Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Haram area (“Temple Mount”) in Jerusalem: The Origin

I am starting a series of publication about the main sanctuary of Jerusalem, the third top Islamic sanctuary (after Mecca and Medina) — the Haram esh-Sharif. First of all, let's have a look at the walls around the Holy place depicting the most of its centuries-old history of this unique construction. We'll start with the Southern Wall, the shortest (281 m), but the most important in the Muslim tradition.

The statigraphy of different stages how the walls of the Haram esh-Sharif were constructed

Even Charles Warren noticed that a part of the Southern Wall westward from the Double Gate looked less ancient compared to other parts (Warren 1871: 92). In fact, the Southern Wall is 80 or even 85 % a Muslim construction. A few rows of reddish ashlars were built in the period of the Umayyads. Above there are some courses of the same reddish stone blocks of a smaller size (probably from the same quarry); this is a construction of the Mamluks times. More higher there is a courses of the Ottoman period, with small sites of construction works which were carried out in the 20th century.

«The recent excavations at the Southern Wall, carried out by B. Mazar, disclosed signs of five periods of construction, — comments Menashe Harel, an Israeli author. — The lower courses are Herodian, with the characteristic fine dressing, double margin and slightly prominent smooth boss. Next are the large blocks, smoothly dressed, apparently dating to Aelia Capitolina. These are surmounted by smaller, smooth stones, alternating with discs (cross-sections of columns inserted in the wall), which are probably Mameluke. This section is interspersed with small blocks having very prominent bosses and margins, apparently Crusader. The final courses arc of small stones of later periods. The wall at the south-western corner was 37 m high, and the height of the south-eastern wall was 52 m» (2004: 228).

At the Western Wall Harel also notices that «Four courses of smooth blocks (apparently from the time of Aelia Capitolina) are visible above the Herodian courses and the wall is surmounted by seventeen courses of small stones of a much later date» (2004: 244).

We should sort out this identification of cources of different historical periods. Harel probably skipped the cources of the Umayyads in his description. It was a period building boom of the Haram area as well as the palaces nearby. Right over the lowest rows of the original cources, which Harel referred to the Herodian times, he described “big, smoothly dressed blocks”, i.e. a few rows of big reddish ashlars dated to the Roman period. It is undoubtedly a mistake! Many modern archeologists refuse this identification, even those who support the Herodian wall basement of the Haram esh-Sharif.

The south-western corner of the Haram esh-Sharif.
Image from the book of Pierotti (1864 II Plate XXI)

Let's mention one more time that over the rows of big reddish blocks there are the rows of the same reddish blocks, taken from the same quarry, but of a smaller size. Both these constructions are closely connected to each other. The cources that is referred to the Romans by Harel, is actually built in the Umayyads times. As for the smaller reddish ashlars, they are for sure the Mamluks construction, as Harel said.

The big reddish blocks being mistakably referred to the Roman construction, show a perfect example of one ashlar with a Latin inscription which was inserted into the row of the reddish blocks near the Double Gate at the Southern Wall (see: No. 7). How could it happen that a roman ashlar of the statue basement of the Emperor Antoninus Pius got into the wall of the Haram area? It could happen only in case if this ashlar was used for the second time as a construction material taken from the ruins of a Roman city. Thus, it wasn't Roman who built the reddish blocks, it was the builders of the following historic period.

Generally speaking, the vertical “stratigraphy” of the walls’ building stages of the Haram is a subject of an endless discussion starting from 19th century. At one time, Warren dated these courses as follows: «1. The large stones with marginal drafts. Epoch from Solomon to Herod Agrippa. 2. The large plain dressed stones, from Hadrian to Justinian. 3. The medium plain dressed stones, sixth to eighth centuries. 4. The small stones with marginal drafts and projecting faces, ninth to twelfth centuries. 5. Small stones of various description, recent» (1884: 175).

«The heavy protruding boss ashlars on the Eastern Wall north of the seam, usually dated to the Hasmonean period; the magnificent large paneled ashlars of the Herodian extension; the smaller smooth ashlars of the Umayyad reconstruction; the diagonally comb-chiseled Crusader stones; the small stones with a heavy boss of the Middle Ages (Ayyubid to Mamluk periods); the stones with pecked surface and rough margins of Sultan Suleiman’s rebuilding of the city walls; and various repairs of the wall including the extensive renovations using small stones, following the collapse of part of the Eastern Wall in the winter of 1881», — reports Jon Seligman (2007: 38).

In fact, only the date of the lower rows of the wall in the Haram area is questionable, as the complex itself was built in the Umayyads times. But the lower cources has a few rows of well-fitted to each other ashlars dressed in the tradition of the Herodian times. The majority of researchers and archeologists, who transferred the views of Crusaders and Templars to the Haram esh-Sharif, referred this original rows to the Second Temple period and credited he construction to Herod the Great and his successors. It is known that Crusaders declared that the Muslim Haram is the Temple of Solomon or the Jerusalem Temple.

Though a long time ago the Christians had a location of the ancient Templum Salomonis of the current Haram complex, and that was evidenced by the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, Pilgrim Arculf, and succeeding Christian pilgrims.

This location was transferred from the Christians to the Muslims, those who built the Haram esh-Sharif. A Persian poet Nasir Khusraw described Qubbat as-Sakhrah (The Dome of the Rock) in his book “Safarnama” and noted that «Solomon, upon him be peace! seeing that the rock (of the Sakhrah) was the Qiblah point, built a Mosque round about the rock, whereby the rock stood in the midst of the Mosque» (Safarnama, p. 71). And he also commented the Al-Aqsa Mosque, «It is said, however, that the building was accomplished by Solomon, the son of David, peace be upon him!» (p. 76). Though the Muslim readers of Nasir Khusraw did not perceive this Mosque as the ancient Jewish Temple of Solomon described in the Bible, the name of Solomon itself (in Islam: Suleiman the prophet) was associated with Qubbat as-Sakhrah and Al-Aqsa built by the Umayyads, and thus gave grounds for the Crusaders to treat these dictums as a reference to Templum Salomonis.

