Jerusalem during the Roman Period

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The ideational and conceptual aspects of the landscape of Jerusalem in particular elucidate the sacred aspects of the city as well as its mythical and symbolic importance. Pilgrimage paths and areas of refuge from the Romans emphasize ‘place’ as well as the relation of the city with rural areas such as the Judean foot hills. The Jewish Temple serves as a major constructed site or center where economic, sacred, and political events took place. In the following essay, I endeavor to apply a holistic interpretation of landscape archaeology to the ancient city of Jerusalem and its surroundings during the Roman period.

Submitted: March 27, 2010

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Submitted: March 27, 2010



The adoption of landscape archaeology as a prominent methodology has been a concern for many scholars in Israel. A number of studies have emphasized the importance of the Roman period (37 BCE – 135 CE) due to the numerous amounts of constructed sites such as temples, fortresses, city walls and main roads of transportation. Identifying the relationship of constructed and conceived aspects of the landscape is of crucial importance to most Israeli archaeologists. The ideational and conceptual aspects of the landscape of Jerusalem in particular elucidate the sacred aspects of the city as well as its mythical and symbolic importance. Pilgrimage paths and areas of refuge from the Romans emphasize ‘place’ as well as the relation of the city with rural areas such as the Judean foot hills. The Jewish Temple serves as a major constructed site or center where economic, sacred, and political events took place. The relation of the center to its surroundings is important in the study of the city. Moving from the city center to the rural periphery usually yields evidence for flood water farming, and the effects of farming and pastoralism on the environment, as well as the impact of Roman colonialism on the terrain. Landmarks such as the hills, mountains, and valleys aid in the description and understanding of the city and its inhabitants. Areas containing resources such as natural springs, silver mines, and salt mines serve as examples for site catchement studies. In the following essay, I will endeavor to apply a holistic interpretation of landscape archaeology to the ancient city of Jerusalem and its surroundings during the Roman period.


Early Jerusalem was spread over three hills. The main hill was Mount Moriah 743 meters above sea level and the site of the Temple. The Eastern hill, also known as the Ophel hill, was flanked on the east by the Kidron valley and on the west by the Tyropoeon Valley. The two valleys flowed into the Hinnon valley to the south part of the Eastern hill. The Southwestern Hill (763 meters above sea level) was flanked on the east by the Central Valley and on the west by the Hinnon valley On the north it was flanked by a shallow valley called the Transversal valley. The valleys provide a security for the hill area through the steep slopes and visibility. (Avigad, Nahman 1976 p. 26)

The highlands of Judea extend about 60 miles from Bethel to Beersheba and have an average elevation of 2,000 to 3,000 feet (Vos, Howard 1983 p. 27). Judea was known for its good soil, especially for fruit trees and vines. Lying west of Jerusalem is the watershed and beyond that begins the Judean Desert. East of the watershed line, Judea is almost completely desert (Vos Howard 1983 p. 27).

Terrain Use

Evidence for small scale agriculture is seen in small farms in the Judean hills a few miles southwest of Jerusalem (Arav, Rami p. 131). Khirbet el Ras, for example, was constructed in the 8th century BC and continued to function in to the Roman and Byzantine periods. The farm is about 4.5 acres in area and is situated on a sloping hill. “The agricultural constellation included a corral area for animals; the size of the enclosure indicated that the number of livestock on the farm could not have exceeded a dozen animals.” (Arav, Rami p. 131) Evidence for a house was found, as well as a wine manufacturing installation. This farm was not seasonal. Evidence for seasonal farming is seen on the western slopes of Samaria. The seasonal farms are larger, about 150 acres. Both farms have wine and oil presses. In the west of Jerusalem in the Soreq Valley, there is evidence of terracing from the Early Bronze Age to the Early Roman period.(Mazar, Amihai p.130) Farms, however, were not only used for fruits and vegetables. One of the main occupations of people in the Second Temple period was also the raising of cattle, sheep, and goats, which were needed for consumption as well as for Temple sacrifices.(Baras, Zvi p. 185) According to Zvi Baras, there was a special market for fattened cattle in Jerusalem. Jerusalem also provided markets for wool, which were used usually by women for weaving. There were many fruits and vegetable gardens around Jerusalem, especially in the north of the city down to the Kidron valley (Avi-Yonah, Michael p.242).

There was extensive agriculture undertaken in the hill country of Judea and at Qumran. According to Josephus, Herod settled people in the Transjordan territory, which was on the eastern edge of his kingdom (Ant 16.5.2). The city of Phasaelis in the lower Jordan valley was the focus of increased agricultural production and large scale development projects (Schafer, Peter p.91). Terrace agriculture, as well as artificial irrigation is seen as early as the 8th century B.C. (Arav, Ramin p. 130). Groves were planted instead of grain crops due to the artificial irrigation, since groves require more water than grain, which is better acclimated to the average rainfall and therefore consumes less water. The vegetables native to the area included :cabbage, beet roots, radishes, turnips, lettuces, horseradishes, lentils, beans and pulses. Other vegetables that were introduced from abroad were : cucumbers, artichokes, asparagus, Egyptian beans, Syptian pumpkins, Greek pumpkins.(Baras, Zvi p. 181) The most common native fruits were pomegranates and figs, grapes, olives, carobs, citrons, plums, cherries, almonds, walnuts, dates, mulberries, apples, pears, quinces, and dates.

