Classical Pella, 2005.
|Location||Irbid Governorate, Jordan|
Pella (Ancient Greek: Πέλλα, also known in Arabic as Tabaqat Fahl, طبقة فحل) (Hebrew: פחל) is found in northwestern Jordan, 27.4 km (17 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee. Pella represents one of ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period and became powerful under Roman jurisdiction. With a history extending back into the Bronze Age, Pella expanded to its largest state during the reign of the Roman Empire. Pella is located in the Jordan Valley, 130 km (80 miles) north of Amman, and is half an hour by car from Irbid, in the north of the country. Today, the city's sizable collection of ruins are excavated by archeologists, and attract thousands of tourists annually.
Early History and Hellenistic Period
Pella has been continuously occupied since the Neolithic era. The city was first mentioned in the 19th century BC in Egyptian execration texts, and it continued to flourish throughout the Bronze Age. While the cause is not known, the dawn of the Iron Age meant the end of power in Pihilum. The urban heart of the Iron Age city-kingdom seems to have suffered a major destruction in the later 9th century, from which it did not recover. Re-established as an urban centre under the early Seleucids, its ancient name must still have been known, for its new, Greek name was a close synonym, Pella - the birthplace of Alexander the Great in Macedon.
As yet no public buildings at Pella have been identified in the Hellenistic period, although well-appointed private houses attest to their integration into the wider norms of urban living, such as wall-paintings and statuary. Several of these houses suffered what appears to be the same fiery destruction in the Late Hellenistic period. This has been attributed to a massive destruction by the Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus ca 83 or 82 BC (Josephus, The Jewish War 14.4.8; Antiquities 14.4.4). From Josephus, it is clear that Pella had been damaged and so needed some restoration by Pompey decades afterwards, but his specific reference to the demolition of Pella by Jannaeus because its inhabitants refused to follow Jewish customs seems to refer to a different place (Antiquities, XIII.395-397): it is listed as if amongst southern Levantine cities and out of its more normal sequence between Gadara, Gerasa and Scythopolis. Furthermore, Pella was incorporated within Roman Judaean territory (Jewish Wars 3.5) and which region was attacked by Scaurus during his Nabataean sortie (The Jewish War 1.8.1).
In 63 BC, the Roman General Pompey integrated the region into the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire, converting the old Seleucid empire into the province of Coele-Syria and incorporating Judaea as a client kingdom. A group of cities claiming Greek Hellenistic foundations asked Pompey for freedom from the threat of incorporation within Rome's new client-state of Hasmonaean Judaea. Pompey agreed, and these cities were called the Decapolis - literally, the ten cities - although the lists which have survived vary in composition and number. Pella, however, is consistently a "Decapolis" city, and the city in the northernmost bounds of the region known as Perea. If these cities had previously dated their years from their foundation under Alexander the Great or Seleucis I Nicator, they now honoured Pompey by counting 63 BC as a new "Year One". Like most cities within the empire, Pella would have had its own town council. It also minted coins in the Roman period.
Pella was one of eleven administrative districts (toparchies) in Roman Judea. During the outbreak of the First Jewish-Roman War, when the Syrian inhabitants of Caesarea had slain its Jewish citizens, there was a general Jewish uprising against neighboring Syrian villages, who sought revenge for the murder of their countrymen, during which time Pella was ransacked and destroyed. Growing Jewish dissent over Roman military occupation in Judea brought about Roman reprisals against Jewish enclaves in the regions of Galilee, the coastal plains of Judea, Idumea and Perea, until, at length, the Roman army had subdued all insurgents and their military governors established during the Jewish revolt.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, a Jewish sect of Nazoreans made their way to Pella and settled in the city, thus becoming a Jewish hub, during the early days of Christianity. It has been said that the city was the site of one of Christianity's earliest churches, making it a pilgrimage site for early Christians and modern Christians today. According to Eusebius of Caesarea, Pella was a refuge for Jerusalem Christians in the 1st century AD who were fleeing the Jewish–Roman wars. According to Epiphanius, the disciples had been told by Christ to abandon Jerusalem because of the siege it was about to undergo.
Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods
In the Roman and Byzantine periods, the city extended over the ancient tell, into the southern wadi al-Jirm and over the slopes of the southern hill, "Tell Husn". By the Byzantine era, it had reached its greatest size, and probably, prosperity. It certainly had a bishop by the year AD 451. At least three triapsidal churches have been identified within the city: the West Church at the western foot of the tell, which may have been the cathedral; the Civic Complex church in the wadi el-Jirm at the SE foot of the tell, and the East Church on the higher slopes of the Jebel Abu el-Khas.
The city is the site of the battle between Byzantine troops and Muslim invading forces in January AD 635 (13 AH) at the Battle of Fahl. Just below the ancient site is a mosque which commemorates the death of one of the Companions of the Prophet Mohammed, who fell in that battle.
