In the holy land, where I was having a great time on archeological digs, some friends and I spent a weekend at the Great Temple of Diana in ancient Jerash, Jordan. What an experience it was to have a picnic beside the Golden River there and to explore the fantastic archeological ruins of the Temple of Diana! Amazingly, eleven of the twelve Corinthian columns and the foundation of her temple are still standing! Today, Jerash is the most provincial Roman town in the world. At the time of my trip to Diana’s Temple, I was teaching in a program called “Oasis of Peace”. This program was through a Baldwin-Wallace College holy land fellowship, which included archeological expeditions and digs as well as teaching music, world religions, art, and English.
To arrive at the Temple of Diana, we drove from Ramallah in the lush green hills of Judeah across the Jordan Valley to Amman (ancient Philadelphia). After a fabulous day staying with the Kawar family and sightseeing in the seven hills of Amman, we left the next morning in the Kawar family’s large Mercedes Benz with: Turki, six siblings and his parents. Over desert, hill and dale, we leisurely drove the 40 minutes from Amman north to ancient Jerash. As we approached the town, which dates to prehistoric times, we suddenly had a wonderful view of the ruins of the Triumphal Arch in the foreground. The setting of the the Great Temple of Diana is spectacular! There is such peace there as well as great charm and beauty. The ancient town and temple are set in a valley running north and south with the lovely Golden River flowing through it. All over are the abundant walnut and popular trees which were magnificent in their spring foliage. The remoteness of the Temple of Diana and the town of Jerash have kept it remarkably preserved from being used as a stone quarry for building new towns. History stood still.
The Jerash Temple of Diana, also known as Artemis, is a Roman temple. It dominates the entire city on the highest point. Triple goddess Diana was the patron goddess of Jerash. She was highly esteemed by the Hellenistic population here, whereas the Semitic population preferred the god Zeus. This great Temple of Diana was completed around CE 150 during the reign of Emperor Antonius Pius. There were twelve columns and it had a hexastyle portico. The eleven columns still standing have decorative Corinthian capitals as if just completed. The Temple of Diana had three entrances that were decorated with three Corinthian pilasters. This temple was the most beautiful and important temple in ancient Jerash. It contained fine marble paneling and had richly decorated statues.
The Path of Dianic Wicca is named for this Jerash triple goddess temple. In ancient Roman times, her name meant “heavenly and divine”. She is the Goddess of the hunt, the moon, and birthing. She is associated with wild animals and forests, along with the power to talk to and control animals. Diana is equated with Artemis, her Greek name, though Diana had an independent origin in Italy. Diana was worshiped in the ancient Roman religion. Diana was known to be the virgin goddess and women. She was one of the trinity maiden goddesses: Diana, Minerva, and Vesta. She was born with her twin brother Apollo on the island of Delos, and the twins were the children of Jupiter and Latonia. Diana made up a triad with two other Roman deities: Egeria, the water nymph, her assistant midwife and her servant, and Virbius, the woodland god. In Italy, in the Old Religion of Stregheria, Diana was said to have created the world of her own being, having within herself the seeds of all creation yet to come.
The temples of Diana were indeed ecumenical and universal. People of all races and all religions were warmly welcomed. Kings, statesmen, sailors, merchants, the very poor, widows and orphans all came to Diana.