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date: 18 April 2024



  • Avner Ecker


After the Babylonian exile, Jews returned to their city under Cyrus I and rebuilt their temple in Jerusalem in 539 bce. Jerusalem eventually became the only monotheistic centre within the Greco-Roman world. Most Jews regarded their temple as the only temple to Yahweh. Three annual pilgrimages from the entire Mediterranean basin marked the city’s life cycle. The temple grew rich through donations, tithes, and a voluntary tax given by Jews. The city of the Second Temple Period was run according to a set of Jewish religious laws. Antiochus IV attempted to mould it into a Greek-style polis and instigated the Maccabean revolt (167–160 bce). The riches of the temple allured Hellenistic and Roman rulers alike, whereas the unique religious character of Jewish Jerusalem posed continuous political challenges. Indeed, the city was besieged, and the temple occasionally plundered by a succession of Hellenistic and Roman conquerors. Jerusalem and the temple flourished under Herod and his dynasts (Plin. HN 5.70). It was the physical and social setting of New Testament. Titus destroyed it in 70 ce, and the destruction was commemorated in Rome itself (arch of Titus: CIL VI 31211; and in the circus maximus: CIL VI 944). Jerusalem then became the camp of the Legio X Fretensis. In 130 ce Hadrian turned the city into the Colonia Aelia Capitolina, and after the ensuing Bar Kokhba Revolt (132–136 ce) he banned Jews from the city. Helena and Constantine I revived the city as an imperial centre for Christianity by constructing the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (335 ce). Late Antique Jerusalem was a flourishing religious centre until the conquest of Caliph Omar ibn Al-Khattāb in 638 ce.


  • Ancient Geography
  • Christianity
  • Jewish Studies

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