Ancient Jerusalem did not lay in the center of a fertile valley nor in the center of vast trade or commerce networks (Arav, Rami p. 71). It was instead situated on the extreme edge of a hilly countryside, with the Judean desert flanking the east side, though it was accessible to caravans from Arabia which led into Palestine. For example, the road to Gaza passed northwards along the Judean lowlands and then into Jerusalem, Lydda and Samaris.(Avi Yonah, Michael p. 201) Furthermore, Jerusalem was set at a road junction with routes leading north to Damascus via Neapolis and Sebaste, west to Jaffa, and south to Hebron.(Avi-Yonah, Michael p. 201) The Romans built a road to Egypt along the entire length of the coast as far as Pelusiam via Gaza to Ascalon, Jamnia, Jaffa, Caesarea and Tyre thus linking Africa, Asia Minor and the Orient. (Avi-Yonah, Michael p. 201) During the Roman period one of the most important roads linking Jerusalem with the sea to the west was the Nahal Menuhot. Massive two-storied towers were usually built along such roads or highways, and were used for observation or garrisoning. (Tzaferis V. p. 86) There is evidence for a tower at Giv’at Shaul, which is on the western outskirts of Jerusalem. The tower started as a Hasmonean fortress and was converted into a Roman tower. As Tzaferis states, “the tower in Giv’at Shaul is no doubt part of a military building program, the purpose of which was to strengthen the network of roads both for defense and for the levying of customs on the roads between Jerusalem and the maritime cities to the west”(Tzaferis V. p.94). Such routes not only helped to keep security but also aided in trade. Herod, for example, attained his wealth thorough the exploitation of the mines in Cyprus, the fortunes of which he shared with the emperor (Levine, Lee p. 189). According to Josephus, salt, pitch, and bitumen were extracted from the Dead Sea and were sold for export as well. (War IV, 481) These raw materials surely traveled on roads such as Nahal Menuhot.


The first Jewish kingdom after the Monarchical period was the Hasmonean dynasty. The Maccabean revolt in 167 BC, led by three brothers, eventually evolved into the rule of the Hasmonean dynasty in 164 BC. The Hasmoneans converted Jerusalem into a political capital and spread its domain to the area called the upper city. The upper city and the western hill became known as Mt. Zion (Arav, Rami p.72). The Hasmoneans ruled over the whole of Palestine, the Golan, and the east bank of the Jordan. Although a strong Jewish state served the interests of Rome as a buffer against the Parthians, when the Hasmoneans suffered internal struggles, the Romans had to step in and take control in 63 BC. The Romans under Pompey killed thousands of Jews, according to Josephus. They preferred to have a client state, and allowed for some of the descendants of the Hasmoneans to gain control of the area. In 40 BC the Parthians invaded Syria, thus threatening the Roman empire. Herod (later known as Herod the Great) approached the Romans and persuaded them to support him. With the aid of the Roman legions Herod was able to secure and conquer all of Judea, thus becoming the King of Judea. The boundaries of the kingdom consisted of today’s Southern Lebanon, most of the TransJordan area, and Idumea. Herod’s kingdom was much larger than the earlier Hasmonean kingdom. Administratively he controlled the provinces of Galilee, Judea and Peraea, which in turn were controlled by governors. He also ruled over the Hellenized cities, such as Caesarea and Samaria which he founded himself. All the cities enjoyed local autonomy but were supervised by the king.

Herod’s place in the Roman empire depended on his governance of the Jews. He married Mariamme ( a Hasmonean princess) so as to gain acceptability as successor to the Judean throne. Once he got power he sought to eliminate every trace of popular discontent over having replaced the Hasmoneans(Sicker, Martin p.78). He disbanded the Sadducean party, which was composed of priests and aristocrats. The Sanhedrin was reconstituted to where it only had restriction over matters of religious affairs and Mosaic Law (Sicker, Martin p. 78). Through this Herod created a divide between religious and secular space. Herod, however, si better known for his monumental architectural achievements. These achievements illustrate the concepts explained by Asmore and Knapp as ‘clearly defined landscapes as well as constructed landscapes that alter the visual character of the landscape (Asmore and Knapp p. 10)


Stabilizing Judea was of crucial importance to Herod. Thus he undertook a monumental building program to further his legitimacy as a worthy national monarch as well as to secure the area to provide for his own security. Outside Palestine he built monuments in 25 cities. Inside Palestine he built in 40 places (Strange, John p. 107). The construction of monuments, water installations, fortress retreats, palaces and entire cities not only served a utilitarian purpose, but also led to his own self aggrandizement and immortality. Herod knew that Judaism and Hellenism needed to arrive at a compromise; otherwise, there would be chaos, and his dynasty would be the first to suffer. Thus, Herod built the temples for the Jews, as well as temples for the Gentiles. The Hellenic cities received temples to the goddess Roma and to Augustus, as well as hippodromes and amphitheaters. Herod “displayed an enthusiasm for adopting Roman architectural and artistic styles, as well as building techniques.”(Levine, L p.81) So important was it to him, that Roman architects and engineers were brought over from Rome to participate in his building programs.

