This magnificently restored theatre is the most obvious and impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia, and is the highlight of Amman for most foreign visitors. The theatre itself is cut into the northern side of a hill, and has a seating capacity of 6000. The best time for photographs is the morning, when the light is soft – although the views from the top tiers just before sunset are also superb.
The theatre was probably built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138–61). It was built on three tiers: the rulers, of course, sat closest to the action, the military secured the middle section, and the general public perched and squinted from the top rows. Theatres often had religious significance, and the small shrine above the top row of seats once housed a statue of the goddess Athena (now in the Jordan Museum), who was prominent in the religious life of the city.
Full restoration of the theatre began in 1957. Unfortunately, non-original materials were used, which means that the present reconstruction is partly inaccurate. However, the final product is certainly impressive, especially considering that the theatre has again become a place of entertainment in recent years. Concerts are sometimes put on here in the summer – check with the tourist office or ask at your hotel.