The Christians had a location of the ancient Templum Salomonis of the current Haram area. The 19th-century lithograph depicts Haram esh-Sharif and follows the inscription: Temple of Solomon.

The tradition to connect the construction of the Muslim sanctuary Bayt al-Maqdis with the name of Solomon is quite common in Islam, as we can see from the essays of al-Maqdisi, Mujir al-Din and other authors.

The first Jewish author who directly associated the platform of the Haram esh-Sharif with the ancient Jewish Temple, was Benjamin of Tudela. It's worth noting that he visited Jerusalem in the time of Crusaders and commented the following, «The gate of Jehoshaphat, facing our ancient Temple, now called Templum Domini. Upon the site of the sanctuary Omar ben al-Khatab erected an edifice with a very large and magnificent cupola» (Itinerary 1907: 36). This is how the current traditional Jewish location of the Herodian Temple was transferred from the Crusaders to the Jewish. Templum Domini, i.e. The Temple of the Lord, was the name given by the Templars to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which they previously modified. But in this case it was de facto the Templum Salomonis modified into Qubbat as-Sakhrah.

Thought Christians associated the platform of the Haram esh-Sharif with the biblical Mount Moriah a long time ago, the present common used term “Temple Mount” (another version is “Temple Hill”) gained widespread only in the Modern times. The Israeli authors J. Patricih and M. Edelcopp claim that the modern Hebrew analogue of Har ha-Bayit (הַר הַבַּיִת‏) was already used in the literature of the Second Temple period (2013: 322). But there is no such name in the Bible. Har ha-Moriah (הַר הַמּוֹרִיָּה) is in 2 Chron 3:1; in Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1, 2 Chron 33:15 there is used an expression Har Bayit YHWH (הַר בֵּית־יְהוָה “the mountain of the Lord's house”), but it doesn't mean the same as Har ha-Bayit. As for 1 Maccabees, which Patrich and Edelcopp refer to, the Hebrew original text of this book is lost, but in the Greek translation there is τó óρος τοῦ ἱερόυ (“the mountain of the Sanctuary”) (16:20). It's quite difficult to notice the roots of the current term “Temple Mount” in this notation.

The notation “Tempelberg”, “Tempelberg Moriah” appeared in the German descriptions of Jerusalem of 15–16th centuries (Von dem untrenlichen 1512: 18; Reißner 1565: 34; Rauwolf 1582: 331). This notation has gradually transferred from German literature into English texts. In 1693 John Ray wrote “Temple of Moria” (1693: 297), “the Temple Mount” (1693: 289, 312), “the Temple hill” (1693: 365). Later this term was widespread through the whole Europe, and was taken by the local Jews as the Hebrew adaptation Har ha-Bayit.

We do not use the notion “Temple Mount” commonly used in the Christian and Jewish literature. First, it is not proved historically, second, it is incorrect and even provocative towards the Muslims. In the meantime from the 7th century the official notion of the Muslim Sanctuary is the Haram esh-Sharif (“the Noble Sanctuary”). That's why such notions as the Haram area or just the Haram are acceptable and correct. Another historical notion which is used in Islamic resources is Bayt al-Maqdis or Bayt al-Muqaddas (“House of the Holy”).

It runs in the commanding nowadays archeological school which inherited the views of Templars, to admire with gigantic size of the Herod construction, as it excelled even the Roman constructions of further centuries. The authors of this school don't notice that they are stepping on the sharp rakes: «The new compound extended beyond the topographical borders of Mount Moriah and, in fact, doubled the area of the Temple Mount, creating a ca. 14 ha enclosure. The compound is trapezoid in shape and the lengths of its sides are ca. 485 m in the west, ca. 315 m in the north, ca. 470 m in the east and ca. 280 m in the south. This compound was massive even in comparison with other well-known, large temenoi in the Classical world, such as the Temple of Bel in Palmyra or the Temple of Jupiter in Damascus» (Peleg-Barkat 2017: 26; Bahat 1999: 43–45; Patrich and Edelcopp 2013: 344, 350). Such unstoppable glorification of amazing “architecture innovations” of the local ruler of the Ancient Judaea can cause big doubts: Isn't Herod taken the credits of others?

Comparative dimensions of the Haram esh-Sharif platform 
and the largest structures of Herod the Great

Let's suppose the opposite and agree that the lower rows of the walls of the Haram esh-Sharif belong to builders of Herod the Great. These rows were saved (partly at a significant height!) after the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 year AD. According to sources (Cassius Dio, Pilgrim of Bordeaux, Saint Jerome, etc.), the Roman Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus was located on the territory of the present Haram area. Wasn't that logic for Roman builders to use quite solid Herodian basement while erecting their Sanctuary? As the Umayyads did when they were building their Haram. And here goes the question: Why don't we observe a roman layer in the wall of the Haram esh-Sharif while the сources of the subsequent periods are seen perfectly? (A mistaken identification of Harel is not counted). Why don't the walls have Roman rows at times of Aelia Capitolina whereas Romans were first class builders and created exceptionally solid constructions in all Mediterranean cities?

The answer is following: the Roman rows are observable, but we identify it in the wrong way.

