Gerasa, Or Galasa (Now Jerash), a ruined city of Palestine, E. of the Jordan, in the ancient
The Little Theatre at Gerasa.
Decapolis, 55 m. N. E. of Jerusalem, on the opposite slopes of two hills, between which flows the river Keruan. The most interesting of its remains extend along the right bank of the stream, and comprise a Corinthian temple and triumphal arch, five or six other temples, and two theatres, all of marble; a naumachia, or artificial basin for the representation of sea fights; and a small temple, with a semicircular Ionic colonnade from which a street, lined with rows of columns, traverses the city. At right angles with this are three other streets, all full of relics of ancient greatness. There are raised walks for foot passengers on either side, while the centre course still shows marks of chariot wheels. The walls, which are pierced by three ornamented gateways, and flianked by occasional towers, are in tolerable preservation. Outside is an extensive necropolis; 200 yards N. E. is a large reservoir, and near it can be traced an aqueduct. The river and valley are crossed by two bridges. There are two grand baths, and inscriptions, chiefly of the time of Antoninus Pius, but in general much defaced, are met with in all directions.
Mention of Gerasa is first made by Josephus, who states that King Alexander Jannaeus, after subduing Pella, attacked and captured it, about 85 B. C. It is referred to by Greek and Roman writers, but no details of its history are given. After the Roman conquests in the East the district around Gerasa became one of their favorite colonies. It was burned by the Jews at the commencement of their war with the Romans, and taken again by Annius, one of Vespasian's generals. Half a century later it attained its greatest prosperity. On the rise of Christianity it became the seat of a bishop. In 1122 Baldwin II. captured it and destroyed the castle.