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Interpretation
The inscription mentioning the Roman god Herakles and the second inscription which perhaps refers to the Roman emperor Trajan lead to speculation as to whether an earlier monument, perhaps dedicated to Herakles, existed at or near this site. Byzantine churches were often built above Roman temples and here there is extensive reuse of Roman architectural elements: the horned altar, the capitals, the columns and the carved stone in the western wall of the church.

The relationship between Herakles and St. George, both mentioned on inscriptions found here, is relevant to our structure. Herakles (called Hercules by the Romans), known for strength and courage during his twelve labors, was one of the heroes of classical mythology. St. George is, of course, known for slaying a dragon. Abel (1908: 570) says: "The metamorphosis of Heracles as St. George is easy since the two characters have physical strength as an attribute." We know that there was an important cult of Herakles in ancient Philadelphia/Amman. On Roman coins of the city, a chariot with a domed canopy supported by four pillars drawn by four horses, obviously the chariot of a procession connected to the cult of Herakles, was pictured (Spijkerman 1978: 250-51, pl. 55, nos. 21-22). The Roman-era cult of Herakles was an evolution of the cult of the Iron Age Ammonite god Milkom. According to Bowsher (1993: 136), "Milkom/Moloch was worshipped throughout Ammonitis, and a later identification with Hercules is perhaps reflected in the general popularity of the latter throughout the region in the Roman period."

There must have been a major monument dedicated to Herakles in ancient Amman. Where then was that monument? It is usually thought to be the large temple on Jebel el-Qal'a. A recent study of the inscription carved on that temple showed, however, that it is not at all certain that it was dedicated to Herakles (Kanellopoulos 1994: 48-49, 81-83). On the other hand, it is difficult to see where on Jebel el-Webdeh a structure large enough to have been the Temple of Herakles would have been built. What then of the inscription found in the church? It might be related to another public building dedicated to Herakles, perhaps an earlier or smaller temple which was located at or near this site.

Finally, since there is some evidence that this area may have been used in association with both Herakles and St. George, we should ask whether it continued to be a sacred area after the advent of Islam. While quantities of ceramics which are later than the church were found during the excavations, little architecture was found in association with those materials. What modifications there were, however, and the concentrations of Islamic-era materials were outside of the main building and this may indicate that the structure was still respected, if not still in use.

Augustinovic (1972), discusses the association of el-Khadr, the legendary being of Islam, with Mar Elias (St. Elias or Elijah) and with Mar Girios (St. George). He gives a list of churches in the area dedicated to St.George or St. Elijah where the cult of el-Khadr was also present. Many of these are associated with caves. The common factor which el-Khadr has with St. George is that they both appear as horsemen. There may have been a continuity in cult traditions through the different historical periods-one cult taking the place of another and embodying some of the features of the earlier cult. Although there is presently no evidence for the exact nature of the use of the Jebel el-Webdeh structure during the Islamic era, it is possible--on the basis of what happened in other places--that this Christian church, perhaps dedicated to St. George and perhaps on or near the site of a cultic place for Herakles, in turn became a memorial of el-Khadr.

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