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Old City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is in the south of Canaan, a relatively poor and dry part of the fertile crescent. The northern Levant had the upper hand on trade, making it wealthier and more urbanized than the southern Levant; the former's advantage was due to near eastern trade routes that culminated at the Levantine bays, but the southernmost natural bay was Carmel, a solid 100+ kilometers to the north of Jerusalem. Mount Ephraim is the true center of Canaan, but Jerusalem is to the south on a hill (not even the tallest in the area) in the Judean plateau. Further, Jerusalem was too inland to have a Mediterranean harbor, and too far from the watershed highways to easily draw water. However, Jerusalem did have the Gihon Spring, the only spring in the region; it was this that likely determined its location.

Topography of the Old City

English name

Hebrew name

Arabic name





Old City

Everything within the city walls at Jerusalem, except for the City of David.

New City

Everything in Jerusalem outside the city walls, almost all of which was built in the last 150 years; prior to this, the city was largely within the confines of the walls.

Kidron Valley

נחל קדרון

وادي الجوز (Valley of the Walnut)

The eastern valley. The valleys of Jerusalem came to be known as places of evil and death, underworlds, cemeteries.

Tyropoeon Valley

The central valley, between the Kidron and the Hinnom.

Hinnom Valley

גיא בן הינום

وادي الربابة Wadi Al-Rababa

The western valley. It is thought of as an evil place, and the word gave rise to גיהנום (hell).

Temple Mount

الشريف‎ الحرم
Haram alSharif

The Temple Mount is built on the Eastern Hill.


Between the City of David and the Temple Mount, with the former much lower than the latter, is a middle area that inclines to bridge the two; this is the ophel.

City of David

עיר דוד

سلوان‎ Silwan

In the Kidron Valley, kind of at the middle of that side of the Old City.

Gihon Spring

מעיין הגיחון‎

Mount of Olives

הר הזיתים

جبل الزيتون‎
الطور (The Mountain)

Israelite Kingdom

During this time the Israelites had their own kingdom of Israel, which eventually split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms before succumbing to foreign control. Since Jerusalem's history during the monarchic era is really a history of Ancient Israel, this period is covered in the chronicle of Ancient Israel and omitted here to avoid redundancy.

Assyrian Attacks, BCE - BCE

Excavations have shown that concurrent with the Assyrian attacks, settlement expanded from the eastern to the western hill as well. There was a population boom. This was perhaps due to movement of refugees from from Israel into the city of Jerusalem. As Assyrian campaigns encroached further south, people fled into Jerusalem.

Judean king Hezekiah took fortified Jerusalem against siege. Hezekiah fortified the broad wall Isaiah 22:9 - 22:11; and protected the water supply. The ability of Jerusalem to withstand the Assyrian onslaught gave rise to Zion Theology, which held that Jerusalem was impregnable due to the blessings of God who resided there.

Exilic Period

As part of a larger campaign for Babylonian control in the Levant, Babylonians deported the general population and destroyed the Temple. Babylonian troops deported Judah three times: BCE, BCE, and BCE. First the elites and ruling class were deported BCE. When revolt still erupted, the general population was deported and the Temple was destroyed BCE. A third deportation removed a few lingerers BCE.

Known as the Babylonian exile, the destruction and deportations were of fundamental importance to Judaism. Jerusalem was reduced to a desert wasteland.

Persian Era (Temple Rebuilt), BCE - BCE

When Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylonia, the former Babylonian empire fell under Persian control. The Levant was now part of the Persian empire. Canaan had been gutted and transformed by war and conquest. When the Assyrians exiled the Northern Kingdom, they had actually performed a swap and replaced the Israelites with Samaritans. The few remaining Jews intermarried with the newly planted foreigners II Kings 17 and became ethnically Samaritan. The Babylonians performed a similar swap when they deported Judah but Jews there had not yet been assimilated. The Northern Kingdom was now ethnically foreign, and the Southern Kingdom including Jerusalem was impoverished and arid.

