Pella (Tabaqat Fahl)


Perhaps there is no other site in   Jordan with the same span of history as Pella. Located at sea level about   five kilometers from the Jordan Valley, the ruins of Pella portray a dramatic   sweep of history, from the Bronze and Iron Ages through to the Umayyad and   Mamluks. Evidence has been unearthed which indicates that while Pella has   clearly been inhabited for at least the last 6000 years, the remains of a   near-by Paleolithic community have been found which date back about 20,000   years. Not only is the sweep of history breathtaking, on a clear day it is   possible to see all the way to Jerusalem and the hills of Haifa from some   parts of the site.


A Natufian site has been found just   a few kilometers from Pella, at Wadi al-Hammeh, which dates back to the Stone   Age. There are the remains of mud brick houses, many of which were surrounded   by fortified walls. Weapons and implements have been excavated, suggesting   that ancient man was already hunting the wild boar and gazelles that roamed   over this fertile plain.


Pella reached a previously   unmatched level of prosperity in about the 2nd century BC. One story, though   unlikely, states that Alexander the Great laid the city's foundations when he   marched through en route to Egypt; the name Pella is that of Alexander's   birthplace. Coins from Pella and other eastern cities have been unearthed,   indicating that trade here was brisk, and two Hellenistic castles on the   outskirts of the site emphasize the importance, both commercial and   strategic, of the town.


Pella quickly became one of the   cities of the Decapolis, the collection of Roman trade towns connected by   paved roads which included Philadelphia (Amman), Gadara (Umm Qais), and   Gerasa (Jerash). This confederation of towns lasted until the Abbasids moved   the center of the Muslim world to Baghdad.


The economy picked up in Pella   again during the Byzantine era and by the end of the 5th century AD Pella's   population stood at about 25,000 people. Arab armies defeated the Byzantine   at the battle of Yarmouk in 636 AD, and Pella's name was changed to Fahl.   Fahl prospered under the Umayyad rule, although the trade routes changed and   the town became more agriculturally dependent.


In 747 AD, the city suffered an   earthquake and many of the buildings crashed to the ground. Fahl never truly   recovered, although the city remained inhabited, and went under Mamluk rule   in the 13th and 14th centuries. Once the Mamluks left, however, the city was   deserted.


Much of Pella is still in the   process of being excavated. Based on designs of some coins struck at Pella,   there may be some beautiful buildings still to be discovered, as well as more   mosaics. While many civilizations have flourished, it is instructive to note   how little bloodshed there was over the years. Maybe the peace and serenity   evident at the site now is a part of its inherent character. Whatever the   reason, Pella is a wonderful place to explore and reflect.