What attracted early settlers to the site is also what kept subsequent civilizations from settling at Pella: access to a permanent source of fresh water which still flows today, and a strategic location on several important trade routes. And interestingly in each period of occupation, Pella appears to have been a flourishing, affluent, influential city.
Although permanently and continuously occupied, several eras stand out as particularly important and worth a mention. For example during the Bronze Age (approx. 3,000 BCE to 1,500 BCE) Pella reached a peak in size and wealth and archaeologists were surprised to discover in the 1980’s the largest Bronze Age temple in Jordan. The Hellenistic period was also a time of particular affluence for Pella, and it is also the first time that the name ‘Pella’ occurs in written records, which is the name of the birthplace of Alexander the Great. Under Byzantine rule, Pella continued its role as one of the ten administrative centers of the Decapolis, but it also became the seat of a Bishop. In fact, Pella was at its largest in terms of square meters, during the Byzantine period and hosted three Basilicas, one of which is still visible today.
Pella also played a significant role for followers of the Abrahamic faiths. The Roman historian Josephus recorded the sacking of Pella in 83 BCE by the Hasmonean leader Alexander Jannaeus because the inhabitants “would not bear to change their religious rites for those peculiar to the Jews”. Subsequent Roman domination of the area saw Pella incorporated into the Decapolis, and it is in Pella that the Christians of Jerusalem sought refuge from the onslaught of the Roman army during the First Jewish Revolt of 66 CE. Pella became a primarily Christian city under the Byzantine rule, only to fall to Muslim forces in 635 CE. The inhabitants of Pella converted over time from Christianity to Islam and the large churches which had dominated the skyline under Byzantine rule were dismantled and reused.
The real and very final downfall of the city was not due to man’s influence, but a huge earthquake in 747 CE which destroyed most of the standing structures and gave us Pella in almost the same state that we see it today.