Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Transjordan 2: Burninating the countryside

Israel isn't the only biblical country. Jordan includes the territory of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, as well as other nations such as Edom, Moab, and Ammon (now generally spelled Amman).

We visited Madaba, known from the inscrutable Numbers 21 as one of the cities of Sihon Melech Ha-Emori.

Madaba is best known for the Church of St. George.

Yes, the church contains a mosaic map, but let's not forget the legend of St. George himself!

But yes, it's all about the map. This map of the Holy Land dates back to the 6th century CE, and sadly much of it is missing (including most of Israel north of Jerusalem; we know from one intact fragment that the map once went all the way up to Lebanon). The map may have been a guide for visiting pilgrims.

Here is Jerusalem:

The map is oriented with east at the top, so you're looking at the Old City from the west. Jaffa Gate is at the bottom, Damascus Gate is at the left, and the horizontal thoroughfare is the Cardo, which was rediscovered with the aid of this map.

The Dead Sea:


Bethlehem: (The Church of the Nativity is there, but Bethlehem otherwise gets relatively short shrift given its importance in Christianity. Does this mean the mosaicist was Jewish??? Unfortunately we have no idea how the mosaic dealt with other Christian sites such as Nazareth.)

Judah: (Don't miss the terebinths of Mamre to the right)

Gaza: (Insert your own political joke about what happened to the other half of it.)

Madaba is also home to some secular mosaics. Here are personifications of Rome, Gregoria, and Madaba, with sea monsters:

Scenes from the story of Phaedra and Hippolytus. I use a word that don't mean nothing, like looptid.


  1. In the Roman period maps conventionally had East on top. This is why turning a map so that the proper side is on top is called "orienting" it. Orient comes from the latin word for East.

  2. what's with the Humpty Dance ref?

  3. I shoot an arrow like Cupid!