In his steps toward legitimacy and security he refortified monuments such as the fortress at Masada, Hyrcania and the Herodium. He transformed Jerusalem into a Hellenistic or Roman style city. His Temple was based on a basic Roman model : a broad temenos (sanctified area), an artificial podium, several entrances from various directions, porticoes (stoa) on three sides, a basilica on the fourth side and a sanctuary in the center (Levine L. p.64) Herod’s temples outside of Jerusalem incorporated the Roman style of architecture known as the ancient Italian temple syles.(Roller, Duane p.92) A theater was built in the Italian style in Jerusalem.(Roller, Duane p. 93) In Jerusalem Herod rebuilt the city according to the Hippodamian town plan, with streets running east-west and north south (Strange, John p. 109). The main road went from the Temple Mount to the Citadel, where he built his palace. He built a tomb for his family north of the Damascus gate (War 5.108,507) He also fortified the Antonia fortress that overlooked the Temple Mount (Avi Yonah, Michael p. 149) Josephus tells us that:

“He (Herod) restored the existing Sanctuary and round it enclosed an area double the former size, keeping no account of the cost and achieving a magnificence beyond compare. This could be seen particularly in the great colonnades that ran round the entire Temple and the fortress that towered over it to the north. The former were completely new structures, the latter an extremely costly reconstruction, as luxurious as a palace, and named Antonia in honor of Anthony. His own Palace, built in the Upper City, consisted of two very large and very lovely buildings which made even the Sanctuary seem insignificant.”(Josephus War I, 407, 40)

Herod’s massive construction plan depended on access to limestone. Some of the mountains surrounding Jerusalem has been quarried. However, quarries located nearer the Temple mount itself were used, since they were close and, being about 125 feet higher than the Jerusalem center, gravity aided in the transportation.(Ritmeyer, Leen) Herodian masonry is distinguished by designing a flat protruding buss on a perfectly symmetrical ashler.

Herod secured the western part of the city by constructing a palace (known as Herod’s Palace) with its own surrounding wall and three large towers. The towers were named after his brother Phasael, his wife Mariamme, and his friend Hippicus. The towers were connected to the first wall(Hasmonean) which supplied defense for the western part of the city. The area of the towers was the highest elevation of the city. (763 meters asl) Other walls called the 2nd and 3rd walls were constructed by his sons after his death, with the same purpose to secure the city. The walls on the east and west part of the city were created under the Hasmoneans, and were kept in place during the Herodian period. The eastern wall was incorporated into the Temple Mount area. Josephus mentions that the 2nd walls contained 40 towers and the 3rd walls created by Herod Agrippa contained 90 towers. The east and west parts of the city benefited from the natural protection formed by the Kidron and Ginon valleys. The northern areas were areas of easy access with no natural buffers, thus needed to be defended by the creation of the 2nd and 3rd walls.

The Antonia Fortress, named in honor of Herod’s Roman patron Marcus Antonius, was constructed in 31 BC and was the praetorium seat of Roman procurators where criminals were crucified. The Antonia Fortress sat on the northwest corner of the Temple, and when Herod began to restore the temple some 20 years later, he connected the Antonina Fortress to the Temple through the stoa (Roller, Duane 1998 p.175). The Antonina Fortress also contained the sacred vestments of the high priest, thus suggesting to the Jews that the new regime was governing over the high priesthood (Sicker Martin 2001 p.80). Furthermore, Herod transformed the high priesthood form a hereditary office into a political instrument to be manipulated to serve the interest of the the Judean rulers. This attitude was to be continued throughout the Roman period. The Antonia Fortress stood directly over the Temple Mount, with the result that many Jews resented the location of the Fortress and its overseeing significance.

Before Herod’s rule most of Jerusalem’s water supply came mostly from the Arrub springs in the hills south of Bethlehem as well as from the Gihon spring in the Kidron Valley right near the Temple Mount. The Hasmoneans devised an aqueduct system that carried the water from Bethleham to the Temple Mount with a drop in elevation of only 300 ft. Herod not only continued with the aqueduct technology but he also furnished Jerusalem with many pools. To the North of the city was Sheep Pool, Pool of Israel and Strouthion Pool; to the east Birkat Sitte Miryam and to the west, Pool of Mamillah and Hesekiah’s Pool (Strange, John p.110). He repaired the Gihon Spring and Hezekiah tunnel and he built the Siloam and Hamra Pools. He built huge reservoirs south of Bethlehem, and increased the flow of water created by the earlier Hasmonean aqueduct. The plentiful amounts of water to the city allowed for the population to increase to about 75,000 inhabitants (Strange, John p110).

