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Jordan is a country in the Near East bordered by Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia which was part of the Land of Canaan in ancient times. The country is named for the River Jordan which flows between modern-day Jordan and Israel and whose name means "to descend" or "flow downwards". The region has a long history as an important trade center for every major empire from the ancient world to the present age (the Akkadian to the Ottoman empire) and numerous sites in the country are mentioned throughout the Bible.
Alexander the Great (r. 336-323 BCE) founded cities in the region (such as Gerasa) and the Nabateans carved their capital city of Petra there from sandstone cliffs. Early in its history the area attracted and inspired traders, artists, philosophers, craftsmen and, inevitably, conquerors all of whom have left their mark on the history of the modern-day country.
Jordan, formally known as The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, has been an independent nation since 1946 CE after thousands of years as a vassal state of foreign empires and European powers and has developed into one of the most stable and resourceful nations in the Near East. Its capital city, Amman, is considered one of the most prosperous in the world and a popular destination for tourists. The history of the region is vast, going back more than 8,000 years, and encompassing the tale of the rise and fall of empires and the evolution of the modern state.
Jericho, claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, has an approximate founding date of 9000 BCE.
Archaeological excavations date human habitation in the region of Jordan back to the Paleolithic Age (around two million years ago). Tools such as stone hand-axes, scrapers, drills, knives, and stone spear points, dated to this time period, have been found in various locations throughout the country. The people were hunter-gatherers who led a nomadic life moving from place to place in search of game. In time, they began building permanent settlements and establishing agricultural communities.
The Neolithic Age (c. 10,000 BCE) saw the rise of stable, sedentary communities and the growth of agriculture. These small villages eventually became urban centers with their own industry and initiated trade with others. Large urban centers developed such as the city of Jericho, claimed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, with an approximate founding date of 9,000 BCE.
According to scholar G. Lankester Harding:
[Cities like Jericho provide evidence of] far higher culture than we had hitherto suspected, for here was not merely a village of well-built houses with fine plaster floors, but there was a great stone wall all around the settlement with a ditch or dry moat in front of it. This implies a high degree of communal organization, of subordinating the personal interests to those of the many. (29)
Communal interests are also evident in the ancient monuments raised at this time. Throughout the Neolithic Age the people constructed megalithic dolmens across the land (very similar in size, shape, and methods used to those of Ireland). These dolmens are thought to be monuments to the dead or possibly passageways between worlds. These dolmens are often found in fields of circled stones whose meaning remains unclear but it is obvious that the builders would have had to work in groups for a common cause to create these sites.
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The dolmen sites were most likely religious in nature and visited for worship, divination, and festivals by the people of the nearby cities. The largest settlement of the Neolithic Age in Jordan was Ain Ghazal located in the north-west (near the present-day capital of Amman). Inhabited c. 7000 BCE, Ain Ghazal was an agricultural community whose artisans created some of the most striking anthropomorphic statuary in early history. The statues found at Ain Ghazal are among the oldest, if not the oldest, in the world today.
The community had over 3,000 citizens and engaged in trade and the manufacture of pottery which increased the wealth of the people individually and the city collectively. Ain Ghazal continued as a prosperous settlement for 2,000 years between c. 7,000 BCE and 5,000 BCE when it was abandoned, most likely due to overuse of the land.
The Hyksos & Egyptians
The Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages (c. 4500-3000 and 3000-2100 BCE, respectively) saw further developments in architecture, agriculture, and ceramics. The Ghassulian Culture, centered around the site of Talailat Ghassul in the Jordan Valley, rose to prominence in the Chalcolithic Age displaying inordinate skill in smelting copper, ceramics, and intricacies in architectural design.
The Bronze Age settlement of Khirbet Iskander (founded c. 2350 BCE) rose by the banks of the Wadi Wala stream and was a prosperous trading community until the arrival of invaders who destroyed towns, villages, and cities throughout Jordan in c. 2100 BCE. The identity of these aggressors is unknown but they were most likely the armies of the Gutians whose invasions toppled the Akkadian Empire founded by Sargon the Great (r. 2334-2279 BCE) beginning in c. 2193 BCE; the region of Jordan, of course, was part of this empire. The Sea Peoples have been suggested as the invaders by some scholars but the date is too early for their incursions in the area.
Whoever they were, these invaders were then driven out by another group who migrated to the area (possibly as early as 2000 BCE), the Hyksos, who brought a completely different culture to Jordan and established themselves as the ruling class. In time, the Hyksos of Jordan would amass enough power to conquer Egypt and would hold both countries until driven out by the Egyptians in c. 1570 BCE by Ahmose I (c. 1570-1544 BCE). Some scholars argue that the Hyksos (so-called by the Egyptians; the name by which they called themselves is unknown) were indigenous to Jordan while others claim they were foreign invaders; whichever the case, they permanently changed life in Jordan by introducing the horse, composite bow, and chariot to armed conflict, introducing better methods of irrigation, and developing better systems of defense for walled cities.
The region of modern-day Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel (the Levant) were in continuous trade with other areas and civilizations throughout these periods. Writing in Mesopotamia developed c. 3500 BCE as a means of long-distance communication in trade and yet these regions, which were literate from at least 3000 BCE, did not adopt a system of writing until c. 2000 BCE for reasons which are unclear. Inscriptions such as signs and symbols were created but no complete script seems to have been formulated. Writing did not develop in Jordan until after the Egyptians had overthrown the Hyksos in c. 1570 BCE.
The region flourished to such a great degree that it would be referred to in the Bible as a glorious land “flowing with milk & honey”.
Once the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt, the Egyptians pursued them through Jordan, establishing military posts which grew into stable communities. Under the later reign of the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE) and her successor Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE), trade flourished. Thutmose III established Egyptian rulers throughout the larger region of Canaan bringing stability, peace, and prosperity. The region flourished to such a great degree that it would be referred to as a glorious land “flowing with milk and honey” centuries later in various books of the Bible.
Jordan in the Bible & the Iron Age
The cities of Gerasa and Gadara (modern-day Jerash and Umm Qais, respectively) are mentioned in the Book of Mark 5:1-20 and the Book of Matthew 8:28-34. Both of these passages relate the story of Jesus driving evil demons from possessed people into a herd of pigs. The story in Mark, considered the earlier of the two, places the event in Gerasa while Matthew's version has it in Gedara. Mark mentions how, after the miracle, the man who had been demon-possessed relates the miracle to all the people of the Decapolis; the Decapolis was the term for the ten cities on the eastern edge of the Roman Empire at that time and both Gerasa and Gadara were among them.
