Amman Citadel

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Amman Citadel ruins
Umayyad Palace
Site map
Temple of Hercules
Hand of Hercules
Umayyad water cistern

Coordinates: 31°57′17″N 35°56′03″E / 31.9547°N 35.9343°E / 31.9547; 35.9343 The Amman Citadel is a historical site at the center of downtown Amman, Jordan. Known in Arabic as Jabal al-Qal'a, (جبل القلعة), the L-shaped hill is one of the seven jabals that originally made up Amman. Evidence of occupation since the pottery Neolithic period[1] has been found. It was inhabited by different peoples and cultures until the time of the Umayyads, after which came a period of decline and for much of the time until 1878 the former city became an abandoned pile of ruins only sporadically used by Bedouin and seasonal farmers.[2][3][4] Despite this gap, the Citadel of Amman is considered to be among the world's oldest continuously inhabited places.[5]

The Citadel is considered an important site because it has had a long history of occupation by many great civilizations.[6] Most of the buildings still visible at the site are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods.[7] The major buildings at the site are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace.

Though the fortification walls enclose the heart of the site, the ancient periods of occupation covered large areas. Historic structures, tombs, arches, walls and stairs have no modern borders, and therefore there is considerable archaeological potential at this site, as well as in surrounding lands, and throughout Amman.

Archaeologists have been working at the site since the 1920s, including Italian, British, French, Spanish, and Jordanian projects,[8] but a great part of the Citadel remains unexcavated.


Excavations have uncovered signs of human occupation from as far back as the Middle Bronze Age (1650-1550 BC) in the form of a tomb that held pottery and scarab seals.[9] During the Iron Age, the Citadel was called Rabbath-Ammon. The Amman Citadel Inscription comes from this period, an example of early Phoenician writing.[10] It came to be occupied by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. When it was conquered by the Greeks in 331 BC, the city was renamed Philadelphia.[11] From the Hellenistic Period, there were not many architectural changes, but pottery provides evidence for their occupation.[12] The site became Roman around 30 BC, and finally came under Muslim rule in AD 661.[13] The Citadel declined in importance under Ayyubid rule in the 13th century, but a watchtower was added to the site during this period.[14]


The Temple of Hercules located at the site dates to the Roman occupation of the Citadel in the 2nd century AD.[15]

During the Umayyad period (AD 661-750), a palace structure, known in Arabic as al-Qasr, (القصر) was built at the Citadel. The Umayyad Palace was probably used as an administrative building or the residence of an Umayyad official. The palace draws on Byzantine style. For example, the entrance hall is shaped in a Greek cross plan. The palace may have been built on top of an existing Byzantine structure in this shape.[16] There is a huge water reservoir dug into the ground adjacent to the palace, along with a Byzantine church on the other side.


Starting in 1995-6, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Jordan in partnership with USAID began a project to conserve and restore this site to benefit tourists and the local community.[17] The Amman Citadel is also the site of Jordan Archaeological Museum, which is home to a collection of artifacts from the Citadel and other Jordanian historic sites.


  1. ^ "Citadel, Amman, Jordan". Retrieved 2008-05-31. 
  2. ^ Dawn Chatty (2010). Displacement and Dispossession in the Modern Middle East. The Contemporary Middle East (Book 5). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 116–117. ISBN 9780521817929. Retrieved 25 December 2015. The first permanent settlement in the southern Syrian provinces, Transjordan, appeared in Amman in 1878. Up until that point, there was no permanent settlement in Amman, the site of the ancient Roman city of Philadelphia. Some of the ancient buildings, such as the amphitheatre, provided occasional temporary shelter for the few farmers from the Ottoman capital of Salt who regularly cultivated patches of land in the area around Amman. This largely abandoned site was important, however, to Bedouin tribes for both its pasture and its good access to water. 
  3. ^ Ali Kassay (2011). Myriam Ababsa and Rami Farouk Daher, eds. The Exclusion of Amman from Jordanian National Identity. Cities, Urban Practices and Nation Building in Jordan. Cahiers de l'Ifpo Nr. 6. Beirut: Presses de l'Ifpo. pp. 256–271. ISBN 9782351591826. Retrieved 25 December 2015. The historic development of Amman from a ruin, abandoned for centuries, to the capital city of the Emirate of Transjordan, later the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. [...] a combination of natural disasters (believed to be earthquakes) and environmental degradation reduced it to a pile of ruins. The abandonment of Amman was compounded because the basin of its river became infested with malaria, causing the local population to keep at a safe distance. Amman was brought back to life in the late 19th century.... 
  4. ^ Franciscan fathers (1978). Guide to Jordan. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press. p. 64. For a thousand years it has no history. In the 15th cent. it is referred to as a pile of ruins. In 1878 it was resettled with Circassians by Sultan Abdul Hamid and took on a new life. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Najjar, M. "Amman Citadel Temple of Hercules Excavations Preliminary Report." Syria 70 (1993): 220-225.
  7. ^ Bennett, C. M. "Excavations at the Citadel (El Qal’ah), Amman, Jordan." Levant 10.1 (1978): 1-9.
  8. ^ Atiat, Taysir M. "An Egyptianizing Cult at the Citadel Hill (Jabal al-Qal’a) of Amman, Jordan." Levant 35 (2003): 117-122.
  9. ^ Najjar, M. "Amman Citadel Temple of Hercules Excavations Preliminary Report." Syria 70 (1993): 220-225.
  10. ^ Horn, Siegried H. "The Amman Citadel Inscription." The American Schools of Oriental Research 193 (1969): 2-13.
  11. ^ Kadhim, M. B., and Y. Rajjal. "Amman" Cities 5.4 (1988): 318-325.
  12. ^ Najjar, M. "Amman Citadel Temple of Hercules Excavations Preliminary Report." Syria 70 (1993): 220-225.
  13. ^ Kadhim, M. B., and Y. Rajjal. "Amman" Cities 5.4 (1988): 318-325.
  14. ^ Milwright, Marcus. "Central and Southern Jordan in the Ayyubid Period: Historical and Archaeological Perspectives." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland 16.1 (2006): 1-27.
  15. ^ Najjar, M. "Amman Citadel Temple of Hercules Excavations Preliminary Report." Syria 70 (1993): 220-225.
  16. ^ Almagro, Antonio, and Emilio Olavarri. "A New Umayyad Palace at the Citadel of Amman." Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan. Ed. Adnan Hadidi. Amman: Department of Antiquities, 1982. 305-321.
  17. ^ Atiat, Taysir M. "An Egyptianizing Cult at the Citadel Hill (Jabal al-Qal’a) of Amman, Jordan." Levant 35 (2003): 117-122.

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