Herod, who called himself the ‘admirer of the Romans,’ tried to gain support from Augustus by building temples in his name as well as by ensuring commercial ties. Trade and commerce with the Roman empire was important for Herod, thus he constructed a magnificent harbor at Stratons’ Tower (Caesarea) which soon replaced Jerusalem as the administrative capital of Judea (Strange, John p. 110). Herod changed the name of the cities to Roman names: Samaria to Sabaste (Greek equivalent of Augustus) and Straton’s Tower to Caeasarea (Sicker, Martin 2001 p. 91). Although he was cautious not to construct any “pagan” buildings in Jerusalem, and to keep figural forms to a minimum, he did construct a large amphitheater near Jerusalem in honor of Augustus’ victory at Actium(Sicker, Martin 2001 p.92) Chariot races and gladiatorial contests were performed there on a large scale and drew people from far across the area. According to Josephus, he even displayed extravagant games in Jerusalem and Caesarea every four years under the king’s patronage, and these games apparently were an imitation of the games that took place in Rome and other provinces.(Levine Lee, Herods Building Projects p.64) Herod knew that the Greco-Roman culture program was deeply offensive to most Jews, thus he made it appear to them that he was “acting under external compulsion.”(Sicker, Martin 2001, p.92) Knowing that he was unpopular to the Jews he decided to gain their support by creating a new and more splendid temple for them.

The most important project of Herod was the reconstruction of the Temple Mount and Temple. The enclosure wall of the Temple not only secured the Temple but also stood as a triumphant architectural work that declared the powers of man over the environment. Josephus described Herod’s retaining wall as “the most prodigious work that was ever heard of by man” ( Antiquities of the Jews 15.11.3) Herod was oblivious to the natural topography of the Temple Mount area, thus he created artificial structures to support what nature could not. In order to obtain a flat surface he surrounded the crest of the hill with immense retaining walls on the west south and east. Thus “ the western wall of the artificial podium was placed beyond the central Tyropean Valley and ran along the eastern slope of the Upper City. To the north, the wall was placed beyond the wadi, along the southern slope of the adjoining hill. The mountain was steep – to extend the Temple podium south, Herodian architects had to construct a mammoth retaining wall at the southeast corner.”(Levine, Lee p. 81). He doubled the size of the previous temple. The Temple was so impressive that most people in the ancient world referred to it as the ‘snowy mountain in the sun’. (fig )

Herod rebuilt the temple in the 18th year of his reign and it took about 18 months to complete the Temple itself, while the stoa and the entrances took even longer. The Gospel of John mentions that it took 46 years to finish the entrance project: “forty and six years was this temple in building..”(John 2 .20) Josephus mentions that in 66AD it was completed.(AJ 15.380). The temple was directed towards the sun and followed the plan of Solomon’s Temple with three principle areas: the portico, the main hall and the holy of holies. The entrance to the Temple was flanked by two marble statues which were called yahin and boaz. Inside the main hall stood a candelabra also known as a menorah. A curtain designed with embroidery of lions and eagles divided the main area from the holy of holies. In the holy of holies there were no furnishings, but a midot which was a flat rock of 3 fingers high. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies on Atonement day. The Temple was restored to a splendor unknown peviously in the ancient world.

Across the Temple on the southern area he built a monumental Stoa that provided a view to the Temple. (Herod himself was not allowed into the Temple, since he was not of the right parentage). There are a series of gates below the Stoa such as the Double gate and Triple gate, along with a staircase and a bridge that linked the Mount with the Upper city.(Ritmeyer, Kathleen and Leen 1989 p. 25) The small shops next to the western and southern walls formed part of the Upper and Lower Markets of the city, as described by Josephus. The archaeological evidence proves the accuracy of Josephus’ description. The discovery of arches of graduated height signify the stairway that lead from the Royal Stoa on the Temple Mount down to the street in the Tyropoeon Valley. From that point one could ascend to the Upper city or descend to the Lower city.(Ritmeyer, K andL p. 29)

Not only would the Temple further Herods legitimacy but it also increased the amount of pilgrims(from the lands of the Diaspora) to the area, thus benefiting those involved in commercial activities(Janin, Hunt 2002 p.51). Major pilgrimages on such holidays as Pesah, Shavout and Sukkot brought in from 300,000 to 500,000 visitors each year (Janin, Hunt p. 53). The population in Jerusalem during the Herodian Period is estimated to have been about 35,000 to 75,000 half of that of Classical Athens, for example(Roller, Duane p.174). A pilgrim entering from the southern Siloam pool entrance would enter the city through the gate and proceed towards the Temple. ( fig ) Entering the areas she/he would see the Upper city which lies on the slope of the western part of the city. The magnificent palaces of the Hasmoneans as well as the wealthy homes built during later periods line the streets of the Upper city. A person traveling from the lower city to the Temple would see the merchants who lined the streets in the Lower city, while the palaces and homes of the inhabitants of the Upper city would be visible as well. (Ritmeyer k, and L p.44) Once he/she entered the stairway and climbed over the archway and into the Stoa they could have a view of both the upper and lower cities. Construction of the Upper City was dense with the houses being built close to one another. The homes were richly ornamented with frescoes, stucco work and mosaic floors, and were equipped with complex bathing facilities, as well as containing luxury items that suggest high standards of living. (Avigad Nahman p. 83) The Upper city was where the wealthy lived and built their homes in the dominant Hellenistic-Roman styles. Nahman mentions that “it is generally assumed that the Jerusalemite nobility was of the Sadducee faction whose members included the Hellenizers; the lower classes tended more to the Pharisee faction, which opposed foreign influences. Thus it can be assumed that the quarter was most likely occupied chiefly by the Sadducees.”(Avigad, Nahman p. 83) The New city on the northern side of the city was completed in 66AD. According to Josephus wood markets, wood stoves, wool shops all were found there. (War 5.8 1, 1331) Since this area was sparsely populated, pilgrims were able to set up camp there. (Levine L. 2002. p338)