The region of modern-day Jordan is mentioned a number of times in the Bible's Old Testament as part of the narratives which make up the books of Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, Joshua, and others concerning the land of the Israelites, their enslavement in Egypt, and their deliverance to a promised land which then must be conquered. The events related are thought to have occurred during the latter part of the Bronze Age (c. 2000-1200 BCE) although there are discrepancies between the biblical accounts and the archaeological record.
Among the discrepancies most frequently noted by scholars is the fact that the region of Jordan mentioned in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua is clearly inhabited while the archaeological record indicates a largely unoccupied country. The battles said to have been fought by the Hebrews in Numbers and in Joshua also seem to have left behind no archaeological record. It should be noted, however, that the city of Jericho, famous for its fall to Joshua (Joshua 6:1-27), does show evidence of a violent destruction c. 1200-1150 BCE during the Bronze Age Collapse.
Mount Nebo in Jordan is the spot where Moses is said to have been allowed a glimpse of the Promised Land before he died (Deuteronomy 43:1-4) and Jordan was the land of the Midianites where Moses took refuge after his flight from Egypt in Exodus (Exodus 2:15) and the region in which he encountered the burning bush which sent him back on his mission to free his people from bondage (Exodus 3:1-17). He is said to be buried on Mount Nebo, originally a site sacred to the Moabites and their gods.
The beginning of the Iron Age (c. 1200-330 BCE) in the region was initiated by the invasion of the Sea Peoples, a mysterious culture whose identity scholars still debate. Some have claimed they are the Philistines of the Bible while others have suggested they were Etruscan, Minoan, Mycenaean, or other nationalities. No single claim identifying them has been widely accepted nor is it likely one will be in the near future as the extant inscriptions available only state that these people came from the sea, not which sea nor even from which direction.
The Sea Peoples arrived on the coast of Canaan c. 1200 BCE with an advanced knowledge of metallurgy and their iron weapons were far superior to the stone and copper blades and spears of their opponents. While the Sea Peoples were invading from the south, the biblical record tells of great battles between the Israelites and the Moabites and Midianites in the Book of Judges as well as raids on Israelite settlements by the Ammonites from northern Jordan. The Jordanian kingdoms of Edom in the south, Moab in the center, and Ammon in the north all grew in power during this time.
The Mesha Stele (also known as the Moabite Stone, c. 840 BCE) records a battle fought between Mesha, king of Moab, and three kings of Israel. The narrative on the stele corresponds to the account of the event given in II Kings 3 in which Joram of Israel and Jehosophat of Judah go to war to put down a Moabite rebellion. The Mesha Stele is among the best-known artifacts corroborating a biblical narrative even though some scholars have questioned its meaning and even its authenticity.
The dispute over whether the Mesha Stele supports the biblical narrative is typical of arguments over interpretation not only of objects but of ancient texts. Those scholars who equate the Sea Peoples with the Philistines interpret the Books of I and II Samuel, which significantly feature the Philistines, as a narrative of the Sea Peoples. These books tell the story of the rise of King Saul (c.11th century BCE) over the Israelites and David's defeat of the Philistines in slaying their champion, Goliath, in single combat.
Most of what is known of the Sea Peoples comes from Egyptian records which claim that they were defeated by Rameses III in 1178 BCE near the Egyptian city of Xois and, afterwards, they vanish from the historical record. If this claim, along with Saul's and David's traditional dates, is accepted then the Philistines could be the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt following their battles with Saul and David. This is far from certain, however, and no consensus on this subject has been reached.
Scholarly agreement is also divided on whether the Sea Peoples were responsible for the devastation of cities throughout the region of Canaan or whether this was the result of the general Joshua and his campaigns of conquest in the region, claiming it as the promised land for his people (books of Numbers and Joshua). Either way, the introduction of iron weapons to the region changed the dynamics of battle, favoring those armed with them, as the Assyrian military machine proved when they took the country. The Assyrians were considered invincible in battle; largely due to their superior weaponry.
The Great Empires & The Nabateans
The Assyrian Empire, and its continuation the Neo-Assyrian Empire, both employed iron weapons in conquest and became the greatest and most extensive political power in the world up to that time. Under the Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser I (1115-1076 BCE) the region of the Levant was firmly taken under Assyrian control and would remain part of the empire until its fall in 612 BCE.
The Babylonian Empire then took possession of the land until it was taken by Cyrus the Great, founder of the Achaemenid Empire (549-330 BCE), also known as the Persian Empire, which then fell to Alexander the Great in 331 BCE and became part of his emerging empire. Prior to Alexander's invasion, a unique culture grew up in Jordan whose capital city has become one of the most recognizable images from the ancient world and a popular tourist attraction in the present day: the Nabateans and their city of Petra.
The Nabateans were nomads from the Negev Desert who arrived in the region of modern-day Jordan and established themselves sometime prior to the 4th century BCE. Their city of Petra, carved from sandstone cliffs, may have been created at this time but possibly earlier. The Nabateans initially gained their wealth through trade on the Incense Routes traveling between the Kingdom of Saba in southern Arabia and the port of Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea. By the time they had established Petra, they were also in control of other cities along the Incense Routes and were able to tax caravans, provide protection, and control the lucrative spice trade.
The famous facade of Petra, known today as The Treasury, was almost certainly originally a tomb or mausoleum and, contrary to popular imagination, does not lead into any intricate maze of hallways but only a fairly short and narrow room. The more spacious dwellings which make up the rest of the cliff city attest to the Nabateans' wealth as traders who had enough disposable income and manpower to be able to afford such an intricate and timely construction.
The name 'Petra' means 'rock' in Greek; the city was originally called Raqmu (possibly after an early Nabatean king) and is mentioned in the Bible and in the works of writers such as Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century BCE). At the height of the Nabatean Kingdom, the Jordan region enjoyed great prosperity and not only in and around the city of Petra. The Nabateans were certainly the wealthiest but people of other nationalities shared in their good fortune as well.
In c. 200 BCE the governor of Ammon, Hyrcanus, had his elaborate fortress-palace Qasr Al-Abd ("Castle of the Servant") built which would have required a huge amount of disposable income. Flavius Josephus describes the palace (which he understood as a fortress) in glowing terms as “built entirely of white stone” on a grand scale, including a large reflecting pool, and how its walls were carved with "animals of a prodigious magnitude" as well as banquet halls and living quarters supplied with running water (Merrill, 109). Ruins of this structure survive today near Araq al-Amir, although in a greatly diminished state from Josephus' time, but still attesting to the wealth and vision of the man who commissioned it.
