Roman Theater Amman, Jordan – The World Of Ancient Theaters


The Roman Theater Amman is one of the most beautiful heritage sites in Jordan.

My first view of this lovely heritage was from the hill on which Amman Citadel is located. As I roamed around the Amman Citadel, traversing eras in its various parts, this beautiful theater appeared like a scooped-out yet beautifully sculpted piece. It appeared like a precious stone has been taken out of a piece of jewelry. On a closer look, however, you realize it is a giant theater that can seat thousands of people.

Amman Roman Theater Side View

Roman Theater Amman

After soaking in its top view, it was logical to drive down the hill and visit this ancient piece of history of Amman city. We parked in front of the theater and realized that the preparations were on for an upcoming musical concert. Organizers were setting up things and the scene just looked perfect. An ancient Theater and a musical event happening there – how I would have loved to attend that event.

Of course, the modern-day event that uses far too many types of equipment and entertains a large number of people had to take place on the grounds outside the ancient Theater. This Roman Theater Amman worked as a perfect backdrop. Cascading layers of steps leading to the new age stage were a beautiful juxtaposition of the past with the present.

Columns in front of Roman Theater, Amman, Jordan
Columns in front of the Theater, Amman

We passed through a row of columns with what appeared to me – Corinthian capitals. Through a rectangular gate, I got the first close look at the semi-circular steps that we collectively call a Roman Theater. A security guard sat against the ‘No Smoking’ board and the larger-than-life portraits of the Kings – the present, past & future smiled at us. Must say made me feel welcome!

History & Architecture of Roman Theater Amman

Landscape view of Roman Theater
Landscape view of Roman Theater

Our guide explained to us the history and architecture of the Theater.

It was probably built in the 2nd CE during the reign of Antonius Pius or the Roman Period.

A small shrine to the goddess of theater Athena used to be there on top of the last rows – though away from the stage the sound could be perfectly heard there owing to the excellent acoustics design of this Theater.

The ruler or the Royalty sat on the front seats – closest to the stage. Middle rows of the Theater belonged to the military. The rest of the public sat in the top rows. The division between these three areas is clearly marked in the design of the Theater.

Closer look at Seating
A closer look at Seating

This Theater can seat roughly 6000 people. I wondered if that would have been the total population of Roman Philadelphia – as Jordan Amman was then known.

The theater rests against a hill or it cuts into the north face of a hill. This formation minimizes the impact of the harsh sun on the audience. Even today you can see that stage is full of sunlight while the seating area remains pretty much in shadow.

The acoustics

The best part of the Theater is its acoustics. You can stand at the center of the stage and your voice will echo. The person sitting on top of the last row would be able to hear you clearly. People at opposite ends of the orchestra can talk to each other through the semicircular stone wall below the first row of seats. I wonder how they designed the whole acoustics in an open-air theater.


The steps leading to the top are steep but worth all the effort that takes to climb them. I spoke to some school girls sitting there and chatting away to glory as teenagers do anywhere in the world. Both they and I, were amused with our animated talk – trying to understand each other’s world.

The Theater as we see now is recently restored. It is open for public performances. I am told that Amman Book Fair also takes place here. What a lovely way to keep the heritage living.

Is it a Roman or a Greek Theater?

Stage of Roman Theater
Stage of the Theater

Our guide argued that this Theater that sits against the hill is actually a Greek Theater and not a Roman one as commonly believed.

To explain this he gave her three features of Greek theater:

  • Greek theaters are always against the hill while Roman theaters stand on their own foundations.
  • Athena – whose shrine was located on top of this theater is a Greek Goddess and not a Roman.
  • There is a place marked for the Royal family which was done in Greek theaters and not in the Roman.

Architecturally, the Roman theaters are an exact semi-circle while Greek ones are a little more than 180 degrees and tend to surround the stage. The seats here definitely extend beyond a semi-circle.

Our guide believed that a Greek Theater existed in this place before the Roman Empire and Romans continued to use this theater and later generations came to know it as Amman’s Roman Theater.

I came home and read this paper on the Differences between Roman and Greek Theater and yes, it validates everything that our guide told us.

A Roman Theater on its own foundations can be seen at Jerash – The Greco-Roman city not too far from Amman.

Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions

Coin & Bead Jewelry at Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions, Amman
Coin & Bead Jewelry at the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions

On both sides of this Theater, there are vaults that I assume would have worked as green rooms in the hay days of the theater. Now they act as museums. I explored the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions located on the right side of the theater.

The ancient vaults add to the ambiance of the displays.

Vaulted room with mosaic displays at Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions, Amman
Vaulted room with mosaic displays

In one long room, there are Mosaics from Madaba. I did visit Madaba after I visited Amman but this was my first introduction to artworks using mosaics that are so famous in Jordan.

I walked through the room looking at stories that were painted with small pieces of stone. Most of these were biblical stories that unfortunately I am not aware of. But I could still admire the craftsmanship of the artists who made them.

Mosaic patterns at Jordan Museum of Popular traditions
Mosaic Patterns

I spotted some usual signs like the Swastika sign and a zigzag pattern I so associate with our Patan Patola or Ikkat Saris. Our ancient civilizations it seems we were really global.

Display at Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions
Display at Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions

Other rooms had costumes depicting tribal wear that I would later see at Wadi Rum and at Bedouin Tents cum Jordan Souvenir Shops.

Coin jewelry of the tribals of Jordan
Coin jewelry of the tribals of Jordan

Coin Jewelry

The best part of this museum was the coin jewelry on display. There were all kinds of ornaments made from old coins. It felt as if the old Jordanian tribes wore coin jewelry all over them.

Coin jewelry on Sale in Jordan
Coin jewelry on Sale in Jordan

Then it struck me that coin jewelry is quite popular with our tribal people also. Lambadis are often seen wearing similar coin jewelry. I saw similar micro-bead jewelry in Jhabua, MP.

You can buy coin jewelry in souvenir shops in Jordan. Though I can’t say it is all old.

It is like a centerpiece sitting in the middle of Amman Jordan with the city cropping up all around it.

Amman is well connected with the rest of the world.

I would highly recommend you visit Roman Theater Amman as and when you visit Jordan.

Recommend you to read the following Jordan Tourist Attractions on Travel Blog.

Petra – Most visited tourist site

Hejaz Railways – Heritage Rail

Visit Jordan – My First Impressions



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