Herodian ashlars of secondary use

The matter is that these Herodian ashlars are of secondary use. The Roman builders took them from different debris including the round of Herod Temple and used these well dressed blocks as a ready construction material. That is why the original сource of the walls of the current Holy Complex is dated to the Roman period, when the colony Aelia Capitolina was built on the ruins of the old Jewish city, and the Jupiter Sanctuary was erected in the place of the future Haram esh-Sharif.

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote in “Demonstratio Evangelica”, «And it is sad for the eyes to see stones from the Temple itself, and from its ancient sanctuary and Holy place, used for the building of idol temples (ειδώλων τεμένη), and of theatres for the populace» (VIII 3; PG 22: 636). Eusebuis himself visited Aelia Capitolina many times and was a direct eyewitness. Present-day researchers say the same thing: «The reuse of Herodian-style ashlars is a hallmark of the monumental architecture of Aelia Capitolina» (Magness 2000: 333; cf. Bahat 1990: 66).

And during the following times the Herodian ashlars still were the convenient construction material. Romans and Byzantines, later the Umayyads, Mamluks and even Ottomans willingly used them in their construction. We see the typical Herodian blocks in the basement of the Damascus Gate, the Alexander's Court, in the walls of the Umayyads’ palaces in Ophel, in the сources of the Old City Wall built in times of Suleiman the Magnificent, and also in other places. In general, researchers notice that ashlars, mouldings, column caps, and other elements of Herodian architecture were widely used by builders of the further centuries (Mazar 1972: 74; Peleg-Barkat 2017: 29–31, 39–42, 53, 58, 77, 80–85, 89, 111, 156, 159).

The south-western corner of the Haram esh-Sharif. 
The rows of different historical periods is shown

The presence of the Herodian ashlars in one or another construction doesn't testify that this construction was built intakes of Herod. This false reference formed a statement, which is being repeated since the Templars' times, that the walls of the Haram esh-Sharif were erected on the wall basement of the Second Temple built in times of Herod the Great. The dimensions of all esplanade (144,000 sq m) were the Herodian ones (Bahat 1990: 42–43; Reidinger 2004: 3, 14; Murphy-O'Connor 2008, 88; Patrich and Edelcopp 2013: 344). This opinion got established even in the respected Encyclopedia of Islam: «Although much repaired and restored by the Romans, throughout the Middle Ages, and in the modern period, this platform can be assumed to have been a Herodian creation for the Jewish Temple» (Grabar, EI 1971 T. 3: 176).

But this statement doesn't meet the guidance of historical resources which describe the dimensions of the Second Temple. Flavius Josephus, who eye witnessed the Herodian construction, notices that length of each covered gallery around the Temple's platform, was 1 stadion; whereas the whole construction was in the form of a square 185 х 185 m (Antiquities, XV 11/3 [400]). Thus, the Herod's Temple took ¼ or even 1/5 of the esplanade of the Haram esh-Sharif: 8,3 acres out of 36 acres (Martin 2000: 457).

In “The Jewish War” Flavius Josephus describes the Jewish Sanctuary as «a foursquare with a special wall around» (War, V 5.2 [195]. The Greek word τετράγωνος means “a foursquare” as well as “a square”. This is how “The Book of Revelation” describes the future heaven Jerusalem, «The city lies foursquare, and its length equals to its width» (Revel. 21:16). The future Jewish Temple is described as a square structure in The Book of Ezekiel (42:20). It is obvious that the same length for all four outside walls of the Temple was principal for ancient Jews. It means that modern reconstructions of the Herod Temple which represent it as a nonequilateral foursquare or as a trapezoid, violate the principle followed by the ancient Jews.

Sometimes the words of Flavius Josephus are cited, describing the last days of Jerusalem siege in 70 year AD, «For the Jews, by demolishing the tower of Antonia, had made their Temple foursquare (τετράγωνον), while at the same time they had it written in their sacred oracles, “That then should their city be taken, as well as their Holy House, when once their Temple should become foursquare”» (War, VI 5.4 [311]). It was this testimony of Josephus which proves that the Herod's Temple was square till its last days.

The map of Jerusalem by Titus Tobler (1861)

The map of Jerusalem by Titus Tobler (1861) depicts the ancient Jewish Temple as a small square taking 1/5 of the platform of the Haram esh-Sharif. The Swiss researcher placed it in the south-western corner of the Haram area. Whereas the correlation of sizes of the Temple and Antonia Fortress matches the description of Flavius Josephus. It's not a coincidence that in his book Tobler calculates the sizes of these constructions in stadions (1859: 639). Southwards from the Temple the researcher depicted the Temple of Solomon, and this depiction turned out to be almost oracular: a century later archeologists really found a palace on this place, but not of Solomon, but of the Umayyads.

Other maps of 16–19th centuries where the Herod's Temple is depicted as a relatively small square construction: 1580; 17th century; 1660; Calmet; 1740; 18th century; 18th century; 18th century; Coccjus; 19th century.

The сonstruction of the Temple of Jupiter in the place of ancient Jewish Temple

Cassius Dio says that the Emperor Hadrian built a new the Temple of Jupiter in the place (ἐς τόπον) of the destroyed Temple of the Jewish God (The Roman History, LXIX 12.1). Scientific literature has a few trials to doubt the authenticity of this statement by Cassuis Dio, but recently Hillel Newman proved it to be quite authentic. «We may reasonably conclude that the Capitolium of Aelia Capitolina was indeed found on the Temple Mount, though we cannot say with certainty precisely where it stood» — the researcher concluded (Newman 2014: 39).