Jerusalem today is surrounded by cemeteries, mostly to the north and south but also to the east on the Mount of Olives and west as well. There was a belief that if Jews were not buried in Jerusalem they would eventually reincarnate. Thus, in order to end the cycle of lives or gilgul, one had to be buried in Jerusalem. The customs started among the Jews during the first century BC. The procedure was to gather the bones of the deceased and place them in a kind of repository or ossuary and place them in Jerusalem.(Aviram, Joseph 1985 p.85) This practice disappeared after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Many of the tombs of this period display Hellenistic tendencies, such as those located in the Qidron Valley ( in Jerusalem). Absalom’s tomb for example, is decorated with Ionic columns, a Doric frieze, and an Egyptian cornice. Zecheriah’s tomb located near Absalom’s tomb also displays Hellenistic influences. Josephus mentions that the brother of Herod, Pheroras, was buried in Jerusalem.(War 1.29,4) A tomb discovered in 1892 was identified as the tomb of Herod’s family, and several stone sarcophagi were found. Other tombs associated with king Herod are located to the north of the city in a circular or round building. The type of round building is usually associated with a tomb or maussoleum: thus this type of Roman technique is clearly associated with Herod (Levine, L. p. 208). Other tombs of the period have been found on Mt Scopas, such as the tomb of Nicanor of Alexandria, as well as the Hellenistic - style tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who built her tomb with pyramids a few yards from the city’s third wall.(L. Levine p. 211)

Although Herod was cautious about what he constructed in Jerusalem there is evidence for the usual elements of a Hellenistic –Roman city. There was a theater, with inscriptions honoring Augustus. A bouleuterion, which may have been constructed by his sons was built near the temple. (Roller, Duane p 181). However well Herod was able to balance Roman/Hellenic/Jewish influences, his sons were not. They lacked the qualities of their father, forcing Romans to resume direct control in 6AD. Political authority was then vested in a Procurator who resided in Caesarea.

Discontent with the Romans and in particular with the corruption of the Roman officials (such as taking money from the Herodian Temple) helped spark severe rioting among the Jews(Janin, Hunt p.56). The Romans suppressed a revolt of the Jews in 69 AD and in 70 AD, under the orders of emperor Vespasian, the Tenth Legion (led by Titus) burned and destroyed the Temple and many parts of Jerusalem . The Tenth legion had previously been in Syria where it guarded the border along the Euphrates, but in 68 CE it swept across the Galilee to suppress the Jewish Revolt (Geva, Hillel p. 38). The two major Jewish revolts the 66AD and 167 AD began outside the city, but were focused immediately in Jerusalem (Bartlett, John 2002, p. 74). The evidence suggests that the entire area of the Temple Mount was burned as well as the Upper city; the entire city was destroyed (Geva, Hillel 1987 p.36). The examination of the vast necropolis surrounding the city at the end of the Second Temple period reveals that the Jews no longer inhabited the city after the destruction (Geva, Hillel p.36).

Not only did the destruction of the Temple demonstrate that ‘Judea was captive’(the slogan stamped on the Roman coins of the period) but at the same time that the temple tax was redirected to the temple of Jupiter in Rome (Bartlett, John p. 75). Thus, with the destruction of the Temple, the Jews stopped performing any further sacrifices. Judea became a province of the Roman Empire and was called Provincia Judea, which encompassed most of the coastal cities and the Decapolis cities in the north of the land and east of the Jordan.(Biger, Gideon p.14)

After the Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem became the base of the 10th Roman legion, which basically held guard over the city. The station of the 10th Legion marks the colonization of the city. The legion’s camp stood in the western part of the city most likely in the area of Herod’s palace (Avigad, Nahman p.205). The coastal highway connecting the centers of Roman power in the Orient, Alexandria and Antioch was completed and a second made from Damascus to Sythopolis and Gerasa (Avi Yonah,Michael p.167). To commemorate its defeat of Jerusalem the Tenth Legion erected several triumphal columns. Two of these columns bearing fragmentary dedicatory inscriptions have been found near the Temple Mount (Geva, Hillel p.37). It is assumed that they may have been placed at the entrance of the Temple Mount.