The first historically attested king of the Nabateans was Aretas I (c. 168 BCE) and so, although the Nabateans had established themselves in the region centuries before, the Kingdom of Nabatea is dated from 168 BCE to 106 CE when it was annexed by Rome. The Nabateans had a highly developed culture in which art, architecture, religious sensibilities, and trade all flourished. Women had almost equal rights, could serve as clergy, and even reign as autonomous monarchs. The most important deities of the Nabatean pantheon were female and women most likely would have served as their high priestesses.
To solve the problem of a reliable water supply in the arid region, the Nabateans engineered a series of wells, aqueducts, and dams whose efficiency was unrivaled in their day. With access to water, and established in some of the most inaccessible areas of the region, the Nabateans were able to fend off aggressors attracted by their wealth. They could not hold out long against the superior might of Rome, however, which steadily took their territories and absorbed their trade routes until finally taking the entire kingdom and renaming the region Arabia Petrea in 106 CE under the emperor Trajan (98-117 CE).
Rome, Islam, & the Modern State
The Romans revitalized much of the region (although Nabatean cities such as Petra and Hegra were neglected), creating a powerful trade center at Gerasa and another called Philadelphia at the site of Ammon, now Amman, the capital city of modern-day Jordan. The city of Gedara flourished under the Romans. Gedara was the birthplace of the Roman poet and editor Meleager (1st century CE) and had earlier inspired the work of the Epicurean philosopher and poet Philodemus (c. 110-35 BCE). The Romans certainly benefited from the resources of the region, as well as from the recruits they pressed into their armies as conscripts and auxiliaries, but also improved the area as they built roads, temples, and aqueducts which turned large areas of the region into fertile landscape and encouraged prosperous trade. Gerasa became one of the wealthiest and most luxurious provincial cities of the Roman Empire at this time.
Even so, Rome began to decline steadily throughout the 3rd century CE and faced serious challenges as the 4th century CE began. As Rome struggled with internal difficulties and invasions, the region which would become Jordan suffered along with all the other provinces. The semi-nomadic Tanukhids gained power in and around the area in the 3rd century CE and their most famous leader, Queen Mavia (c. 375-425 CE) led a revolt against Rome, most probably provoked by the empire's insistence on Tanukhid auxiliaries for the army.
As the Tanukhids were originally part of the Nabatean tribal confederacy, it is thought she would have controlled the areas formerly comprising the Kingdom of Nabatea. Whether this is so, she was powerful enough to defy Rome, negotiate a peace on her own terms, and later send cavalry units to assist in the defense of Constantinople following Rome's defeat at the Battle of Adrianople in 378 CE.
When Rome fell in the west (476 CE), the eastern part continued as the Byzantine Empire ruling from Constantinople. In the 7th century CE the Arab Invasion swept across the region, converting the people to Islam, which then brought these people into conflict with the Byzantines. The region of modern Jordan became a part of the Umayyad Empire, the first Muslim dynasty, which ruled from 661-750 CE. Under the Umayyad Empire, Jordan thrived but was neglected by the next ruling house, the Abassids (750-1258 CE) when they withdrew their support from the area, moving the capital from Damascus, just north of Jordan, to Kufa and then Baghdad, significantly further away.
The Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171 CE, which was absorbed by the Abbasids) took Jordan during their expansion and initiated renovations of temples, buildings and roads as did the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923 CE) which came after the Abbasids. The Ottoman armies defeated the forces of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 CE, ending western influence in the region.
During World War I (1914-1918 CE), the Ottomans sided with Germany and the Central Powers. The Arab Revolt of 1916 CE, which started in Jordan, significantly weakened the Ottoman Empire as it struggled against the Allied Powers and, when they were defeated, the empire was dissolved in 1923 CE. Jordan then became a mandate of the British Empire until it won its independence in 1946 CE following World War II. Today the region is known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, an autonomous state with a bright future - and a long and illustrious past.
Jordan River in Easton's Bible Dictionary Heb. Yarden, "the descender" Arab. Nahr-esh-Sheriah, "the watering-place" the chief river of Israel. It flows from north to south down a deep valley in the centre of the country. The name descender is significant of the fact that there is along its whole course a descent to its banks or it may simply denote the rapidity with which it "descends" to the Dead Sea. It originates in the snows of Hermon, which feed its perennial fountains. Two sources are generally spoken of. (1.) From the western base of a hill on which once stood the city of Dan, the northern border-city of Israel, there gushes forth a considerable fountain called the Leddan, which is the largest fountain in Syria and the principal source of the Jordan. (2.) Beside the ruins of Banias, the ancient Caesarea Philippi and the yet more ancient Panium, is a lofty cliff of limestone, at the base of which is a fountain. This is the other source of the Jordan, and has always been regarded by the Jews as its true source. It rushes down to the plain in a foaming torrent, and joins the Leddan about 5 miles south of Dan (Tell- el-Kady). (3.) But besides these two historical fountains there is a third, called the Hasbany, which rises in the bottom of a valley at the western base of Hermon, 12 miles north of Tell-el- Kady. It joins the main stream about a mile below.
esh-Sheri'ah el-Kebireh. River. (Heb. generally with article hayyarden, "the descender," probably from the rapid descent of the river). It is now called El Urdan, or Esh-Sheri'ah, or the watering-place, and is the main river in Palestine.
It flows along the geological Syro-African Rift and is formed by the merging of three streams at the base of Mount Hermon which are 250 feet above sea level. It descends extremely rapidly to the Huleh region and dividing again into several streams. Before it descends into the Sea of Galilee it drops 850 feet with extremely rocky banks. From the Sea of Galilee The river descends south on a windy course for 104 miles into the Dead Sea, although the straight distance is only 65 miles.
On its descent southward it is met by the Yarmuk River and the Jabbok River both from Gilead. The Bible mentions the plain through which the River flows as "the plain" (Josh 2:11), or the Plain of Jordan (I Kings 7:46). The Plain forms to shelves, with one above the other, the southern Plain was referred to the Bible as the Plains of Moab (Num 21:1) and the Plains of Jericho (Josh 4:13). Genesis refers to "the cities of the Plain" (Gen 19:29).