Edict of Cyrus, BCE

When Cyrus captured Babylon, he immediately issued the Edict of Cyrus, a decree that those who had been exiled by the Babylonians could return to their homelands and rebuild. This culminates in BCE when the Israelites finished rebuilding the temple, BCE - BCE.

First Return, from BCE

Temple Rebuilt, BCE - BCE

Second Return, mid-5th CENT BCE

The Second Return of Jews to the former land of Israel was led by Ezra ( BCE) and Nehemiah ( BCE). Ezra began the return by forming a so-called purified community without foreigners ezra 7-10. When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he had the Wall of Jerusalem rebuilt Neh. 2 - 3; Neh. 4:15 - 4:17. There were conflicts with the current inhabitants of the land, including some remnants of Jews and the particularly troublesome Samaritans led by Sanballat I II Kings 17.

Ezra is more the teaching of the law. Nehemiah is more the rebuilding of the walls, which were dedicated on BCE.

Hellenistic Period, BCE - BCE

Battle of Issus, BCE / BCE

All of Persia (including the Levant) succumbed to Greek control when Alexander the Great defeated Persian king Darius III at the Battle of Issus ( BCE or BCE). The main source for Hellenistic Jerusalem is 2 maccabees, written in the 2nd CENT BCE and preserved in the Apocrypha.

Alexander the Great died in BCE and his enormous Greek kingdom fractured among six generals. Jerusalem remained a backwater after Alexander's conquest, and remained so after Alexander died in BCE and the six diadochoi (successors) vied to control Greek territory.

The Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Mesopotamia fought for Judah.

Josephus Flavius ... tells us that the high priest [in Jerusalem] refused at first to submit to Alexander because he had taken a vow to remain loyal to the last Persian king but, as a result of a dream, capitulated when Alexander promised that throughout his empire the Jews would continue to be governed according to their own Law. In fact, it is most unlikely that Alexander ever visited Jerusalem. ... [This legend] illustrated the complexity of the Jewish response to Hellenism. Some Jews instinctively recoiled from the culture of the Greeks and wantd to cling to the old dispensation; others found Hellenism congenial and saw it as profoundly sympathetic to their own traditions. The struggle between these opposing factions would dominate the history of Jerusalem for nearly three hundred years. Armstrong, p 103

Judah was a buffer zone between the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Seleucids in Mesopotamia and became a showdown. In time, caravans of troops stomped through as foreign empires vied for hegemony. Judah, an in-between zone, was underfoot. Jerusalem was not just between powers, but between ideologies.

Since Joseph, the Ptolemies had been intertwined with Hellenism's infiltration; and traditionalists supported their enemy's enemy, the Seleucids.

Ptolemaic Era, 3th CENT BCE

Jerusalem fell to the Ptolemies when Ptolemy I Soter (of the Tobiad dynasty) won Judah in BCE. The Ptolemies were aloof from local affairs and Jerusalem was initially peacefully out of the way. The Tobiad dynasty introduced liberality to stuffy Jerusalem.

During the reign of Ptolemy II ( BCE - BCE), a Jerusalemite named Joseph landed the job of tax collection for the whole Syrian province. As a Tobiad, he seems to have been in line with the Tobiah who antagonized Nehemiah. Joseph advocated contact with foreigners, the Greeks, and to eschew strict Torah protocol. Joseph introduced high Hellenistic finance to Jerusalem, becoming the first Jewish banker. Joseph brought cosmopolitan views: the outside world was open to travel and colonization, not a source of fright that had to be kept at bay by laws that had become constricting.

Yet this was at odds with priests, conservatives, the unctuous, who lamented that materialism had caused a stampede for wealth that left the poor underfoot.

Seleucid Advance, BCE - BCE

Seleucid king Antiochus the Great (Antiochus III) kept winning and losing the Levant. In BCE his troops were thrown out of Jerusalem by the Tobiads/Ptolemies.

Seleucid Era, BCE - BCE

At the Battle of Banias/Panium in BCE, Seleucid king Antiochus the Great (Antiochus III) won the entire Levant from the Ptolemies. Jerusalem's Seleucid era was overall peaceful until the very end. The Jews were largely pro-Seleucid, especially the priestly conservatives. Antiochus rewarded them by permitting them to enforce strict Judaism in the Temple and the entire city, and he briefly remitted taxes.

