Your Crash Course On The Fight For Jerusalem: Part 2

Jerusalem has been considered the religious center of the world since the Bronze Age.

Israel’s second ruler, king David, conquered the land and placed the most holy artifact to the Jewish people, the Arc of the covenant, in Jerusalem. And his son, Solomon, built the first Holy Temple there. The land was conquered and retaken by historical figures like Nebuchadnezzar II and Alexander the Great. Unfortunately for the holy city, the fight is far from over. (SEE ALSO: Your Crash Course On The Fight For Jerusalem: Part 1)

332 B.C Alexander the Great had accomplished the impossible, he managed to conquer Eastern Mediterranean, Egypt, the Middle East and certain parts of Asia.

By the time he died, Alexander the Great’s empire had been divided into four which included the newly established Seleucid Empire that contained the land of Israel as well as its historical rivals, the Philistine’s land (Palestine.) The empire was distributed to four generals that integrated their territories and founded dynasties. This situation bred jealously and greed among the generals, war often followed, and Jerusalem had the precarious position as the center between them.

160-167 B.C.The Maccabean revolt. Unlike during Alexander the Great’s rule, the Seleucid Empire was not as understanding when it came to religious freedom.

This was a time of religious discrimination where the Jewish people were persecuted for their beliefs. Jewish religious practices became outlawed, and all citizens were ordered to worship the Greek God, Zeus. The final straw for the Jewish people was when they were ordered to sacrifice a pig to Zeus, a huge desecration of their religion. The uprising of Jewish rebels (the Maccabees) began engaging in guerrilla warfare with the Seleucids. The Maccabees were finally able to recapture Jerusalem, the rebellion led to the creation of the Jewish holiday: Hanukkah.

Maccabean Revolt
The Maccabean Revolt. Photo by @chairmanriq144k on Instagram

63 B.C. – The Roman Republic spread its power into the region during the Third Mithridatic War. The Roman General Pompey took control of Jerusalem for the Romans.

During the siege of Jerusalem, Pompey demolished the holy city where he installed one of his own men to govern the new land and made it a province of the Roman Empire. The last remnants of the Seleucid Empire disintegrated, leaving Egypt as the sole survivor of the Hellenistic period.

40-19 B.C – The master builder and Roman-appointed king of Judea, Herod the Great, began his reign over the land.

Although Judea was its own independent kingdom at the time, its actions were heavily influenced by Rome. During his time on the throne, Herod built gargantuan walls around Jerusalem to contain his most famous building project: rebuilding the Temple Mount. He wanted to surpass Solomon’s temple, so he expanded it and reinforced the old walls.

Temple Mount Courtyard
Temple Mount Courtyard. Photo by @templeinstitue on Instagram

28-30 C.E. – The three-year Ministry of Jesus.

The Christian prophet Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem riding on a donkey (Palm Sunday.) The Last Supper occurs and eventually the Passion and the Crucifixion: where Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, solidified his martyrdom.

66-70 A.D. – The Siege of Jerusalem. The Jews living under the control of the Roman Empire in Jerusalem were subject to extreme torment and the Temple Mount was destroyed by the Romans.

Not unlike the previous Greek rulers, the Roman procurator who controlled Judea, Gessius Florus, despised the Jews. He stole from their sacred temple and even deployed soldiers to massacre 3,600 of their people. The needless slaughter compelled the Jews of Judea to rebel again, this time against the Romans. The revolt ensued chaos within the city and the rebels managed to expel and exterminate the remaining Roman soldiers. The Jews were finally in control of Jerusalem.

The emperor at the time, Nero, was quick to squash the simmering rebellion by dispatching General Vespasian and an army to restore order. Vespasian crushed the insurgents from Galilee to Idumea. Before the army could perform coup de grace, however, Emperor Nero died by his own hand. Vespasian became emperor and his son, Titus, led an assault on Jerusalem. The Roman army destroyed the temple and the Jews who survived the assault were enslaved then sent to Egypt or they were sent to the arenas to die for the Roman’s amusement.

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850).
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850). Wikipedia

335 A.D. – The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built in the same location Jesus was said to have been buried and rose again, this marked the rise of Christianity in Jerusalem.

The church was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine who had desired to make Jerusalem the Holy City of Christianity. Before Constantine built the church, many followers of Christ did not ascribe sacredness to physical places. For the Christians, Constantine’s goal to make the city a holy place for them was met with bewilderment. Jerusalem was considered a pagan wasteland and was referred to as The Guilty City, because it was the location where Jesus was crucified. The discovery of “Christ’s tomb” in the city, however, changed the minds of the Christians, because now, Jerusalem had ties to Christianity. The construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher secured Christianity’s place in the city and changed the fate of Jerusalem forever.

614 A.D. – During the Byzantine – Sasanian War, an army of Sasanian Persians, Jewish soldiers from Tiberias and a troop of Arabs stormed Jerusalem. The city was being held by Persian Christians, but after a brief siege, the Sasanians captured Jerusalem where they were welcomed by the Jews who lived there.

Historians say this invasion was the most devastating incident in the ancient city’s history since the Roman occupation. For Palestine, the land hadn’t seen such destruction and brutality in over four centuries. The battle decimated the region both physically and spiritually. During the skirmish, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was burned to the ground. The city’s weakened state would foreshadow Jerusalem’s next invasion that would take place just two decades later.

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By the late Byzantine period, Jerusalem was already considered the promised land to two of the world’s major religions, both the Christians and Jews. The shared desire to control the Holy Land led to the historical Jewish-Christian conflict that still echoes to this day. But by the early Iron Age, the boundless schism between two religions welcomed a new member to the fight for Jerusalem. The result of which occurred when Prophet Muhammed allegedly died and ascended to heaven from the rock he was standing on, which happened to be where the Jewish Temple once stood.

Allison Hinrichs

Content Editor Associate

Hailing from Minnesota, Allison is a vegetarian, meditating yogi who practices a conscious lifestyle. An adrenaline junkie at heart, she has gone rock climbing in Germany and surfing the waves in Mexico. She is a keen reader who loves to learn, as long as it’s not math. And she has hopes of discovering “the secrets of the universe” by exploring the globe, experiencing other cultures, and finding a variety of different perspectives.

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