Joannes Zonaras, an epitomist of 12th century, transferred the statement of Cassius Dio as follows, «where previously the Temple of the God had stood, another temenos precinct was dedicated instead to Jupiter» (PG 134: 996). In this case he says about temenos of Jupiter (τῷ Διὶ τέμενος), a holy territory around the Temple enclosured with a wall. How big are the dimensions of this territory? In our opinion, in the wake of Roman construction the former Mount Moriah and the ruins of the Herod Temple appeared to be inside of a spacious platform of a new Sanctuary, which excelled the dimensions of the Jewish Temple by several times. Obviously, the structure which adjoined the former Temple, were included into a new construction, such as Antonia Fortress and Seleucid Acra.

This was the creation of the Hadrian's builders among other the largest construction of the Emperor time, which anyway excelled in the dimensions the Temple of Claudius in Rome (200 x 180 m), the Temple complex in Baalbek (282 x 180 m), the Temple of Jupiter in Damascus (305 x 385 m), the Thermae of Antonius Pius in Carthage (245 x 92 m) and finally, Caesareum in Cyrene (95 x 82 m) also built in times of Hadrian. The large-scale construction in Aelia Capitolina was started because of the highest importance of this Roman colony, established in the place of defeated hostile city after a hardest and bloodshed battle which had no comparison in terms of its importance and duration, as Cassuis Dio said. An exemplary Roman colony in the place of the destroyed Jerusalem should become an unconquerable outpost of the Empire on the East and at the same time a window case of the Western greatness and magnificence.

A coin from Aelia Capitolina in times of Hadrian. On the reverse there is Jupiter sitting in the temple between Minerva on his right, and Juno on his left. It was a Capitoline triad of deities. 

A roman coin dated back to the Hadrian times. The reverse of the coin depicts the Temple of Jupiter with ten columns on the façade. Much the same temple was built in Aelia Capitolina.

A roman coin dated back to the Hadrian times. The reverse of the coin depicts an equestrian figure of the Emperor. Much the same figure was in the Jupiter complex in Aelia Capitolina.

Jewish sources negatively show the deeds of “Hadrian the wicked” who vainly tried to build his Sanctuary in the place of the Jewish Temple, «And we heard that in the days of Hadrian the wicked, God made a sign when he was building the temple to place an image in the temple, and the building fell. And they returned and built it a second time and when they brought the image into the temple, it fell again. And they built it a third time and it fell after its completion» (Sahl b. Masliah, Book of Precepts).

Thus the Jewish tradition sublimated the tragic dates for Jewish since the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt. At that time by the edict of Emperor Hadrian the Jews were exiled from Jerusalem and from all Judaea. The newly formed colony of Aelia Capitolina was inhabited only by Greeks and Romans, during a few centuries the Jews were deprived of the possibility to come closer to their sanctuaries. A big number of Latin and Greek inscriptions dated to Roman period, and absence of the Jewish or Arameic inscriptions testifies that the city was pretty much Hellenized and even Romanized (Weksler-Bdolah 2019: 201).

The Roman camp-fortress preceded to the Temple complex of Jupiter

It is noticed that the Haram esh-Sharif with its form and sizes is similar to the military camp-fortresses spread throughout the Roman Empire from Spain to Parthia. For example, the Roman camp Resafa-Sergiupolis with space for a legion (5–6 thousand of soldiers) occupies 40 acres or 210 000 sq.m. This trapezoid (552 x 414 x 535 x 348 m) is enclosed with massive walls with towers made of huge stone blocks. Originally, the fortress had four gates, one gate on each side. Approximately, in the middle of the structure there was a praetorium later turned into a Byzantine church. The Roman camp in Resafa is dated 1th century AD.

Aerial photo of Haram al-Sharif and the Roman fortress of Resafa-Sergiupolis

In the northern Africa, Numidia province, the camp-fortress Lambaesis, the headquarters of Legio III Augusta was found in times of Hadrian, three years before Aelia Capitolina was established. In the plan it is a regular foursquare (480 x 450 m, 53 acres), facing the cardinal points quite the same as the Platform of the Haram esh-Sharif. Lambaesis camp had four gates, from the main gate in the northern wall the road or via praetoria lead to the central building usually called principia or praetorium. Later a city raised around the camp, which had a status of an Emperor colony.

The plan of Lambaesis camp (Numidia)

On the premises of the Roman camps there were religious constructions apart from military and administrative ones. In Timgad within the camp there were Temples of Mercury and goddess Ceres. In the Syrian Resafa-Sergiupolis there were also temples of Roman deities, later transformed into Christian churches. Diocletian's Palace in Split arranged as a camp-fortress had the Temples of Jupiter, Venus and Cybele. The buildings relating to the Emperor cult were also located in the camps. The Temple of Emperor Claudius took an honorable place in Camulodunum.

According to different sources and archeological data, it's known that the Romans set a camp called Legio X Fretensis on the place of Jerusalem destroyed in 70 year AD. 60 years later, at times of Hadrian, the builders of Aelia Capitolina being soldiers and successors of legionnaires and vicus population, closely connected with Tenth Legion, based the construction of the Temple of Jupiter on plans and dimensions of the Roman camp-fortress. It's important to note that for a long time the temenos walls of Jupiter were the only walls in Aelia Capitolina. In case of approaching enemies the fortified Sanctuary was the only asylum for the population of the Roman colony. That is why the construction of the Temple of Jupiter in the form of a Roman castra was quite justified from the military point of view.

What's more, it's quite obvious that this large construction with area of 36 acres with high massive walls originally was a Roman camp-fortress indeed. And only afterwards as Aelia Capitolina and its civilian population were growing, this military camp started to turn into a strictly religious complex. In 3 century AD the complex was named the temple or temenos of Jupiter, the way Cassuis Dio and Zonaras called it.

