolis, and a bulwark against Nabataean expansion. But in 30 BC Augustus placed it under the control of the Jewish king Herod. The historian Josephus relates that after King Herod's death in 4 BC Gadara was made part of the Roman province of Syria.[5]

Church terrace at Umm Qais

Josephus relates that in AD 66 at the beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Romans the country around Gadara was laid waste,:[6]

"So Vespasian marched to the city of Gadara. He came into it and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever. He set fire to the city and all the villas around it."[7]

The Gadarenes captured some of the boldest of the Jews, of whom several were put to death and others imprisoned.[8] Some in the town surrendered to emperor Vespasian, who placed a garrison there.[9] The 2nd century AD Roman aqueduct to Gadara supplied drinking water through a qanat 170 km long. Its longest underground section, running for 94 km, is the longest known tunnel from ancient times.[1][10] Gadara continued to be an important town within the Eastern Roman Empire, and was long the seat of a Christian bishop.[11] With the conquest of the Arabs, following the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 it came under Muslim rule. Around 747 it was largely destroyed by an earthquake, and was abandoned.

The ancient walls may now be traced in almost their entire circuit of 3 km. One of the Roman roads ran eastward to Ḍer‛ah; and an aqueduct has been traced to the pool of Ḳhab, about 20 miles to the north of Ḍer‛ah. The ruins include those of "baths, two theaters, a hippodrome, colonnaded streets and, under the Romans, aqueducts,"[12] a temple, a basilica and other buildings, telling of a once splendid city. A paved street, with double colonnade, ran from east to west. The ruts worn in the paved road by the wheels of ancient vehicles are still to be seen.

Gadara in the Gospels

In the first century, Jesus is said to have driven demons out of a man and into some swine "in the country of the Gadarenes" or "country of the Gerasenes", which has often been associated with Gadara. A story set in the "territory of the Gadarenes", probably referring to the area around Gadara, appears in the Gospel of Matthew, VIII 28-34. It describes an encounter between Jesus and two men "possessed by demons"; Jesus exorcises the demons, driving them into a nearby herd of pigs, which then run "down the steep place into the sea”, evidently intended to refer to the Sea of Galilee. In the original version, in the earlier Gospel of Mark, V 1-20, the incident is set in "the territory of the Gerasenes", or Gerasa, around 50 km southeast of the Sea of Galilee.[13] The author of the Matthew Gospel appears to have moved the setting to Gadara to make it more plausible. However it is still 10 km away, so Origen speculated that there had been a town called "Gergasa" on the shores of the sea.[13]

Notable persons

Roman ruins at Umm Qais

Gadara was once called the "city of philosophers".[14] Among others, Gadara was home to:

View north from Umm Qais, with Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights visible.


Beit Rousan

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, Syria,[15] under Israeli occupation 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 – Greek statues and Christian mosaics are exhibited.



  1. 1 2 Schram, Wilke D. (2007), "Gadara (Jordan)", Roman Aqueducts, retrieved 25 September 2015.
  2. 1 2 Mare, W. Harold (2000), "Decapolis", Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, pp. 333–334, ISBN 0-8028-2400-5.
  3. Rocca, Samuel (2008), Herod's Judea: A Mediterranean State in the Classic World, Eugene: Mohr Siebeck, p. 200, ISBN 978-1-4982-2454-3
  4. Israel Shatzman, The Armies of the Hasmonaeans and Herod: From Hellenistic to Roman Frameworks, p. 74.
  5. Josephus Antiquities, XVII, xi, 4; Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, II, vi, 3.
  6. Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, II, xviii, 1.
  7. Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 7.
  8. Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, 5.
  9. Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, IV, vii, 3.
  10. Mathias Döring: "Wasser für Gadara. 94 km langer Tunnel antiker Tunnel im Norden Jordaniens entdeckt", in: Querschnitt, Vol. 21 (2007), pp. 24–35
  11. Reland, Palestine, 776.
  12. Desmond, William. Cynics. p36 - referencing (Weber & Khouri 1989:17-18)
  13. 1 2 M. Eugene Boring, Mark: A Commentary (Presbyterian Publishing Corp, 2006) pages 148-149.
  14. Desmond, William. Cynics. p36
  15. For example:*UN Resolution 242, *Text of Resolution at (PDF), *"CRS Issue Brief for Congress: Israeli-United States Relations" (PDF). Congressional Research Service. April 5, 2002. Retrieved 2009-06-23.,*"Presidency Statement on Golan Heights". 04/01/2004. Retrieved 2009-06-23. Check date values in: |date= (help),*"Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories". UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-23.,*"The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002". Al-Bab. 2002. Retrieved 23 June 2009.


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Coordinates: 32°39′N 35°41′E / 32.650°N 35.683°E / 32.650; 35.683

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