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Amman History, Jordan

The city of Amman, Jordan, is essentially an ancient city. Like other nearby ancient cities of Aleppo, Beirut, Byblos, Damascus, Sidon, Tyre, etc., Amman has seen several civilizations. Archeological excavations have established that the earliest of these was a Stone Age settlement in eastern Amman; this civilization is believed to have had very well-developed art and culture.

The Old Testament of the Bible has many references to the city; these references mostly belong to a period of Amman history when it had served as the capital of the Ammonites and was known as Rabbath Ammon. The city also saw Assyrian and Persian rules before falling to the Greeks. In 3rd century BC, the Ptolemaic ruler Philadelphus renames the city after himself and thereafter it becomes famous as Philadelphia.

Amman History – The Prosperous Roman Rule

After brief rules by Seleucids as well as Nabataeans, the control of the region went to the Romans and Philadelphia became a part of the Decapolis. The following period essentially proved one of the most significant phases in Amman history. The Roman-rulers re-build the city entirely by introducing typical Roman features like an amphitheater, baths, colonnaded streets, etc. As such, the city had become an important commercial, cultural as well as political force in the entire Roman Empire and when Christianity was introduced in 324 AD, Philadelphia was chosen as the seat of a Roman Christian bishopric. A church (dating back to those times) standing within the city's citadel bears testimony to the spread of Christianity in that region.

330 AD onwards Amman (still known as Philadelphia) became a part of the Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire).

Amman History – Spread of Islam and Its Consequences

By the 7th century, the process of decline had already set in and when the Arabian Islamic forces started pushing forward around 635 AD, the Byzantine domination of the region was overthrown by the Islamic Caliphates (the Umayyads of Damascus and the Abbasids of Baghdad). The usage of its Semitic-name ‘Ammon’ (or Amman) was revived in this period and for sometime Amman remained an important stop-over on the caravan/trade route. Nevertheless, after a series of natural disasters like earthquakes, the trade route was abandoned and Amman slipped into implicit anonymity, existing only as a small village.

Amman History – Modern Period

The modern period of Amman history is usually dated around 1887 when a Circassians’ settlement/community is set up by the Ottoman Sultans; and when Amman became an important halt in the railway link between Damascus and Medina, the city again rose to prominence.

The 20th century brought mixed-fortunes for the city of Amman. When the State of Transjordan was established in 1921 by Abdullah I, Amman became the seat of the government. Later on, Amman was also elected the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The importance of Amman increased four-folds as Jordan acquired freedom in 1946.

Amman has experienced all-round development since the 1950s; however, it has been matched by numerous incidents of violence, especially resulting from clashes between Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) personnel and Jordanian armed forces. With more and more Palestinian refugees entering the bounds of the city, Amman’s population kept rising. The 1990/91 Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq-invasion only added to Amman’s population. This positive aspect, of course, has come with a riddle and the city has had to undergo some unplanned expansion to accommodate the additional population. Today, the danger of the scarcity of water is also looming large and it is being seen as a consequence of population-boom.

November 9, 2005, has so far been the darkest day in the history of Amman – this was the day when the Islamic jihad-outfit, Al-Qaeda, launched a terror-attack on the city through a series of coordinated bomb explosions, killing 60 people and injuring about 115. The attacks were condemned world-over.

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