The Jordan valley contains thick vegetation and was filled with wildlife, including wild boar, and lions, as mentioned in the Bible (Jer. 49:19). In biblical times there were a few natural crossing places, and there were no bridges back then. The crossing of the Jordan in the Promised Land was as much of a miracle as a crossing of the Red Sea (Josh 3-4). The Bible mentions that the Jordan River was with divided the eastern tribes of Israel from the western tribes (Judg 5:17).
The Jordan River was held as sacred since the earliest of times. The Bible records that Elijah divided them when he smote the waters with his mantle, and so did Elisha (II Kings 2:8, 13-14). Naaman the Leper who was captain of the armies of Syria dipped seven times in the Jordan River and "his flesh came again likened to the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (II Kings 5:14). John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah when he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan River (Matt 3:5 ff Mk 1:5 ff). Jesus Himself was also baptized by John in the Jordan River near Bethabarah (John 1:28-33).
Aqaba, Jordan - History - Ancient History
Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The early settlement was presumably Edomite in ancient times. It was a centre of the Edomites, and then of the Arab Nabataeans, during the first century B.C. who populated the region extensively. The oldest known text in Arabic alphabet is an inscription found in Jabal Ram 50 km east of Aqaba.
The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26): "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Eloth in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." Eloth (or Elath), which inspired the naming of the present-day Israeli city of Eilat a little further along the coast, probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.
The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice, and the Romans Aila and Aelana. Aqaba reached its peak during Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Bostra through Amman, terminating in Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt. Around 106 AD Aqaba was one of the main ports for the Romans. In the year 410 A.D. Aqaba (known then as Ayla) became the garrison of the Roman 10th Legion of the Sea Strait (Legio X Fretensis). Ayla was the home origin of what came to be known as the Ayla-Axum Amphoras.
Soon after the Islamic conquests, it came under the rule of the Islamic Caliphate, and thereafter passed through the hands of such dynasties as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids and Mamluks. The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla, which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as being next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins close by. The ruins of Ayla (unearthed in the 1980s by an American-Jordanian archeological team) are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.
Some stories in the famous Arabian Nights also refer to Sinbad adventures to take the sea from this port city of Ayla.
During the 12th century, the Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye (now known as Pharaoh's Island, near the shore of Sinai), now lies in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometers west of Aqaba.
By 1187, both Aqaba and the island had been recaptured, for Muslim rule, by Saladin. The Mamluks took over in 1250 and rebuilt the fort in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri.
By the beginning of the 16th century, the Mamluk dynasty had fallen into decline and the area came under the influence of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. During the following period, the city declined in status, for 400 years remaining a simple fishing village of little significance. The port of Aqaba quickly regained its importance after the Ottomans built the Hejaz railway, that connects the port to Damascus and Medina.
Read more about this topic: Aqaba, Jordan, History
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Beside the river of gold
According to inscriptions, Jerash, or Gerasa, was named for its first inhabitants: the old soldiers—gerasmenos means elderly people in Greek—of Alexander the Great’s campaigns in the early fourth century B.C. After having fought against the Persians, tradition says these veterans were rewarded with a parcel of fertile land between the Jordan Valley and the desert. (See also: Alexander's Expansion into India.)
Although the site may well have served as a temporary garrison for Alexander, this founding story is unlikely. The original name of the city was not, in fact, Jerash, which is a Semitic name, but rather Antiochia ad Chrysorrhoam, a Greek name that means “Antioch beside the river of gold.” This early settlement was likely founded by the second-century B.C. Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
The Seleucid kings were descended from Alexander the Great’s general Seleucus I Nicator, who seized control of the eastern part of Alexander’s vast empire in 312 B.C. His dynasty spread Greek customs and culture throughout the Middle East in the third and second centuries B.C. The Greek colonists probably merged with the local population who had been living there as early as the Neolithic period. (See also: How suspicion and intrigue eroded Alexander's empire.)
Having carefully chosen this lucrative spot on the King’s Highway, the Seleucids started work on their new city with a flurry of building, dedicating temples to various gods in the Greek pantheon. As well as competing with other Hellenized towns and cities in prestige and trade, Jerash also maintained close ties with them, including Philadelphia (now the Jordanian capital Amman) and Heliopolis (today Baalbek in eastern Lebanon).
Jerash was a prominent commercial center, and a diverse group of peoples interacted there. Greek colonists and indigenous Aramaeans rubbed shoulders with merchants from Persia, Parthia, and even India. To the south of Jerash lay Petra, the capital of the flourishing Nabataean empire that was minting its own coins at the time the Seleucids were founding Jerash. (See also: Finding the "Lost" City of Petra.)
Nabataean caravans passed through Jerash on the way to Damascus and Palmyra, leaving their own cultural mark on the city. Greek and Semitic names have been found on inscriptions at the site, and underlying the dominant Hellenistic religious rituals, the ancient Semitic gods also had a foothold. Along with Greek, other languages could have been heard on Jerash’s streets, including the indigenous Aramaic language, which would later be the mother tongue of Jesus of Nazareth.
Ancient Jordan - History
Bible Cities : Jordan River
Ancient Jordan River - Map of New Testament Israel JOR`DAN (river of judgment, the descender). The chief river of Israel rises in range of Anti-Lebanon, flows southwardly expanding into Lakes Merom and Gennesareth, a distance of two hundred miles and empties into the Dead Sea. Its current is rapid, fords are difficult, the valley narrow except opposite Jericho. Volume of water variable, breadth from seventy-five to three hundred feet and depth from three to ten feet. Though lost in the Dead Sea, its valley extends to the Gulf of Arabia. Conspicuous in Bible history from earliest date, Gen. 13:10 Josh, 2:7 Judg. 3:28 7:24 12:6 2 Sam. 10:17 Matt, 3:13.
Jordan in Easton's Bible Dictionary Heb. Yarden, "the descender" Arab. Nahr-esh-Sheriah, "the watering-place" the chief river of Israel. It flows from north to south down a deep valley in the centre of the country. The name descender is significant of the fact that there is along its whole course a descent to its banks or it may simply denote the rapidity with which it "descends" to the Dead Sea. It originates in the snows of Hermon, which feed its perennial fountains. Two sources are generally spoken of. (1.) From the western base of a hill on which once stood the city of Dan, the northern border-city of Israel, there gushes forth a considerable fountain called the Leddan, which is the largest fountain in Syria and the principal source of the Jordan. (2.) Beside the ruins of Banias, the ancient Caesarea Philippi and the yet more ancient Panium, is a lofty cliff of limestone, at the base of which is a fountain. This is the other source of the Jordan, and has always been regarded by the Jews as its true source. It rushes down to the plain in a foaming torrent, and joins the Leddan about 5 miles south of Dan (Tell- el-Kady). (3.) But besides these two historical fountains there is a third, called the Hasbany, which rises in the bottom of a valley at the western base of Hermon, 12 miles north of Tell-el- Kady. It joins the main stream about a mile below.
