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Tuesday, 04 March 2008

Ancient Rome Comes Alive in Jerash: Jordan's Roman City - Page 2

Written by Habeeb Salloum
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No sooner had we sat down than a large body of Roman legionaries appeared and the rattling of shields, swords and armour clamoured amidst the blaring of trumpets and martial music. Roman soldiers drilling, gladiators fighting each other and chariot races all followed, depicting the days of Roman splendour.

Today Stellan Lind dons a toga as a group of retired former Jordanian soldiers and police officers between the ages of 35 to 45 act out the roles of Roman legionnaires, gladiators and compete in chariot races. As trumpets blare from a loudspeaker, the show begins and helmeted legionnaires in belted brown togas and ankle-high leather boots march up to the center of the hippodrome, one hand clutching a pilum or heavy javelin, and the other branding a shield.

Ancient Rome Comes Alive in Jerash: Jordan's Roman CityI sat fascinated as a pitiless centurion, shouting commands in Latin, and a proud flag bearer precede them. In perfect harmony, 40 legionaries, a small replica of a Roman army, perform offensive and defensive techniques, and re-enact battles against an unseen enemy described by a narrator as ‘hordes of barbarians’.

A young man dressed in a toga narrates the battle telling the spectators how the Roman legionnaires lived, worked and fought. He explains the use of their weapons, how they trained for war and that the Roman Army was the longest existing institution in human history.

The show continues as the legionnaires make room for gladiators. With the words ‘we who are about to die salute you’, moving in pairs, deliver a ruthless savage fight armed with classical weapons – the trident, net and gladius swords, kicking and punching each other until one is pinned to the ground, prompting the spectators to decide if he will live or die by giving the thumbs up or down.

Ancient Rome Comes Alive in Jerash: Jordan's Roman CityThe show concludes with a seven-lap chariot race, the most Roman of all sports. Having paraded before their audience, they take up their position in the carceres. The starter is announced by a fanfare of trumpets and as he drops a white handkerchief the race takes off. The chariots burst forward into the first of seven laps, jostling for position at each turn.

The enactment has become a tourist spectacle par excellence and is becoming well known worldwide. The brainchild of one man, it brings to life the story of ancient Rome in a colourful and appealing fashion.

Ancient Rome Comes Alive in Jerash: Jordan's Roman City

©Habeeb Salloum

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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