It is telling that because of the Temple Mount Sifting Project for the Haram esh-Sharif along with artefacts of different historical periods there are enough artefacts relating to the Roman period, including jewelry, dice, clay figurines and several roof tile fragments with impressions of the Tenth Legion (Adler 2011: 319; Barkay and Dvira 2016: 54). Thus the presence of Roman soldiers in the territory that is now the Muslim Haram — is an ascertained fact. On the upper border of one of the Herodian Ashlars of the Western Wall there is a short Latin inscription ...DOMITHFIRMI — “Centuria of Domitius Firmus”. Researchers think this inscription means a place designated for the military group under the command of Domitius Firmus (Di Segni 2011: 347–348).

Stamps impressions of the Legio X Fretensis (LXF) found during excavations in Jerusalem

For a long time archeologists were searching the remains of the Roman camp in the western part of the Old City, in the Armenian and Christian quarters. They were guided by the direction of Flavius Josephus that the portion of the wall enclosing the city on the west served for the camp establishment (στρατόπεδον) (War, VII 1.1 [1–2]). But none of these efforts to find a Roman fortress in this place were successful. They came to a conclusion that «no archaeological remains have been attributed with certainty to the military camp and its site has not yet been identified» (Weksler-Bdolah 2019: 21–22), «But there was never any organized and planned Roman military camp with a wall around it in Jerusalem» (Geva 1997: 8), «Clearly, the finds discovered thus far do not match expectations. H. Geva concluded that a legionary camp did not exist here in the traditional sense. More likely, there was only a vexillatio in Jerusalem» (Bieberstein 2007: 137).

Recently the views were updated and a new searching direction was presented. B. Isaac in 1990 suggested, the military camp might have been on the Haram area or in the northern part of the city, where no excavations had yet been carried out. At Palmyra and Luxor, he added, the Roman army established a military headquarters in a former sanctuary (Isaac 1990: 427; Weksler-Bdolah 2019: 23–24). The modern researchers suppose that Aelia Capitolina was divided into two parts: a military one, located on “the Temple Mount”, and a civilian one, located westward from “the mont”. An Israeli archeologist Eilat Mazar developped a hypothesis that starting from 70 year AD the military camp of the Tenth Legion was by half located on “the Temple Mount” in its south-eastern part, and by half – westwards from the platform of Haram esh-Sharif. As a result of the excavations carried out from 1968 to 1978 at the foot of the south-western corner of the Haram area, Mazar and her team discovered remains of the camp wall, a big bathhouse and a bakery, which served the needs of legionnaires, and also numerous artefacts related to the Roman period (Mazar 2002: 66–68; Skupińska-Lovset 2016: 76; Janczewski 2016: 151; Weksler-Bdolah 2019: 23).

E. Mazar says the following: «In summary, the finds from B. Mazar's excavations presented here point to a settlement pattern in Late Roman Jerusalem that differs from the commonly accepted view in proposing two stages for the Tenth Legion's stay in the city. In the second stage, with the rising threat of Jewish rebellion, the legionary camp was moved to the Temple Mount enclosure and the area at the foot of its southwestern corner. This development was part of the renewed planning of Jerusalem as a Roman city during the reign of Hadrian» (Mazar 2011: 7).

We can agree with E. Mazar's hypothesis, but with one substantive clarification, that the military camp of the Tenth Legion and the military part of the colony Aelia Capitolina took not a “some part” of the current territory of the Haram esh-Sharif, but the whole platform, in accordance with regular dimensions of Roman military camps. However, as we see, the formation of the military camp, and later the Temple complex of Jupiter Capitolinus was happening in a few stages.

Three stages of formation of the Temple complex of Jupiter in Aelia Capitolina

During the first stage in 70−131 years AD there was a foursquare military camp Legio X Fretensis in the territory of the current Haram, which included regular military warehouses, maintenance buildings, bathhouses and soldier barracks. Approximately in the center of the camp on the pedestal there was a principia or praetorium. It was an octagon building which supposedly was located in the place of the current Qubbat as-Sakhrah, where solid rock is still breaking the surface.

Of course, the legionnaires held religious ceremonies and even erected the statues of deities in the camp. A Syrian religious writer Dionysius Bar-Salibi commented the following, «On this Hippolytus says... Now Vespasian did not set up in the Temple an idol, but that Legion which Trajanus Quintus placed, a chief man of the Romans: he set up the idol there which is called Kôre» (Ms. Rich. 7185). This means the ceremony of the Greek goddess Kore-Persephone which was exercised in the territory of the former Jewish Temple followed with a reference to the times of Emperor Trajan (Friedheim 2007: 127). For a time Ch. Clermont-Ganneau considered the word Kôre distorted in the Syrian adaptation of the word Κάισαρος, i.e. “Caesar”, and he supposed that it was about the image and statue of the Emperor (1903: 492).

Camp of Tenth Legion, 70–131 AD

Why did the Romans decide to establish their camp-fortress in this very place? The fortification advantages of this area were of high priority. As a rule, permanent camps of the Roman army were preferably established in sites having topographic and strategic advantages. The same goes for the destroyed in 70 year north-western area of Jerusalem — together with the ruins of the Jewish Temple it was most advantageous in terms of fortification. Its eastern side was a steep slope to the Kidron Valley; southern side had the same slope to the Hinnom Valley; western side was with a slope to the Tyropoeon Valley. The northern side could be fortified with a high and solid wall. However, this rocky area wasn't as wide to hold the whole Legion. That's why the camp builders had to build a wide platform with high corners. Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah, who by default places the camp of the Tenth Legion in the Armenian quarter, however, notices that the Romans had a good strategic control over the district from the top of the Temple complex, especially eastwards (2019: 37).