The city was destroyed by the Golan earthquake of 749. However, a small architectural complex in the fields immediately north of the tell has revealed occupation of the Abbasid period, whilst some small-scale reoccupation of the mound is indicated largely by pits. Occupation continued, perhaps on a small-scale, but nevertheless with a stone-built mosque, throughout the mediaeval Ayyubid-Mamluk periods.
The site was first published as part of a regional survey by G. Schumacher, but the first excavation was conducted by Funk and Richardson only in 1958, revealing Iron and Bronze Age material in two soundings.. From 1966-7, R. H. Smith led a team from Wooster College (Ohio) to prepare a plan of the site and its environs, and begin excavations, but was interrupted by the Six Day War. A joint project with the University of Sydney (Australia), but with separate excavation teams and seasons, explored the city from 1978-1985. The Australian expedition was initially directed by Prof. J. B. Hennessy and Dr A. W. McNicoll. Wooster stopped excavations in 1985, but the Australian project continues. Between 1994 and 1996, Pam Watson (at the time, Asst Director of the British Institute at 'Amman)and Dr Margaret O'Hea of the University of Adelaide conducted the Pella Hinterland Survey to identify land-use in an area approx. 30 square kms around the city. More recently, the project under the director Stephen Bourke, the focus has been on the site's Bronze Age and Iron Age temples and administrative buildings. A Canaanite temple was uncovered from 1994 to 2003. In May 2010 Stephen Bourke announced the discovery of a city wall and other structures, dating back to 3400BC, indicating that Pella was a formidable city-state at the same time the cities of Sumer were taking shape.
- Smith, Robert H. (1968). "Pella of the Decapolis 1967". Archeological Institute of America. JSTOR 41667820.
- "Pella, Jordan". www.atlastours.net. Retrieved 2015-11-29.
- Smith, Robert (July 1984). "Pella in Jordan 1". American Journal of Archaeology. 88 (3). JSTOR 504582.
- Bourke, S. (1997) Pre-Classical Pella In Jordan: A Conspectus Of Ten Years' Work 1985-1995. PEQ 129: 94-115.
- Josephus, The Jewish War 3.3.3. (3.44)
- Josephus, The Jewish War 3.3.5. (3.51)
- Josephus, The Jewish War 2.18.1. (2.457)
- Klijn, A.F.J.; Reinink, G.J. (1973). Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects. Leiden: E.J. Brill. pp. 44–46. ISBN 978-9-00403763-2. (OCLC 1076236746)
- Eusebius, History of the Church, 3.5.3
- Epiphanius of Salamis (377). Panarion, or, Against the Heresies. p. book 29, 7:8. Archived from the original on 2015-09-06.
- McNicoll, A. W. et al. (1980) The 1979 Season at Pella of the Decapolis. BASOR 240: 63-83.
- Walmsley, A. et al., (1993) The Eleventh and Twelfth Seasons of Excavations at Pella (Tabaqat Fahl): 1989-1990. ADAJ, vol. 37: 165-240'
- Schumacher, G. (1888) Pella. London: Palestine Exploration Fund. Reprinted in 2010
- Funk, R. and Richardson, H. (1958) The 1958 Sounding at Pella. The Biblical Archaeologist, 21.4:81-96.
- The results were published in Smith and Day, (1973) Pella of the Decapolis. Vol. 1, The 1967 season of the College of Wooster Expedition to Pella. Wooster, Ohio: College of Wooster.
- See the interim joint volume by McNicoll, et al. (1982) Pella in Jordan 1: an interim report on the joint University of Sydney and the College of Wooster excavations at Pella 1979-1981. Canberra: National Gallery of Australia. The final report was Smith et al.,(1989) Pella of the Decapolis, Volume 2: Final Report on the College of Wooster Excavations in Area IX, the Civic Complex, 1979-1985. Wooster, Ohio: College of Wooster. ''Pella in Jordan 2: The Second Interim Report of the Joint University of Sydney and College of Wooster Excavations at Pella, 1982-1985 (Meditarch Supp. 2) was published in 1992.
- Watson and O'Hea (1996), Pella Hinterland Survey 1994: Preliminary Report. Levant 28: 63-76; Watson, P. (2006) Changing Patterns of Settlement and Land Use in the Hinterland of Pella (Jordan)in Late Antiquity. Pp.171-192 in A. Lewin and P. Pellegrini (eds), Settlements and Demography in the Near East in Late Antiquity. Pisa: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazional
- The Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation, University of Sydney: Pella
- Ben Churcher, The Discovery of Pella's Canaanite temple
- Jordan Times 31 May 2010: Jordan Valley - cradle of civilisations?