The Roman’s urbanized the cities in their empire. Palestine was subdivided – each area had one major city. Roman cities were supposed to be built in accordance with the principles of urban planning of the time. According to Cassius Dio, the emperor Hadrian visited Jerusalem in 130 (Dio Cassius Historia Romana 69.12.1-2). He decided to rebuild Jerusalem as a Roman colony so as to prevent any further flourishing of political Judaism (Albright, William p. 166). Hadrian admired the ancient Greeks, and wanted to spread Hellenistic values throughout his colonies recreating himself in someway as another Alexander. He named the colony Aelia Capitolina, and the name remained the same up to the Arab period. (Although Aelia Capitolina was important, Caesarea remained the capital). Hadrian imposed a new typical Roman plan on Aelia Capitolina, and his decision to change the landscape follows the definition of Landscape of Transformation where “in any society, individuals will, for their own reasons, locate themselves in different places, hold differing conceptions of the world; the result can be tension, contestation or transformation”(Asmore and Knapp p. 18).

The city was based on the model of a Roman camp which contains 2 axes: the north-south cardo maximus and and east-west decumanus maximus. Aelia Capitolina had two colonnaded streets, one (the cardo) went from the Damascus gate to the Temple Mount, and the other (the decumanus) went from the east municipal to the west part to where the 10th Roman legion stood. The area where the two streets meet is called the insula, and was used as a market place. The insula contained the city’s forum as well as the Temple of Jupiter, although some scholars say that the Temple of Jupiter was installed over the Temple Mount.(Geva Hillel p.36) The insula is thought to be located where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands today (Avigad, Nahman 1980 p. 205). A Temple to Aphrodite was built in the area of the insula. Figurines of images resembling Aphrodite were found at the site. (Geva, Hillel p37) Some scholars argue that the Temple of Jupiter adjoined the temple of Aphrodite.(Asali, K.J. p.92) On the Temple Mount area Hadrian is said to have set up two imperial statues (Geva, Hillel p.37).

Another important find of the Hadrianic period is a keystone on a triple gate under today’s Damascus gate. The inscription states “Colonia Aelia Capitolina”(Avigad, Nahman p. 206). The inscription stood over a triumphal gateway with three entrances which allowed entrance from the north part of the city into the cardo.The entrance was flaked by two towers. Entering the arched gateway in the plaza stood a larger than life statue of Hadrian.(Geva, Hillel p.45) Other remains of the period are the triumphal arch erected by Hadrian to commemorate the suppression of the Jewish revolt, also popularly known as the Ecce Homo arch on the Via Dolorosa, and the Lithostratos pavement (Avigad, Nahman p. 206).

During the Roman period the city was divided into “two distinct areas – the civilian sector in the north and the Roman encampment in the south. The cardo traversed only the civilian area” (Geva, Hillel 1997 p. 45). There is controversy as to whether city walls were erected after the founding of Aelia Capitolina. Geva believes that the walls did not exist since the Jews had been subdued and were not necessary (Geva, Hillel p. 72). Others, however, believe today’s Ottoman walls were based on previous Roman walls.

According to Kathleen Kenyon it seems “that Hadrian’s architects in their search for stone completely stripped a part of the area south of their intended city. The emperor Hadrian literally abolished Jewish Jerusalem with his construction of Aelia Capitolina. Within his city he buried it to level up the site for his regular lay out. Outside it he threw it away in order to use the very rock on which it was built for his own city.”(K. Kenyon 263-264) .

Although Hadrian had dreams of Hellenization for the Jews, when he banned circumcision through the decree which said “it is forbidden to all circumcised persons to enter and to stay within the territory of Aelia Capitolina,” the Jews revolted (Asali, K.J. p.88). This Second Jewish Revolt started in132 and lasted three years. Initially the Judean desert served as a shelter for groups escaping the corruption of Hellenistic cities. Later the desert became the refuge for those who sought freedom from the persecution of the Romans (Arav, Rami p. 144). Ein Feshkha and Ein el Ghuweir, both in Qumran, were isolated enough to provide the needed security.

The Judean foothills were occupied by the rebels and used as refugee areas in both revolts during 70 and 132 (Eshel, Hanan 1997 p. 48). (fig ) More than 300 underground hiding complexes at more than 100 sites were found in the 1980’s. Some of the caves were manmade, and had interconnecting tunnels from cave to cave, demonstrating the strategic planning of defense. In one of the caves near the Dead Sea were found mats with skeletons. The bones demonstrated that the people had died of thirst and starvation. Remains of women and children were found as well, attesting to the fact that many people were involved in the revolt.

The tunnels were used by the rebels in the Judean Shephelah, or foothills, west of the central mountain ridge on which Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron all sit.(Kloner, Amos p. 13) The Shephelah rise east of the coastal plain to an average of 500 to 1000 ft with some points rising to 1500 feet.(Vos, Howard p.25) Kloner goes on to mention that: “ The underground installations from the Second Jewish revolt are unique in that various installations are connected. Sometimes utilizing earlier cavities and sometimes digging new ones, the rebels created cisterns, storage rooms, even meeting rooms with benches; then they connected them with low tunnels and shafts.. or burrows”.( Kloner Amos, p. 13) Most of the underground areas were located over ancient settlements. There were two types of underground complexes. One had a camouflaged entrance which led into several small rooms and usually contained a water cistern. The other complex was larger and seemed to be used as a public refuge, due to the large size of the rooms. A lead weight with the inscription of Shimeon Ben Kosba was found in the cave. Most scholars tie the weight to the hero or leader of the Bar Kokhba revolt - Simeon Bar Kosiba - who is mentioned in the documents from the Dead Sea caves (Kloner Amos p. 16). Bar and ben mean “son” in Aramaic and Hebrew respectively.