Jordan River in Naves Topical Bible (A river in Israel) -Empties into the Dead Sea Jos 15:5 -Fords of Ge 32:10 Jos 2:7 Jud 3:28 7:24 8:4 10:9 12:5,6 2Sa 2:29 17:22,24 19:15,31 1Ch 19:17 -Swelling of, at harvest time Jos 3:15 Jer 12:5 -Swelling of, in the early spring 1Ch 12:15 -The waters of, miraculously separated for the passage Of the Israelites Jos 3 4 5:1 Ps 114:3 Of Elijah 2Ki 2:6-8 Of Elisha 2Ki 2:14 -Crossed by a ferry boat 2Sa 19:18 -Naaman washes in, for the healing of his leprosy 2Ki 5:10-14 -John the Baptist immerses in Mt 3:6 Mr 1:5 -John the Baptist immerses Jesus in Mt 3:13 Mr 1:9 -PLAIN OF Ge 13:10-12 Israelites camped in Nu 22:1 26:3,63 Solomon's foundry in 1Ki 7:46 2Ch 4:17
Jordan River in Smiths Bible Dictionary (the descender), the one river of Israel, has a course of little more than 200 miles, from the roots of Anti- Lebanon to the head of the Dead Sea. (136 miles in a straight line. --Schaff.) It is the river of the "great plain" of Israel --the "descender," if not "the river of God" in the book of Psalms, at least that of his chosen people throughout their history. There were fords over against Jericho, to which point the men of Jericho pursued the spies. Jos 2:7 comp. Judg 3:28 Higher up where the fords or passages of Bethbarah, where Gideon lay in wait for the Midianites, Jud 7:24 and where the men of Gilead slew the Ephraimites. ch. Jud 12:6 These fords undoubtedly witnessed the first recorded passage of the Jordan in the Old Testament. Ge 32:10 Jordan was next crossed, over against Jericho, by Joshua. Jos 4:12,13 From their vicinity to Jerusalem the lower fords were much used. David, it is probable, passed over them in one instance to fight the Syrians. 2Sa 10:17 17:22 Thus there were two customary places at which the Jordan was fordable and it must have been at one of these, if not at both, that baptism was afterward administered by St. John and by the disciples of our Lord. Where our Lord was baptized is not stated expressly, but it was probably at the upper ford. These fords were rendered so much more precious in those days from two circumstances. First, it does not appear that there were then any bridges thrown over or boats regularly established on the Jordan and secondly, because "Jordan overflowed all his banks all the time of harvest." Jos 3:15 The channel or bed of the river became brimful, so that the level of the water and of the banks was then the same. (Dr. Selah Merrill, in his book "Galilee in the Time of Christ" (1881), says, "Near Tarichaea, just below the point where the Jordan leaves the lake (of Galilee), there was (in Christ's time) a splendid bridge across the river, supported by ten piers." - -ED.) The last feature which remains to be noticed in the scriptural account of the Jordan is its frequent mention as a boundary: "over Jordan," "this" and "the other side," or "beyond Jordan," were expressions as familiar to the Israelites as "across the water," "this" and "the other side of the Channel" are to English ears. In one sense indeed, that is, in so far as it was the eastern boundary of the land of Canaan, it was the eastern boundary of the promised land. Nu 34:12 The Jordan rises from several sources near Panium (Banias), and passes through the lakes of Merom (Huleh) and Gennesaret. The two principal features in its course are its descent and its windings. From its fountain heads to the Dead Sea it rushes down one continuous inclined plane, only broken by a series of rapids or precipitous falls. Between the Lake of Gennesaret and the Dead Sea there are 27 rapids. The depression of the Lake of Gennesaret below the level of the Mediterranean is 653 feet, and that of the Dead Sea 1316 feet. (The whole descent from its source to the Dead Sea is 3000 feet. Its width varies form 45 to 180 feet, and it is from 3 to 12 feet deep. -Schaff.) Its sinuosity is not so remarkable in the upper part of its course. The only tributaries to the Jordan below Gennesaret are the Yarmuk (Hieromax) and the Zerka (Jabbok). Not a single city ever crowned the banks of the Jordan. Still Bethshan and Jericho to the west, Gerasa, Pella and Gadara to the east of it were important cities, and caused a good deal of traffic between the two opposite banks. The physical features of the Ghor, through which the Jordan flows, are treated of under PALESTINE.
Jordan River in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE jor'-dan (yarden, "flowing downward" 'Iordanes): 1. Source: The Jordan river proper begins at the junction of four streams (the Bareighit, the Hasbany, the Leddan, and the Banias), in the upper part of the plain of Lake Huleh. The Bareighit receives its supply of water from the hills on the West, which separate the valley from the river Litany, and is the least important of the four. The Hasbany is the longest of the four (40 miles), issuing from a great fountain at the western foot of Mt. Hermon near Hasbeiya, 1,700 ft. above the sea, and descends 1,500 ft. in its course to the plain. The Leddan is the largest of the four streams, issuing in several fountains at the foot of the mound Tell el-kady (Dan, or Laish) at an elevation of 505 ft. above the sea. The Banias issues from a celebrated fountain near the town of Banias, which is identified as the Caesarea Philippi associated with the transfiguration. The ancient name was Paneas, originating from a grotto consecrated to the god Pan. At this place Herod erected a temple of white marble dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This is probably the Baal-gad of Josh 11:17 and 12:7. Its altitude is 1,100 ft. above tide, and the stream falls about 600 ft. in the 5 miles of its course to the head of the Jordan. 2. Lake Huleh: The valley of Lake Huleh, through which the Jordan wends its way, is about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, bordered on either side by hills and mountains attaining elevations of 3,000 ft. After flowing 4 or 5 miles through a fertile plain, the Jordan enters a morass of marshy land which nearly fills the valley, with the exception of 1 or 2 miles between it and the base of the mountains upon the western side. This morass is almost impenetrable by reason of bushes and papyrus reeds, which in places also render navigation of the channel difficult even with a canoe. Lake Huleh, into which the river here expands, is but 7 ft. above tide, and is slowly contracting its size by reason of the accumulation of the decaying vegetation of the surrounding morass, and of the sediment brought in by the river and three tributary mountain torrents. Its continued existence is evidence of the limited period through which present conditions have been maintained. It will not be many thousand years before it will be entirely filled and the morass be changed into a fertile plain. When the spies visited the region, the lake must have been much larger than it is now. At the southern end of Lake Huleh, the valley narrows up to a width of a few hundred yards, and the river begins its descent into levels below the Mediterranean. The river is here only about 60 ft. broad, and in less than 9 miles descends 689 ft. through a narrow rocky gorge, where it meets the delta which it has deposited at the head of the Sea of Galilee, and slowly winds its way to meet its waters. Throughout this delta the river is easily fordable during a great part of the year. 3. Sea of Galilee: The Sea of Galilee occupies.