The original dimensions of the camp of the Tenth Legion in the territory of the current Haram were about 350 x 280 m. The Roman fortresses besides the mentioned Lambaesis and Resafa-Sergiupolis are quite similar in terms of dimensions and interior, such as Timgad (380 x 330 m), Bosra (420 x 370 m), Potaissa (500 x 350 m), Petavonium (250 x 200 m). It was the most popular type of a Roman castra.

The second stage (131–161 years AD) lasted since the Roman colony was established at times of Emperor Hadrian and till the end of Antoninus Pius. The camp-fortress was fortified in accordance with the status and strategic role of Aelia Capitolina; the camp was obviously extended to the south (the so-called “seam” on the Eastern Wall of the Haram esh-Sharif not far away from the south-eastern corner testifies that). Also the camp might have been extended to the north. Actually the construction works were carried out almost unstoppably since the camp was formed. The status of the Roman colony gave a new impulse to these works and made them more large-scale. As a result, there was build a trapezoid with dimensions of 488 x 315 x 470 x 281 m (144, 000 sq.m.).

During this stage a foursquare the Tepmle of Jupiter was built in the southern part of the fortress (supposedly on the spot of the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which was depicted on the coins since the Hadrian ruling. An equestrian statue of Hadrian Emperor is set in front of the Tepmle (probably in the place of the al-Qas fountain). The Pilgrim of Bordeaux and Saint Jerome saw this statue in 4th century AD. Later in the territory of the camp there was established a statue in honor of Antonius Pius. The Pilgrim of Bordeaux also mentioned it. It's hard to tell where exactly the statue was, but its presence is proved by the Latin inscription on one of the ashlars in the south wall of the Haram esh-Sharif. Some people even think that the statues of both Emperors were located not outside, but insie the Temple of Jupiter.

Temple complex of Aelia Capitolina, 131–286 AD

Remember the message of Cassuis Dio that Emperor Hadrian built a new the Temple of Jupiter in the place (ές τόπον) of the destroyed Temple of the Lord. No doubt, that Hadrian and citizens of Aelia Capitolina knew the place of the Jewish Temple which had been destroyed 60 years earlier. Of course, the builders of the camp-fortress wereguided not only by fortification and other ideas, but also by ideology. The construction of the Roman Temple in the place of the defeated hostile sanctuary was a symbol of victory of all-imperial religion over “barbaric superstition” as Judaism was considered. In Carthage the Roman Capitolium was also built on the ruins of the Punic Temple.

Finally, during the third stage (161–286 years AD) religious functions of the buildings prevailed military ones, and the camp-fortress was gradually transformed into Capitolium or the Temple complex of Jupiter Capitolinus. Probably, after a while the octagon principia lost its military functions and was transformed into a Temple of one of the most important Roman goddesses, — it might be Minerva or Venus. It's curious that Astarte goddess is an Asian analogue of Venus, and the holy symbol of hers was an eight-pointed star.

As earlier, there were gates and entrances to this Complex in all four walls. You can localize at least three entrances. The entrance from the north side was located in the place of the current Gate of Darkness, from where via praetoria was leading to principia. The entrance from the southern side coincides with the Double Gate of the Haram esh-Sharif. As for the two left, we definitely can talk about the western one which coincided with the current Chain Gate and so called Wilson's Arch. As some archeologists think, the Arch cuts the Western Wall, with the stones of the latter adapted to fit the Arch, in order to repair the west-to-east bridge, as part of the Roman construction of the Decumanus Maximus of Aelia Capitolina, which led to the Temple of Jupiter that was erected on the Haram area (Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2019: 240).

The west-to-east bridge, as part of the Roman construction
of the Decumanus Maximus of Aelia Capitolina

However, soldier barracks, maintenance buildings were likely in the premises of Capitolium up to 286 year AD, when at Emperor Diocletian times, the Tenth Legion was moved to Aela. At that time, as the researchers think a city wall enclosing the housing quarters of Aelia Capitolina was built (Bieberstein 2007: 147; Janczewski 2016: 67).

In 333 year the Pilgrim of Bordeaux didn't find any traces of the Tenth Legion presence in the territory of the Temple. He described the premises of the current Haram, though it is not clear whether the Roman Sanctuary continued to function at that time. The inscription «In aede ipsa, ubi Templum fuit, quem Salomon aedificauit — The building, where stood the temple which Solomon built» (p. 591) probably means the octagon building, to be precise, its ruins in the middle of the area. The notation Salomon palatium (p. 590) can be considered as the remains of the Temple of Jupiter in the southern part of the territory. And later the Christians pointed two these buildings in the Haram esh-Sharif, «Mount Moriah, which was a rock, seems to have been chiefly taken up by the Temple, and Solomon's house to the south of it» (Pococke 1745, II 14).

Unlike Newman (2014: 38) we think that the Pilgrim of Bordeaux made quite a detailed description of the former Roman Sanctuary, though he didn't call it “Roman”. And here goes the question: could the Gallic Christian Pilgrim take ordinary Roman temples for Biblical structures? Yes, he could, in case by that time the Christians got the tradition to interpret different constructions on the Temple platform in this way.

The statue of Hadrian Emperor continued to stand till the end of 4th century. By that time the Christian tradition had linked this statue with the place of the ancient Jewish Temple, and Saint Jerome commented this, «the equestrian statue of Hadrian, which stands to the present day in the very location of the Holy of Holies» (Comm. on Matthew, 24:15; PL 26: 177). Later he wrote, «Where once was the Temple and the reverence of God, there is a statue of Hadrian, and an idol of Jupiter has been erected» (Comm. on Isaiah, 2:9; PL 24: 49). The words “idol of Jupiter” (Jovis idolam) likely relate to the Temple of Jupiter which was still standing in the southern part of the Capitolium.