Toward the end of the Seleucid era, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV crushed Jerusalem, banned Judaism and polluted the Temple (Antiochus' blasphemy) in response to what he interpreted as a revolt.

This climaxed the growing anti-Greek sentiment among the Jews, and precipitated the Maccabean revolt.

Maccabean Era, BCE - BCE

1 Maccabees begins by chronicling who were the Maccabees and their greater context. Then in 1 maccabees a dichotomy is asserted: either be a Jew and follow the Torah; or accept Hellenism and forget even circumcision. While there was initially a choice, the Seleucid kings eventually forcefully imposed Hellenism 1 maccabees and ratcheted their anti-Jewish sentiment. Then came the Zeal of Mattathias also recorded in Maccabees, which set the tone for Maccabean revolt against Antioch.

Maccabean Revolt, BCE - BCE

Mattathias galvanized of Jews to rebel against Seleucid repression. From a Maccabean perspective, it was one thing to be ruled by a foreign empire, but an entirely different thing if the Temple were intruded. A foreign ruler could pacify the Jewish Jerusalemites by keeping the Temple sacrosanct, its exclusivity from gentiles. But the moment the hegemon desecrated the Temple, the Jews would erupt and repulse his yoke. The temple was the nucleus of Jewish identity.

Rededication of Temple, BCE

The Maccabees rededicate the temple at Jerusalem. Seleucid rule officially comes to end.

Hasmonean Dynsaty, BCE - BCE

Under Mattathias and Judas Maccabee, the Israelites wrested control of Jerusalem from the Hellenistic kings, thus returning native control of Jerusalem for the first time in 400 years. Sons of Mattathias especially Judas were very successful. Once Judas defeats Seleucid rulers in Juda and wherever he chooses blameless priests (see 1 maccabees). These military Jews had only the greatest care and delicate concern for the temple, the Maccabees were almost priestlike. The biblical authors emphasize this as a purification of the temple.

Maccabean rule is short lived in Jerusalem but this ideal of the sanctity of the temple amidst foreign occupation or rule will persist into the Roman period.

Maccabean rule grew increasingly corrupt and incompetent, thus allowing Rome to exert more and more influence. When infighting erupted in BCE among Maccabean endeavorers for the throne, Rome sent a general named Pompey to exert Roman hegemony on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. Pompey seized Jerusalem in BCE, initiating an era of Roman rule.

Roman Era, BCE - CE

Pompey Takes Jerusalem, BCE

Pompey swaggered into the temple, into the holy of holies, and razed the city walls. From the beginning, the arrival of Romans and direct Roman rule as an extreme offense. However, the Romans needed this otherwise politically unimportant landlocked sub-province as a buffer against the Parthians.

Herod the Great, BCE - BCE

Fearing antagonizing the Jewry and losing the area to opponents, Rome adopted a hands-off approach and placed Herod as King of the Jews in Canaan. They rightly judged that his leadership would please both Roman and Jewish interests. Herod was ab ideal middle-man because he knew Jewish custom well (having grown up near Jerusalem) but was a proved military hero for the Romans. He could navigate between the Romans and the Jews. After his death, Rome struggled to find a suitable replacement.

Following his death, dissatisfaction in Jerusalem with Roman rule grew and from BCE to CE there was a decline in the relationship between local Jews and Roman rulers. Then this culminates in the great Jewish revolt. The Jews begin to revolt against Roman hegemony.

First Great Revolt, BCE - CE

Sources regarding the First Great Revolt include Flavius Josephus who wrote The Jewish War (~ CE) and Antiquities of the Jews (~ CE), and Tacitus' text Histories. These sources reveal that zealous Jewish rebels who were unhappy with Roman authority in Jerusalem were able to inflame unhappiness to instigate a rebellion. The revolt broke out as a result of an idea called Messianism. A messiah was a David king or king-like figure, tying back to II Sam. 7 and the promise to David of an eternal throne in Jerusalem. Josephus and Tacitus' writings reveal that hopes for a Davidic dynasty had not disappeared, and some Jewish groups wanted to revive David and Solomon's kingdom a return to natural sovereignty, a repulsion of the Roman yoke.