Other areas of refuge were near the Herodion in Bethlehem, as well as En-Gedi near the Dead Sea. The cave in Nahal Hever near Ein Gedi supplied evidence of refuge through physical remains such as twenty skeletons as well as personal documents of a fleeing woman called Babata(daughter of Simeon) and her family.(Yadin, Yigael p. 4) The forces of Bar Kohkba were too small to survive and the leader Simeon died at the siege of Bether six miles southwest of Jerusalem.(Wilkinson, John p.88) Thus, the foothills to the east and west of Jerusalem were used and conceived of by the inhabitants as areas of refuge from the Romans.

The rebellious Jews, centered in Judea south of Jerusalem, wanted to liberate Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, and establish Jewish national independence. The idea of national independence feeds off of the passages of independence in Torah. And so the movement accords with Tilley’s linkage of land and narrative: “if stories are linked with regularly repeated spatial practices they become mutually supportive, and when a story becomes sedimented into the landscape, the story and the place dialectically help to construct and reproduce each other.”(Tilley W. p.33)

There is hardly any evidence that the Jews were successful in overtaking Jerusalem. Only a few coins from the Second Jewish Revolt were found in Jerusalem while many were found in the Judean mountains, where the rebel forces were concentrated (Geva, Hilel p. 42). The Romans under the command of Julius Severus, one of Hadrians best generals, set up camp over the caves and impeded any entrance of food or water. Hadrain suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 and after wards decided to destroy the city and banned Jews from settling there. Dio Cassius mentions that “five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and as to those who died by hunger, disease or fire no man could number them. Thus almost the whole of Judea was laid to waste.”(Cassius Dio History 69:12) The pattern of repression and revolt can be viewed through Gidden’s structuration theory where “Structure considered as a set of rules and resources for action is the medium thorugh which action is a produced both enabling and constraining it.”(Tilley p. 19) Thus the Jews did not behave according to the assumed structure or rules and caused a reaction due to their questioning of the authority of the Romans.

Conceived Landscapes:

The Herodian and Roman monuments, coins, and infrastructures were not only reminders of those who held control of Jerusalem at the time, but they were also reminders of what the Jews had lost – Jewish sovereignty. The Jews and their relation to Jerusalem parallels Tilley’s idea of “place” where “The meaning of place is grounded in existential or lived consciousness of it. It follows that the limits of place are grounded in the limits of human consciousness.(Tilley, W. p. 15)The destruction of the Temple, the most holy place for the Jews, was devastating not only in its physical manifestations but in its psychological ones as well. The discontent in the area before the revolt concerned the disparity between the Jewish and Roman world views. Nationalistic and religious motives helped spark the peoples to finally revolt. Some studies also point to the fact that an agrarian crisis could have sparked the revolt, since there had been an increase in population and an exhaustion of the land by the Roman policies, thus leaving no land remaining for the Jews.(Rappaport, Uriel p. 83) Messianic beliefs concerning the return of the Messiah also helped spark the revolts.

Many Jews began to believe that God had punished them. Accoding to Michael Stone, Israel’s suffering from the destruction of the Temple by Titus was thought by the Jews to be a result of sin (Stone, Michael p.198). Parallel responses are seen in the Psalms of Solomon, where after the destruction by Pompey (63 BC) the author asserts that it is due to the result of Israel’s sin: God gave man the Torah, but it was the inability to keep the Torah that led to the destruction of the Temple. However, the author of Ezra “challenges the view that the destruction of Jerusalem was justified because of sins of Israel (3:29-30). Israel’s wickedness is not remotely proportionate to that of the Romans (3:31, 34-36).”(Stone Michael 200) Other beliefs at that time were that there was an order to history, that wickedness would run its course, and finally after history God’s righteousness would prevail. Thus, the heavenly Temple and the heavenly Jerusalem would replace the early ones. (Stone, Michael p.198) In Genesis 15, Jerusalem was revealed to Abraham in the covenant vision before Jerusalem was even created. The Temple thus takes on a cosmic significance, also expressed by the Messianic movements mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The end of the world was coming and the sons of darkness would fight over the sons of light, and light would prevail. The longing for a new Jerusalem and a new Temple became particularly important after the destruction. This is seen in a lyrical lament by Ezra where he meets a mourning women whose only son has died. Ezra then consoles her and compares her suffering with that of Zion, bereft of all her children by the Romans (10:7-8, 20 – 22). Ezra is then consoled by a dream of the new Jerusalem, be it cosmic or reality.