In Byzantine Aelia the Roman sanctuary after having turned into a “pagan temple” was left and abandoned. Eutychius of Alexandria expressly tells us that — «when Helena, the mother of Constantine, had built churches at Jerusalem, the site of the Rock (i.e. the Octagonal Temple, which later became Muslim the Dome of the Rock) and its neighbourhood had been laid waste, and so left. But the Christians heaped dirt on the Rock so that there was a large dunghill over it» (Annales, p. 189–190).

It is strange that the Christian Pilgrim from a faraway Burdigala-Bordeaux actually paid attention to this place. The Pilgrim Egeria who visited Jerusalem at the same time didn't cover the Haram in her description at all. The same about the Pilgrim Pavla, she skipped this place when describing the voyage of the Saint Jerome. In general, Byzantine Christians didn't feel anything sacred towards the Haram platform, though they ran some maintenance structures there. This confirms by Cyril of Jerusalem, “the place [of the former Temple] is now given over to the growing of cucumbers (σικυηλάτων)” (Catechetical Lectures, 16: 18; PG 33: 944), and by Eusebius of Caesarea “is a Roman farm like the rest of the country, yea, with my own eyes I have seen the bulls plowing there, and the sacred site sown with seed” (Demonstratio Evangelica, VIII 3; PG 22: 636)

It's noteworthy, that on the Madaba mosaic map (6th century) we see an extremely small place given to the former temenos of Jupiter. There are just one or two structures in this place on the map. In the meantime the Haram area then and now takes ¼ of the Old City and is still most significant building in Jerusalem.

The walls of the Roman Capitolium made of Herodian ashlars, were gradually taken to pieces and used as a construction material, but for Byzantine constructions (for example, for the Nea church, built in times of Emperor Justinian I on the southern part of the City). By 638 year when the Muslims came, the Western Wall had been taken to pieces and ruined almost by half, the Southern Wall – ruined by 4\5, the Eastern one — by 9\10. Only the basement of the Roman cources was left — the rows of Herodian ashlars and other stone blocks. Somewhere this cources was left at a significant height, somewhere — got fully damaged. These very foundations of the Temple complex of Aelia Capitolina had served as a basement for the Muslim construction of the Haram esh-Sharif; and this is what we noticed in all its walls.

In the anonymous text of the 7th century written in Georgian there is a testimony of some Theodorus, «Saracens Atheists entered the Holy city of Christ, our Lord, Jerusalem… and right after having run, they arrived at the place that we call the Capitol. They took people with them to… clean up this place and build a mosque». The second testimony of the same time, preserved in Greek, belongs to Anastasius Sinaita, who says: «Thirty years ago I was living in the Holy City, on the Mount of Olives, when the multitude of Egyptians cleared the Capitol (τὸ Kαπιτόλιν)» (Murphy-O'Connor 1994: 408; Belayche 1997: 390).

According to Arab sources, the Byzantines arranged a landfill on this site, collecting household waste and excrement from all over the city. When caliph Umar entered the Holy City, he commanded to clean up the worshipped by the Muslims area of the Haram from all kinds of impurities. At the same time, the first Muslim religious objects were built — at first, temporary, wooden. Under the caliph Abd al-Malik, stone structures appeared, primarily the Qubbat al-Sahrah and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Umayyads dynasty took up the re-erection and fortification of the entire Holy Complex.

“Enclosure of the the Temple Jerusalem”. Lithography of 1848

Modern supporters of the location of the ancient Jewish Temple near Gihon spring, starting from an American pastor Ernest Martin, think that it was Antonia Fortress that took the whole territory of the current Haram esh-Sharif before 70 year AD; and it was a full-featured Roman camp where after 70 year the Tenth Legion was based (Martin 2000b). As a matter of fact, this idea didn't appear accidentally. E. Martin and his followers were guided by a comparison of regular Roman camp-fortresses and the Haram area. Here Herod the Great is thought a creator of a huge platform, who «would have followed the traditional guidelines of Augustus in his construction of any permanent fortress in the Jerusalem area» (Martin 2000: 65).

On the whole we do not support the location of the Herod's Temple in the City of David, as well as the assimilation the Haram esh-Sharif with Antonia Fortress. Regardless the High-sounding words of Flavius Josephus that this Fortress had it seemed a city (πόλις εἶναι δοκεῖν) (War, V 5.8 [241]), there is no reason to consider Antonia so big to excel the dimensions of the Herod's Temple and took the whole platform of the Haram. Again Flavius Josephus says that the common periphery of the Herod's Temple, including Antonia Fortress, counted six stadions (776 m) (War, V 5.2 [192]), which is twofold less the common length of the walls of the Haram esh-Sharif (1544 m). A usual notion of Antonia by Josephus is φρούριον (fortress, citadel), and Tacitus calls it even “a tower” (turris) (History, V 11.2). Josephus marks the military camp with another word στρατόπεδον, and never uses it for Antonia.

Nevertheless, we verify the significant fallback of E. Martin and his followers from the traditional postulated of the commanding archeological school and movement towards Roman origins of the main Sanctuary of Jerusalem. In any case, our views coincide in three points: 1) the ancient Jewish Temple was always a square (Martin 2000: 412); 2) it was much smaller compared to the traditionalist school; 3) Roman Tenth Legion was based in the territory of the current Haram esh-Sharif (Martin 2000b).