Jordan River Scripture - 2 Kings 2:6 And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, [As] the LORD liveth, and [as] thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on.
Jordan River Scripture - Ezekiel 47:12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.
Jordan River Scripture - Jeremiah 12:5 If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and [if] in the land of peace, [wherein] thou trustedst, [they wearied thee], then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
Jordan River Scripture - Jeremiah 2:18 And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river?
Jordan River Scripture - Joshua 13:23 And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border [thereof]. This [was] the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof.
Jordan River Scripture - Joshua 18:12 And their border on the north side was from Jordan and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.
Jordan River Scripture - Joshua 22:25 For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.
Jordan River Scripture - Joshua 4:23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:
Jordan River Scripture - Judges 7:25 And they took two princes of the Midianites, Oreb and Zeeb and they slew Oreb upon the rock Oreb, and Zeeb they slew at the winepress of Zeeb, and pursued Midian, and brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon on the other side Jordan.
Jordan River Scripture - Numbers 35:14 Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, [which] shall be cities of refuge.
Ancient Jordan - History
Yes and no … Edomites are prophesied at end time in minor prophets.
But some Edomites exist as fake JEWS who ruled the financial world globally and part of satan syngagogue. recall Yehshua said you are of your father satan? well, there is a view that Esau not only stole Nimrod’s garment which is the one made by Yah for Adam in Eden to symbolise reigning the world, but he made a pact with satan and thus changed himself … there is a legend that Nimrod’s wife bore a son after his death, and I have always wondered if this is connected to Esau …. well, in the book of Yasher, Esau killed Nimrod just before he ate Yacob’s pottage by trading his birthright? … ever wondered why he did that? …. why would he bother to kill nimrod? what did he want from nimrod? what did he take from nimrod? greed, power and world dominion …. why was that removed from the main bible? …. likely to hide the fact that while nimrod’s Babylon carries on, it is ESau who has carried it on, controlling the world on all fronts incl Israel, Talmud, global economy …. but people … lets pray and interecede for GOD”S will be restored and done on earth … the judgment of Babylon, Esau and their evil governance economic slavery systems on earth be shaken, judged and removed … and Yah’s children to rule and reign with double recompense ushering finished work of Yehshua HaMaseach and his return to victorious spot free church …..amen … halleluYah.
why did esau carelessly sold his birthright? cause he thought he had a better deal with the killing of nimrod … not in the bible you say? well who control the religion who first published bible? …. recall we are not religion nor religious, Yehshua hated that and scolded the religious but never the sinner … Yehshua came not to restore religion but rather to restore our identity as sons (aka daughters) made in His image and relationship with the Father …. food for thought?
Ancient History and Modern Culture Meet in Jordan
With our Middle Eastern holiday nearly over, my husband and I had only four days to spend in Jordan. We figured that since much of the country is desert and the places that interested us were all situated along the western border, we’d have plenty of time. As it turned out, we did get to see and do everything we had come for, but we discovered so much more that was impossible to cram into one short visit.
Ancient ruins at Gerasa. (Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock)
We started in Amman, the country’s ultra-modern capital, where we found an intriguing mix of ancient and new with department stores next to open-air produce markets and sidewalks filled with people from many different countries. Besides being a popular tourist destination, Jordan is home to 10 million people—4 million in Amman—and because it borders both Palestine and Syria, it welcomes refugees from those countries, as well.
One of the highlights of this city is Jabal Al-Qal’a, the Citadel, atop one of the nine hills on which Amman was originally built and smack in the middle of the city. Here are ruins of successive civilizations and empires that began about 1800 B.C.—Assyrians, Babylonians, and others on up to Romans, Byzantines, and Umayyads in the seventh century. Once they left, this area fell into ruin and was only occasionally inhabited by nomadic Bedouins.
Mannequins in a museum at the Citadel in Amman, Jordan, demonstrate how Arab people used to live and work. (Courtesy of Phil Allen)
In the 1920s, excavations began at Jabal Al-Qal’a to uncover the tombs, arches, walls, and stairs that remain to tell the site’s story. At its highest point is the Umayyad mosque, and far below that is a Roman theater. Within the theater is a museum where lifelike mannequins wear traditional costumes and portray daily life and work. The Jordan Archaeological Museum is here, too, displaying artifacts that date back to the Paleolithic period.
After our exploration of the Citadel, we lunched on falafel balls, hummus, and pita at Hashem, a popular downtown restaurant, then we were off to browse through the bazaars, called souks, amid the colors of fresh produce and the aromas of spices. In the afternoon, our guide surprised us with a stop for knafeh, a traditional Arab dessert made with shredded filo dough soaked in syrup then topped with a soft local cheese and pistachios.
Outdoor souks in Amman, Jordan, are colorful bazaars of food and spices. (Courtesy of Phil Allen)
Another day took us on a 45-minute drive southwest to Mount Nebo, the traditional burial place of Moses, although there is no archaeological proof. Here we were able to stand where he is said to have when he looked across the Jordan River to what he called the Promised Land. We also spent time in the Moses Memorial, which houses mosaics excavated from various historical periods.
In nearby Madaba, “the city of mosaics,” we visited St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church to see the Madaba Map made of mosaics on the church’s floor. Dating to the sixth century, the map is believed to be the oldest existing cartographic depiction of the Holy Land. What survives today is well-preserved, but the original piece contained 2 million colored stones.
Roman amphitheater in Amman. (leshiy985/Shutterstock)
We lunched that day at Hikayet Sitti Food Basket (the name means “my grandmother’s story”), where owner Ferial Karadsheh and her helper, Yazed Rbaean, presented us with a traditional maqluba, meaning “upside down.” They prepared meat, rice, and vegetables in a huge copper kettle and then dramatically upended it onto a platter so that we could help ourselves.
Farther south on the Desert Highway was Petra, the fabulous “Rose City” established by the Nabateans in the fourth century B.C. and more recently inhabited by Bedouins. In 1985, the historic place was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site where today visitors can see remnants of Roman occupation and Greek invasion along with the tombs, palaces, and elaborate facades the Nabateans left behind.
To get into Petra, we walked through the narrow mile-long Siq until we reached the iconic Al-Khazneh, or Treasury. The pink-stone edifice is breathtaking in its size and intricate artwork, but it is only the beginning of 102 square miles filled with equally spectacular pieces. Archaeologists say only a portion has been uncovered, so future generations will have even more to see.
On another day trip in the opposite direction out of Aman, we passed Gilead and found Jerash, inhabited since the Bronze Age, and the hilltop site of the walled Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. The ancient city was once the pride of the Roman Empire, but it was largely destroyed by the Galilee earthquake of 749 and subsequent seismic events.
Today this is said to be the largest collection of Roman ruins outside of Italy. Many have been artfully restored so that visitors truly have the sense of going back in time. That restoration keeps it from becoming a World Heritage Site, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the awe-inspiring structures—Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Artemis, a huge amphitheater, and much more.
Modern and ancient stand side by side in Amman. (luisrsphoto/Shutterstock)
We climbed past surprisingly flower-filled meadows in this traditionally arid region to then wander among the columns and walls as we tried to imagine all that had happened there in the past. Finally, we headed back down, stopping to dance with an Arab bagpiper, try on some shemaghs (the traditional Arabian headdress), and savor a dish of Italian gelato—nodding to both cultures that have deep roots in this complex and intriguing country.
Nongovernmental organizations are involved with the environment, women, children, and economic issues. The royal family is supportive of many charitable foundations. Thirty miles north of Amman, Jerash hosts an annual summer Festival of Culture and Arts administered by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation. The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development has social development centers throughout the country that help women and children.
Division of Labor by Gender. Most women have their lives controlled by their closest male relatives. Despite the limitations placed on them, they have made advances in education in a country where the practice of educating women only began three or four decades ago. Balancing customs and traditions at home with obedience to their husbands and the demands of a career remains a difficult challenge. When women work, they receive extensive benefits and sometimes equal pay. The 1997 census placed the proportion of women in the workforce at 14 percent, up from 8 percent in 1979. The unofficial unemployment rate for women is 65 percent.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Sons are prized, and this status continues throughout adulthood. Most Muslim women cover their heads with scarves. A small minority cover their heads and faces with a veil. Segregation of the sexes occurs all public situations, and there is limited interaction between
Visiting Petra today
The famous gorge that leads to Petra is known as the Siq. It is a narrow shaft through which you can approach the city and catch a glimpse of Al-Khazneh (The Treasury) building facade, which is the one most people will think of when thinking of Petra.
The Bab Al Siq guards the entrance of the Siq and is made up of three large Djinn blocks. These stone structures highlight why Petra is also known as the Red Rose City.
Other highlights of Petra include The Dam, The Street of Facades and The Theatre. There are also a number of tombs within some of the buildings themselves.
Tickets should be purchased upon arrival, but there are various options available depending on when you arrive and if you chose to explore other locations close-by such as the High place of sacrifice monument or the Monastery. Another option is the Tour by Night, which runs three times a week.
Why is this here? Any college world-civ course in the United States will have a section on ancient Greece. In the one I taught at UCSD for many years, only about a week could be spent on this immense subject, so the coverage was necessarily extremely general, although I tried to make it provocative rather than superficial. Nearly all of the materials used have migrated to this web site, where they may be of use to other teachers or students. Brief as all of this is, it should nevertheless should get you through the Greek sections of most American world-civ courses. It is also jollier than most dudes-and-dates textbooks.
The relevant materials on this web site include:
- Without Knowing Any Ancient Greek (Highly Recommended)
- A Beginner’s Guide to the Iliad & the Trojan War
(This won’t substitute for reading the work itself in a world lit course, but it will turn out to be way more useful and interesting that whatever they assign you in a world civ course.)
- The lecture notes (beginning on this page):
- (1600-500), (500-0), ,
The "lecture notes" assume that you have already read the Iliad Guide. (It’s had many thousands of hits, so presumably it is worth your time.)
Greek History: Part I (1600-500 BC)
This page begins with the shadowy Mycenaeans (my-senn-NEE-uns) and the famous "Greek Dark Age," towards the end of which Homer lived. The next file will cover the brief Classical period, with its two traumatic wars, and then the rise of Alexander and Hellenism.
Page OutlineSix Dates to Memorize 1. The Mycenaeans 1600-1200 2. The Greek Dark Age (1200-800) 3. The "Archaic Age" 800-500 Excursus: The Greek Polis 4. The First Great War: Persia (490-479) 5. Athens Gets Bossy (400s) Excursus: Athenian Democracy 6. The Second Great War II: Athens-Sparta (431-404) 7. The Ignored Macedonian Threat (404-338) -->
|Six Heavily Rounded Dates to Memorize|
|1600 (±100)||Minoans, centered in Crete, thriving.|
|1400 (±100)||Mycenaeans, centered in the Peloponnese, conquer the Minoans.|
|1200 (±100)||Trojan War. Mycenaean world abruptly collapses. So does the Hittite empire and most Levantine mini-states iron starting to displace bronze. Populations collapse. Dark Age begins.|
|800 (±100)||Dawn of the "Archaic Age" or "Greek Renaissance" Homer's Iliad beginning of recovery from Dark Age.|
|400 (±100)||Classical Greece thriving (sort of)|
|0 (±100)||Classical Rome thriving (sort of)|
(For a long list of Troy-focused Greek dates for people who love dates, click here.)
1. The Mycenaeans 1600-1200
By 2000: Indo-European Greek speakers were already living in Greece. Earlier "Cycladic" populations (named after the Cyclades islands in the central Aegean) may or may not have been Greek speakers. (The smart money is on not.)
- Agricultural commodities, subject to bad growing seasons, are an central component.
- Many trade goods consist of reprocessed raw materials (tin and copper) coming from great distances.
- Transportation is critical but easily disrupted.