Josephus tells us that while you jave people wanting to revive glory days, that some of the blame really comes from Roman governors. Josephus lays a lot of the blame for the outbreak particularly on Florus who took money from the temple treasury — this was the act which the Jews did not just sit by and watch.

A trend continuing in the Roman occupation from the Hellenistic era is that local Jewry were content with the status quo of foreign rule. However, revolt against foreign occupation was galvanized by foreign intrusion upon the temple. This happened with florus and this happened with the kmaccabees as well. This could be considered the immediate cause. Tacitus and Josephus blame Messianism for why Romans took decisive action against the Jewry and ultimately decided to destroy the temple.

Revolt erupted in CE. Rome refuses to maintain the status quo in Roman Palestine and decides to eradicate any capacity for revolt. Vespacian is appointed in CE to take the region under firm control.

Jerusalem Destroyed, CE

Vespacian's son Titus conquers Jerusalem and horrifically sieges the city, wreaking famine and child-eating cannibalism upon the desperate inhabitants. Vespacian succeeds in his siege and conquers Jerusalem, destroying the city and sacking its contents. The booty funded the Flavian Ampitheater, and the MNQWL was erected to commemorate the event. Jews were forbidden from living in Jerusalem, and the fiscus judaicus was enacted, a half-shekel tax to be paid by all Jews to the temple of Jupiter in Rome.

Aelia Capitolina

Aelius Hadrianus became Romane emperor in CE and wanted to transform destroyed Jerusalem into a cosmopolitan city he would call Aelia Capitolina. He would renovate its infrastructure and build a temple to Jupiter.

מרד בר כוכבא‎ Bar Kokhba Revolt

Hadrian's blasphemous plans precipitated the Bar Kochba revolt, which lasted until Simon Bar Koseba was killed in CE amidst an enormous bloodbath whereby Rome exterminated the Jewry. The Jews were thenceforth banned from Jerusalem. The history of Judaism is no longer intertwined with Jerusalem again until the contemporary era; please read directly about Judaism henceforth for a chronicle of the Jews.

Aelia Capitolina, CE - CE

Jerusalem was razed and plowed over, a Roman tradition for founding a new settlement. Aelia was dedicated to Jupito, Juno and Minerva. Hadrian did not build upon the Temple Mount (instead he placed statues there) but he did build a temple to Aphrodite on Golgotha Hill.

Jew-Rome relations improved following the bottom-out of the Bar Kochba Revolt. Rabbinic Judaism now predominated, allowing the faith to persevere without the Temple nor Jerusalem. The home was now the center of the Jewish universe. Interestingly, with Jewish Christians now exiled, gentile Christians came filled the void in Jerusalem.

Byzantine Era: New Jerusalem






Constantine moves capital to Constantinople

Battle of Milvian Bridge


Roman empire splits into east and west, Constantine east and Maxentius west. Cknstantijne moved the capital to Constantinople. Now it is Byzantine. Constantine had this ciknversion experience at the battle of milvian bridge against maxentius. Following his victory there, he allowed Christianity to be a tolerated religion with the empire and perhaps elevated it to be favored, but did not make it the official religion. Roman religions coexisted.

Byzantine Jerusalem


Edict of Milan


Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, an official declaration of tolerance for Christianity. One of his motives was that Christianity and the empire were fragmented.

Council of Nicea


He wants to set out the orthodoxy, the correct teaching, bring together and have Roman Christians be on the same page. This is also very convenient politically. This uniformity helped hm consolidate the roman empire. When he convenes the council, one of his first things is to get people to agree on a bible. Also that Aelia should have an honored place .. Jerusalem is launched inti a new phase as a holy hallowed place associated with the life of Jesus.

