Of all the Roman ruins in the capital of Jordan, the Amman Roman Theatre is perhaps the best known, not least because it is among the best-preserved. It is also one of those whose restoration projects had already finished by the time of this article’s creation, although it must be noted that the finished product of the restoration, while undoubtedly beautiful, is a little less than ideal as far as the more finicky history buffs would be concerned. This is due to the fact that the materials employed for the restoration were not original. The amphitheatre was restored in the 1950’s, when there was slightly less emphasis on using original materials for restorative work in order to produce a more “consistent” final look.
That said, the Amman Roman Theatre is still definitely worth a visit. Chiselled right out of the hill that was Philadelphia’s (the old name for Amman during its time under Rome) ancient necropolis, it presents a dramatic and convincing picture of what the city must have looked like under Roman presence and rule. The cavea is largely similar to many other extant theatres from places once under Rome, and it has the classic 3-diazomata structure to seating. Diazomata are the sections or divisions of seat rows: tiers, you might say, that are distinguished from each other by larger-than-usual walkabout steps intended for people’s use when filing in or out of the appropriate diazoma and walking around the crescent of the theatre.
The theatre is still being used for events until now, and can hold as many as 6,000 persons. As the cavea is raked at an extreme angle, stage visibility is good even from the very top seats. The acoustics are good as well, which is typical of ancient amphitheatres (as the ancients had no microphones or amplifiers, after all, they had to ensure that acoustics were good). A lovely feature of the theatre is perhaps its northward orientation. This serves a purpose: it keeps the spectators from being blinded by the sun during performances in the day.
Nowadays, you can also find repositories of smaller local artifacts and heritage pieces built into the amphitheatre: that is, museums. If you go to the museum located in the right wing, you shall find a place that celebrates the local traditions and lifestyles as well as mythology. This is the Jordan Folklore Museum. The other museum is on the left wing and is the Museum of Popular Traditions, and it holds even more local artifacts of culture. The latter museum, though, focuses less on folklore-related pieces and more on local handicrafts and artwork, and even has several ancient mosaics on display from nearby Jordanian towns that also had a Roman presence in them.
The Amman Roman Theatre is near the Citadel as well, which holds even more ruins of interest to the Ancient Roman history buff. Of particular interest there might be the Temple of Hercules, where a colossal hand and elbow (remnants of an old 13-metre statue) still rest on the edge of a small cliff of earth, the hand’s fingers actually curled over the edge of the ground as if in relaxation-although some say it looks more like it is trying to climb up.