Adler 2011 — Adler N. Stamp impressions on the Tenth Legion from the Temple Mount excavations. The Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem 1968–1978 directed by Benjamin Mazar: Final Reports. Volume IV: The Tenth Legion in Aelia Capitolina. Qedem, Vol. 52 (2011). Pp. 319–346.

Bahat 1990 — Bahat D. The Illustrated Atlas of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, 1990.

Bahat 1999 — Bahat D. The Herodian Temple. The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 3 (1999): The Early Roman Period. Pp. 38–58.

Barkay and Dvira 2016 — Barkay G. and Dvira Z. "Relics in Rubble: The Temple Mount Sifting Project". BAR, nov/dec 2016. Pp. 44–55.

Belayche 1997 — Belayche N. Du Mont du Temple au Golgotha: le Capitole de la colonie d'Aelia Capitolina. Revue de l'histoire des religions. Vol. 214, No. 4 (1997). Pp. 387–413.

Bieberstein 2007 — Bieberstein K. Aelia Capitolina. Jerusalem before Islam. Edit. by Z. Kafafi, R. Schick. BAR, 2007. Pp. 134–168.

Clermont-Ganneau 1903 — Clermont-Ganneau Ch. Inscriptions de Palestine. Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 47ᵉ année, No. 6, 1903. Pp. 479–495.

Di Segni 2011 — Di Segni L. A Latin inscription on the Western Wall. The Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem 1968–1978 directed by Benjamin Mazar: Final Reports. Volume IV: The Tenth Legion in Aelia Capitolina. Qedem, Vol. 52 (2011). Pp. 347–348.

Friedheim 2007 — Friedheim E. The Religious and Cultural World of Aelia Capitolina – A New Perspective. Archiv orientální, 75 (2007). Pp. 125–152.

Geva 1997 — Geva H. Roman Jerusalem. Searching for Roman Jerusalem. BAR, 23:06 (Nov/Dec 1997).

Harel 2004 — Harel M. Golden Jerusalem. Jerusalem, 2004.

Isaac 1990 — Isaac B. The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East. Oxford, 1990.

Janczewski 2016 — Janczewski T. Aelia Capitolina – Roman Jerusalem and the military camp of the X Legion “Fretensis". Łódź, 2016.

Lieberman, Solomon and Uziel 2019 — Lieberman T., Solomon A. and Uziel J. Wilson’s Arch: 150 Years of Archaeologicaland Historical Exploration. Ancient Jerusalem Revealed, 2019. Pp. 173–183.

Magness 2000 —
Magness J. The North Wall of Aelia Capitolina. The Archaeology of Jordan and Beyond: Essays in Memory of James A. Sauer. Harvard University, 2000. Pp. 328–338.

Martin 2000 — Martin E. L. The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot. ASK Publications, 2000

Martin 2000b — Martin E. L. New Evidence for the Site of the Temple in Jerusalem. Expanded Internet Edition — December 12, 2000.

Mazar 1972 — Mazar B. Excavations near the Temple Mount. Qadmoniot, No. 3/4 (19/20) (1972). Pp. 74−90. (Hebrew)

Mazar 2002 — Mazar E. The Complete Guide to Temple mount excavations. Shoham 2002. (Hebrew)

Mazar 2011 — Mazar E. The Temple Mount excavations in Jerusalem 1968-1978 directed by Benjamin Mazar. Final reports volume IV, The Tenth Legion in Aelia Capitolina. Qedem, Vol. 52 (2011). Pp. I-X, 1−350.

Murphy-O'Connor 1994 — Murphy-O'Connor J. The location of the Capitol in Aelia Capitolina. Revue Biblique, Vol. 101, No. 3 (1994). Pp. 407−415.

Murphy-O'Connor 2008 — Murphy-O'Connor J. The Holy Land : An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700. Oxford University Press, edition 2008.

Newman 2014 — Newman H. The Temple Mount of Jerusalem and the Capitolium of Aelia Capitolina. Knowledge and Wisdom: Archaeological and Historical Essays in Honour of Leah Di Segni. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, 2014. Pp. 35−42.

Patrich and Edelcopp 2013 — Patrich J. and Edelcopp M. Four Stages in the Evolution of the Temple Mount. Revue Biblique, Vol. 120, No. 3 (2013) Pp. 321–361.

Peleg-Barkat 2017 — Peleg-Barkat O. The Temple Mount excavtions in Jerusalem 1968−1978 directed by Benjamin Mazar. Final Reports Volume V. Qedem, 57, (2017).

Pococke 1745, II — Pococke R. A Description of the East and Some other Countries. Vol. I. London, 1745.

Reidinger 2004 — Reidinger E. F. The Temple Mount Platform in Jerusalem from Solomon to Herod: An Archaeological Re-examination. Tel Aviv University, 2004.

Seligman 2007 — Seligman J. Solomon's Stables, The Temple Mount, Jerusalem: The Events Concerning the Destruction of Antiquities 1999–2001. ‘Atiqot 56, 2007. Pp. 33–53.

Tobler 1859 — Titus Toblers dritte Wanderung nach Palästina im Jahre 1857. Gotha, 1859.

Uziel, Lieberman and Solomon 2019 — Uziel J., Lieberman T. and Solomon A. The Excavations beneath Wilson’s Arch: New Light on Roman Period Jerusalem. Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. Volume 46, 2019. Pp. 237–266.

Warren 1871 — Wilson, Ch., Warren Сh. The recovery of Jerusalem: a narrative of exploration and discovery in the city and the Holy Land. New York, 1871.

Weksler-Bdolah 2019 — Weksler-Bdolah Sh. Aelia Capitolina – Jerusalem in the Roman Period: In Light of Archaeological Research. Leiden, 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment