Pella lies at sea-level in the eastern foothills of the north Jordan Valley, 27 kilometres (17 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee and 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Amman. The first settlers arrived in the region around Pella in the Neolithic period and the site itself has been continuously occupied from around 8000 BC. Originally known by the Semitic name Pihilum, as mentioned in the 19th century BC Egyptian execration texts, Pella was one of the ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period. Its name was Hellenised to Pella after the birth town of Alexander the Great in Macedonia. The Romans settled in ancient Pella in the 1st century AD and developed it into a thriving economic centre. Pella is exceptionally rich in antiquities and the University of Sydney and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities have been conducting excavations there since 1979.
Coordinates: 32° 27′ 0″ N, 35° 37′ 0″ E
Situated near a major intersection of trade routes through the Jordan Valley, Pella has a long history. Excavations over the past thirty-eight years have unearthed many important discoveries including; a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, the remains of Bronze and Iron Ages temples (Canaanite temple) and administrative buildings, an odeon, baths and a nymphaeum of the Roman Imperial city, Byzantine churches and houses, an Early Islamic residential quarter and a small medieval mosque.
In 63 BC, the Roman General Pompey captured the city and it was integrated into the Eastern portion of the Empire. Pella came to be one of the Decapolis cities that would become centres of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was inhabited by ancient Semitic-speaking peoples (Nabataeans, Arameans, and Judeans). In the 1st century AD, the Romans began to build temples, theatres, collonaded streets and to integrate civic architecture and city planning into the pre-existing Greek city. According to Eusebius (History of the Church 3:5), Jewish Christians of Jerusalem took refuge here during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (AD 66-70) and Pliny mentions its famous spring (HN 5.16.70).
Pella reached its greatest size during the Byzantine era when trade routes strengthened and local industries developed. During this time many monasteries were constructed and the city had its own Christian bishop as early as AD 451. The population at this time may have been as high as 25,000. The city is the site of the battle between Byzantine troops and Muslim invading forces in AD 635 at the Battle of Fahl. The city proper was largely destroyed by the devastating Galilee earthquake in 749.
Today Pella is one of the most important archaeological sites in Jordan.