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.
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
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.
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.
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.