Classic image of a New Jerusalem

In revelations is the origin for the Legend of the True Cross. Socrates Scholasticus gives us the Legend of the True Cross. This idea of being cured by cross is the birth of the excavation of holy things associates with Jesus and taking these holy things back to Europe where they will be the basis of many of the legends into the modern each.





Eusebius gives us a vivid description of Constantine's excavations of the western hill, and his efforts to build the hill as a new Jerusalem. What eusebius tried to depict is that Constantine's building activities on the western hill are the fulfillment of the way that the book of revelations describes the new Jerusalem. This ties into the book of revelations' prophecy of a new heruslem with no temple. The church of the resurrection, anastasis -- there was an area called the garden. The are of cavalry where Jesus was crucified was encased. This church is the birth of Christianization of Jerusalem and lots of other churches ensued, The cardo maximus is the main thoroughfare and is where the church of the resurrection was built. The barrenness of the eastern hill, the Christians saw it and could reflect in their correctness and the ruins as evidence of Judaism's falseness.

Justinian the Great


Justinian the Great built the Nea Church, which the 6th century historian Percoipeus describes as the greatest of all churches. It was built on the dimensions given by Ezekiel, thus giving it gravity and placing Justinian in the line of Solomon and Herod, who were known as great kings of Jerusalem.

Muslim Era




Muslims Take Jerusalem

Caliph Umar examined Jerusalem after he took the city in or . He forbade Muslims from praying at the Martyrium where Jesus' crucifixion was commemorated. How could God have allowed one of his greatest prophets to die so disgracefully? Regardless, Umar was determined that Christianity's sites would remain in Christian hands. In fact, he offered protection to all minorities -- Nestorian and Monophysite Christians, Jews, and Samaritans all welcomed Umar's rule. However, this respect for existing holy sites left little space for Muslims to leave their footprint in the city. What was available was the Temple Mount, now a rubbish dump. Umar was horrified to see the filth that the Christians had tossed onto the Temple Mount, and he was forced to crawl on hands and knees to navigate its piles of garbage. He promptly had it cleaned and a flimsy wooden al-Aqsa Mosque was erected on the Eastern Hill.


- ?

Umayyad dynasty is established but is plagued by rebellion until 'Abd al-Malik takes the throne ( - ) and establishes a centralized monarchy built upon the Solomonic, Davidic, theocratic ideal.

Dome of the Rock


Built on the Temple Mount by 'Abd al-Malik.



Jerusalem had fared well under Muslim rule, but around the Fatimids from Egypt took over Jerusalem (replacing the Umayyads from Damascus). This change in dynasties coincided with the rise of a group in Asia Minor called the Seljeuik Turks. If the Fatimids were in Egypt and the Seljeuiks were in Anatolia, then Jerusalem was caught between. We begin to get reports of Christians having a more difficult time getting to Jerusalem without being persecuted or killed in their pilgrimage.

Caliph al-Hakim

al-Hakim orders destruction of all Jewish and Christian houses of prayer, including Holy Sepulcher Church. This is only attested in Christian sources, and blames Eastern Christians for causing its destruction with the Ceremy of the Holy Fire.

Sixty Years War


Byzantine army marching along, seeking to capture Jerusalem. Probably has to do with Canaan being a buffer between empires.

German pilgrims massacred en route to Jerusalem. These two events in and seem to be immediate causes for why Western Christians saw to initiate the Crusades. There was a very direct attack on Christianity.

The Crusades




Pope Urban II's Speech

Pope Urban II issued a speech calling for all Christians to sell their land and make a mass pilgrimage to start living in the Holy Land, which was under Muslim and Eastern Christian jurisdiction. Pope Urban asserted that Christ commanded this, and that those who lost their life en route or in battle would be remitted of their sins. (This was an example of an indulgence -- if the Christians died performing some act, the indulgence granted admission to heaven, a strong incentive.)

Jerusalem Taken

Crusaders take Jerusalem.



One of the most negative eras of Jerusalem, the Crusader era was marked by the savage butchering of Christians, Jews and Muslims by Christians heralding from Western Europe. Since the Crusades were intertwined with Jerusalem, the history of Jerusalem for this era is thoroughly accounted for in the history of the Crusades.

Crusader architecture in Jerusalem was Romanesque, of great simplicity, reflecting their monastic use. It made great use of corinthian columns supporting Roman arches, and their structures had great acoustics; Saint Anne's Church is a stunning example of these acoustics. The Crusaders refurbished the Holy Sepulcher Church (destroyed by fire in ), thus transforming the Western Hill, and built 60-70 churches throughout the Old City and its immediate environ.

Unlike earlier Christians, the Crusaders, particularly the Templars, made the Eastern Hill their own. The Templars were a Crusader military elite, and their etymology is clarified by their choice to use the Eastern Hill as their headquarters. They used al-Aqsa Mosque and also the so-called Solomon's Stables, the area where King Herod had built arches to extend the southern part of the Eastern Hill. Also, the Templars placed a cross on the Dome, calling it Templum Domini.

Ayyubid Jerusalem




Renewed Muslim interest

On the Merits of Jerusalem revitalized Muslim interest in Jerusalem. Collection of sayings attributed to the Prophet. 11th CENT CE - 13th CENT CE. Galvanizes the Muslim community. < Whoever prays in Jerusalem, all his guilt is forgiven him. This culminates in the rise of Saladin from Tikrit, a local military leader, a Kurd, who begins to gather a sizable army to himself in the early 12th CENT and slowly seizes many of the Crusader fortresses.

Horns of Hattin

Saladin defeats Crsuders, takes the True Cross from the Bishop of Akko, capturse Jerusalem. Saladin and his successors the Ayyubids continued to fight, and the Crusaders even take back Jerusalem for two years, but historians like to consider this a decisive battle, the Battle at the Horns of Hattin. Taking the True Cross from the Christian Crusaders was used by both Christian and Muslim sources as the symbol of who really possesses Jerusalem. Even if Christians lose control over Jerusalem, they can still take items and these items are imbued with the power, mystical power, associated with Jerusalem -- it is mobile. The whole issue of the True Cross, and Saladin even gives the Christians the True Cross to retrieve back to Jerusalem, though this may be legend or history, anyhow the True Cross births this issue for Christians that the city may not be always held by Jerusalem but a piece of Jerusalem may be taken along. Relics became highly important. We lost the Crusades, we lost Jerusalem, but we took it with us back to Europe and built churches over the relics.

Ottoman Jerusalem

British Mandate




Balfour Declaration

In , to encourage Arab rebellion against Turkey, Sir Henry McMahon had promised Husain ibn 'Ali, sherif of Mecca, that the holy places would be under sovereign Muslim control. This precipitated the Arab revolt in , led by Husain and aided by Lawrence. Thus the Balfour Declaration came as a shock: His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Armstrong, p 373.

British Take Jerusalem

Governor Djemal Pasha and Mayor Hussein Selim al-Husaini capitulated to the British advance, and General Allenby walked through Jaffa Gate into Jerusalem on 11 December 1917 -- Jerusalem was now under British control.

British Mandate

The British Mandate theoretically ended direct British rule. Britain now oversaw Jerusalem and Palestine via a civilian high commissioner who implemented British policy in the region. The renovation of Jerusalem began, with the implementation of sewage and other modernities. However, tensions tore apart the city.

Peel Plan

The Peel Committee recommended the partition of the country into Jewish and Arab regions, with Jerusalem being an separate area permanently under the British Mandate.

UN Plan

The UN Plan was even more advantageous to the Jews than the Peel Plan, leading to Arab rebellion.

State of Israel

War of 1948

Fighting escalated and the War of 1948 emerged, culminating with Jewish victory and the founding of the State of Israel.

State of Israel Founded,

Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel, and boundaries were established with neighboring nations, with the border known as the Green Line.

Six Day War,

Israel seized the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt.


The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, Third Edition. 2011. Oxford University Press, USA.

Smoak, Jeremy. Class lecture. ANE 10W Jerusalem: Holy City. University of California, Los Angeles. Spring 2011.

Cleath, Lisa. Class discussion. ANE 10W Jerusalem: Holy City. University of California, Los Angeles. Spring 2011.