Talmudic literature, however, reveals that the leading early rabbis turned away from accepting the guilt of sin as an explanation for the destruction, and simply believed that the destruction was an incomprehensible disaster before which even God in Heaven was reduced to tears, and that the destruction threw all moral categories into disarray.(Goldenberg, Robert p. 525) It seems obvious that the Jews were distressed with the destruction of the Temple. Jerusalem was the mother city for all Jews in Jerusalem and others in the lands of the Diaspora. The Temple was considered sacred since it was the area where yhvh spoke to his people. Josephus mentions that through the destruction of the Temple the Romans finally were able to rid themselves of the troublesome Jews.(Jos. War 6.329). Furthermore, through the destruction of the temple important rituals were obliterated. For example, the sacrifice of the red heifer was done for purification purposes mentioned in Num 19.2 and in the Misnaic tractate Parah. The priest was to pass in procession over the arched bridge leading from the eastern gate of the Temple to the Mount of Olives. The bridge was designed in this way so that any impurity form the graves that were underneath could not pass through. Afterward taking a ritual bath the priest would slaughter the red heifer, he would then catch the blood of the heifer and sprinkle it seven times toward the Holy of Holies. After he would light the wood and burn the remains of the heifer. The ashes were divided into three portions: one for the Temple Terrace, the second on the Mount of Olives, and the third was shared among the priests to use in their own areas (Ritmeyer, Kathleen 2002 p. 70). Through the destruction of the Temple the Jews were not able to continue with specific rituals that were tied to place.

God, the Temple, and the Torah were important factors in Jewish identity. The Temple represented identity and holy community. Before the First Revolt many landowners in Judea were the wealthier priests, or others who economic activities were tied to the Temple and of the city of Jerusalem.(Schwartz, Seth p. 72) There were also a large class of mediators who could act as legal authorities of the Torah. Once the Revolts began, the land was confiscated and repatriated, and legal experts had to compete with Roman courts. (Schwartz, Seth p. 111)

The turmoil for the Jews is reflected in the book of the Maccabees. The 1st and 2nd books of the Maccabees refer to the revolt against the Seluecids under Antiochus. The Third book of the Maccabees is ascribed to the Roman period (Collins, John p. 124) Although written before the Romans, it provides the Jewish sentiment for the Hellenistic and Roman influences of the area. The authors display their discontent with their situation in the statement (2:28) where the Jews are expected to be reduced to slave conditions in Alexandria.(Collins, John p. 124). This passage is taken by scholars to refer to the poll tax introduced by Augustus in 24/23 BCE. The reduction of status for the Jews is referred to in their non citizen status. The Jews in Jerusalem connected their suffering under Caligula to those in Alexandria. Thus, the Jews looked at themselves at that time as a community, not only in Palestine but in other areas of the Diaspora. It should be remembered that during the time of Philopater , Egyptian and Palestinian Jews were subject to the same sovereign. The Hellenistic reform that preceded the Maccabean revolt was only the climate of a long and gradual process. Thus Jerusalem serves as a landscape of memory as mentioned by Ashmore and Knapp where “landscape is often regarded as the materialization of memory, fixing social and individual histories in space.”(Ashmore and Knapp p. 13)

Studying the constructed monuments of Jerusalem from the Roman and Herodian periods helps us to envision and imagine the surroundings of the Jews. The change in the constructed landscape from the Herodian Period to the Roman period obviously was extreme. Herod was almost an obsessive builder, the Romans were the destroyers as well as builders. But the rebuilding by the Romans was to no extent equal in importance for the Jews as was Herod’s building program. The destruction of the city by the colonizers not only affected the landscape but it also altered the psychological perception of the Jews living under the colonizers as well. The constructed elements served as coercive signifiers as to who controlled the means of power.

Tilley’s landscape study of the transformation of the landscape from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic is similar to the transformation of Jerusalem as a city. In Tilley’s study the Mesolithic sets the stage for the constructed monuments that appear in the Neolithic. Thus, Tilley states that “the experience of the landscape in the Neolithic became mediated and channeled through fixed and permanent architectural form.”(Tilley p.204) In Jerusalem, a parallel situation occurs. The landscape becomes embedded with meaning, due to the presence of the ancestors of the Jews in Jerusalem, for example, Abraham, David, Solomon. The ancestors gave meaning to certain areas, such as the Temple. Thus, the Temple derives its meaning not only out of its present context but due to its connection with the ancestors, and with the past. Thus as Tilley mentions “Landscape perception, now being structured through monuments and relationships between them, became far more focused.” Thus, Jerusalem became the symbolic city for all the Jews in the world due to the presence of the Temple. Finally the Romans want to control the area, and thus they undertake monumental building programs to ensure their legitimacy. Through the renaming and destruction of the city, and the erection of Roman style monuments, the Romans tried to create all together a different city. Thus, as Tiley states the landscape changes its “meaning (which is) now controlled by the imposition of the cultural form of the constructed monument”(Tilley 208) Thus, the constructed landscape provides a view to the conceived and ideational landscapes. In Jerusalem, the Temple is the main constructed landscape of the Jews, while the rest of the monuments built under Herod and Hadrian serve as signifiers of Roman occupation, and their control over Jerusalem.


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-The Babylonian Talmud. 1948 translated by I. Epstein, in Jerusalem Revealed, edit. Yadin Y, Israel Exploration Society Jerusalem (1975)

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