The capital of Jordan is rich in Roman ruins and structures, and among the most impressive of the ruins here is the Amman Nymphaeum, a grotto that once ran with fountains and water channels sacred to the nymphs of springwater. Situated southwest of Amman’s Odeon (the smaller of the two Roman theatres in the city), it is estimated to have been put up around 191CE, and must have had a 3m-deep pool for the spring flowing into it.
191CE was still the era of the Byzantines in Amman, obviously. The remains of the now-ruined Nymphaeum proclaim a heavy sense of unity with classical Byzantine styling, from the last Corinthian columns still standing to the niches set in the walls, which would have held statues of all sorts of personages and divinities of Ancient Roman mythology. The stage is still in fairly good shape, and one may see the remnants of the arch here. The Nymphaeum floor and foundations have fared even better: one can still see the shape of the pool and several of the passageways remain intact. The pool floor is already moss-covered, and with the green presenting such a handsome contrast to the white and grey stones and bricks of the ruin, a perfect photo opportunity could be had here-if only some of the authorities would let you inside to take it.
At the time of this article’s creation, the Amman Nymphaeum was not formally open to the public, and a chain fence had already been set around the area to protect it and people during the state’s ongoing excavation of the site. That said, some lucky persons have been able to enter it even then, either going through the government channels and obtaining special permission or simply asking the guard if looking around an area of the site may be permitted. The excavations are going hand-in-hand with restoration work on the structure, which may well turn out similar to the nymphaeum at nearby Jerash, a two-storey structure with a beautiful fronting stage of alcoves, recesses, and arches. The chain fence is not actually a huge barrier if sightseeing is your object, so you should not shy away from peeking through them and taking photos through the gaps. The bigger obstacle might even be in the process of trying to find the Nymphaeum itself, since it is fringed all around by modern houses and buildings.
The Nymphaeum is just another of the significant sites left over by the Byzantine Romans who occupied and temporarily ruled over this city, during the time it was still called Philadelphia and not Amman, a formal part of the Decapolis. The Nymphaeum has a special significance in and of itself, one might even say, due to its tie with the even-older parts of Rome and Roman culture, its reference to nymphs venerated by Romans who existed even before the emperors came about. Whatever the significance it holds for you in particular, though, the universal point of appreciation is probably the one that most matters: it is a part of human history as well as a tribute to the enduring appeal of art and its expression through architecture, and thus worth a look if only for these points.