- The population grows until it is becomes dependent on trade for subsistence goods
2. The Greek Dark Age (1200-800)
Victory as a goddess cheerfully carrying off the armor of a fallen soldier as booty after a successful battle
(Greek, first century BC, a little before the Roman conquest)
- There was more available land, and hence more herding, and therefore more raiding, and therefore more community defenses
- In the absence of old palace-based control, there was more very local (hamlet-level) self-sufficiency.
- A refugee diaspora filled other regions with Greeks (esp. Cyprus and the coasts of the eastern Mediterranean), creating to some extent the beginnings of a multi-regional pan-Greek ethnicity/community, incorporating cultural enrichment from indigenous populations in those regions.
- The Mycenaean aristocracy was replaced by a system vaguely reminiscent of the "big-man" systems of Papua New Guinea (together with lots of local bullies) an honor code arose based on raiding, presentations, and feasts. (Homer, to the extent that he is reflecting this situation, seems to stress beef feasts.) (Further note.)
- Prestige was often associated with honor won by shaming or, better yet, killing the warriors from other communities.
- The Bully/Big-Man system eventually stabilized as relatively weak monarchs maneuvered to make the position hereditary.
- Occasionally some sort of assembly of citizens was necessary to persuade people to take needed communal action.
- Councils of cronies of the "monarchs," tied together by marriages and other personal relations, were accidental predecessors of later leadership councils in Classical times. (Notice the role accorded to Helen's marriage in the Iliad.)
- Land once again became valuable as populations rose. Gradually the wealthy, land-owning families (with armor and horses) absorbed lasting offices of state, producing aristocracies. (The title of these office-bearers —often essentially collectors— was archones [̕αρχονης], which gives us the English word "archons." You always wanted to know what an "archon" was, right?)
- Influential people who felt excluded from the increasingly rigid aristocracies tended to rebel, installing their own "tyrants" and producing a new aristocracy until overthrown in later rebellions. (Linguistic note.)
- The Mycenaean writing system —Linear-A— was lost when the whole Mycenaean system of governance collapsed. Illiteracy, always widespread, became universal.
3. The "Archaic Age" ("Greek Renaissance") 800-500
"Ancient Recitation of Homer" by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1885
Unappealing to today's tastes, Alma-Tadema's presentations of classical subjects were hugely popular in the Victorian era.
- More complex buildings and grave goods suggest more trade and a population increase.
- A move from stock raising back to farming occurred and with it the beginnings of a landowning aristocracy that was to dominate the scene in classical times.
- About 800 a new Greek script emerged, borrowed with modifications from Phoenicians, as discussed in a separate web page on written language (link). This was the parent of modern Greek script, the kind used in labeling American college fraternities and sororities.
- The emergence once again of city states, this time not barricaded in centralized and redistributive citadels, although they were often walled to defend themselves against their annoying neighbors. The new settlement form is called a polis (πολις).
Excursus: The Greek Polis
A human being, said Aristotle, is a politikon zôon (πολιτικον ζῳον), which too conveniently translates as “political animal” but actually means “an animal living in a polis.” The polis (pl. poleis) is a “city-state”, often at war with its neighbouring poleis. (It is hard to see that it was different enough from Ur or Kapilavastu to make a fuss about it, but people do. The word polis has probably turned up on the final exam of every American world-civ exam ever devised. By way of general contrarianism, I never included it.)
Physically, a polis was a town, often walled, plus its surrounding countryside.
If successful, its population increased, and as it outgrew its carrying capacity, it often sent forth some of its population to other regions to found copies of itself as colonies.
Each polis —including the colonies, somewhat surprisingly— was fiercely independent. At no time did all Greek poleis cooperate as the Greek nation. (The closest was their alliance against the invading Persians in 490-479 BC, and even that did not include everybody or go very smoothly.) The term "pan-Hellenic" is used to refer to customs or events widely shared across separate Greek political entities.
Perhaps the most important thing about poleis is that virtually all of Greece seems to have been organized that way by the time when the Greek Renaissance was giving way to Classical Greece.
In 776 the first "Olympic" games were held near Elis (in the northwestern Peloponnese) in honor of Zeus, and eventually other pan-Hellenic games, especially at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and Isthmia, became occasions for regular, multi-day cease-fires among squabbling poleis. (The name "Olympic" was first used in 1896 when the custom was revived.)
- Surprisingly large, well disciplined armies were being gradually equipped with with iron weapons. The term "hoplite" is applied to the warriors so equipped. (Linguistic note.)
- Therefore the security of the polis was no longer in the hands of the wealthy few (the sort of thing that Homer describes). Hoplite equipment, had become both cheaper and more lethal than earlier arms. (Some refer to this as the rise of the middle classes. That seems pushing it, but armies were clearly larger and weaponry more industrial-looking.)
- In view of their contributions to warfare, commoners demanded their say, apparently the dawn of the concept of a standing people’s assembly and court.
- In southern Greece, only Sparta and Argos kept their kings. Other poleis had various forms of assembly-dominated democracy. (Sparta, located in a district called Lakonia, was famed for its frugal —"spartan"— life style, taciturn —"laconic"— speech, and severe child-rearing, perhaps inspired by the concern to maintain public order at all costs, since nearly seven eighths of the population were potentially rebellious slaves.)
In 594 Athens underwent the famous "Reforms of Solon." Solon (Σόλων) lived from 639 to 559, and later Greeks loved him, but what exactly his reforms involved is not at all clear (so a lot of world-civ texts ignore him). In general, (1) Solon expanded Athenian "democracy" to include people who had grown rich but who were not "old money," and (2) he declared the forgiveness of all debts and prohibition of debt slavery. This made him popular with debtors, but not with debt holders (or slave holders), who, however, were sometimes grateful that at least he let them remain rich —also alive .
Solon was the most important member of a group of reformers modifying the earlier "Laws of Draco" —the Greek from whom we get the term "draconian." (The Laws of Draco date from 621 BC and included the death penalty for a remarkably large proportion of offenses. Draco is interesting. Go a-Googling if you are inclined to know more.)
Solon's reforms were important, even transformative, as far as we can tell. But The didn't really get the whole job done, and over and over Athens ended up under the control of a tyrant selected to provide leadership through one crisis or another. Often the tyrant overstayed his welcome.
(Click here for an interesting and relevant but distracting example.)
It is Cleisthenes (Κλεισθένης), 570-508, who expanded the popular assembly and who is credited with "inventing democracy" in 508. It had its problems, as we shall see in the next section.
Background Design: Linear B Script, Greece, about 1200 BC
(based on a tablet from Pylos)