High above sea level and supplied with fresh water from a perennial spring, the area of what became Jerusalem shows signs of human habitation reaching back to the Stone Age.
Age execration texts list rushalimum among the enemies of Pharaoh
in retenu (Canaan). Excavations show evidence of a fortified city
dating to the same time (19th century B.C.E.), and 14th century letters from urusalim,
or "Foundation of Salem" (the Evening Star) name the marauding hapiru as a threat to
this late Bronze Age Canaanite city.
City of the Great King
After centuries of Israelite domination, the City of David emerges from the shadow of the House of Omri and, following the decline of the Assyrians, attains independence as "YHWH's chosen place."
When temple and kingdom are destroyed and Judahites exiled, prophets envision a new, better Jerusalem.
Under Persian tutelage and Hellenistic rule, Jerusalem is rebuilt as a temple city that, under the Hasmoneans, regains independence.
With Herod, Jerusalem begins to grow into what Pliny was to call "the most famous city of the east."
of Roman Power
Having quelled the last great Jewish rebellion against Rome, Emperor Hadrian builds a new city, erasing the old. Aelia Capitolina serves as the home of the Xth Roman Legion "Fretensis," its insignium: a pig. Jews are banished from the city.
Christian emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena,
create a new Jerusalem attesting to the truth of Christ's victory over death and devil, a faith that was to become the official religion of Rome.
City of the Holy House
Driven by a message of submission to Allah, the Arabs sweep across bilad al sham (Syro-Palestine), displacing the Byzantines for good.
The "compact of Umar" secures Orthodox Christian privileges, but Muslim rule also provides a haven for other "people of the book."
Umayyuad caliph Abd al-Malik transforms Ilya into the "City of the Holy House" (madinat bayt al-maqdis) by rebuilding the Solomonic temple as a commemorative shrine to prophet Muhammad's mystical ascent to heaven, creating the best-known symbol of the Holy City, the Dome of the Rock.
Capital of the Latin Kingdom
Hierosolyma, as the Latins call it, is at the heart of pope Urban II's call to liberate the holy places from the "infidels."
French nobles, or the franj, as the Arabs will call European Catholics for centuries, take up the cross in form of the sword. When they arrive at the Holy City after many hardships, the Crusaders slaughter the remaining population.
The Dome of the Rock is now the templum salomonis, its subterranean colonades the "stables of Solomon," and the newly restored Holy Sepulchre resembles a Romanesque castle, adding Crusader architecture to the vernacular of the medieval Holy City.
Holy City of Madrasas and Mystics
driving out the franj, Ayyubids and Mamluks pursue a
program of Islamicization in a city that is henceforth a center
of piety, not politics.
Under the Ottomans, the walls are rebuilt and Jewish refugees from Spain
settle alongside teachers of Sharia law, Franciscan monks, Sufi mystics and dervishes, Armenian traders, and the many others who call the city home. Suleiman the Magnificent lays the foundations for the longest reign of peace in the Holy City.
In 1917, Sir Edward Allenby enters Jerusalem,
ushering in an era of Anglo-Saxon Protestant colonial domination in the Middle East.
Jerusalem serves as capital of Mandatory Palestine. Jewish and Arab nationalism clash,
and Britain withdraws in ignominy. Jerusalem is divided between Israel and
the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Although united under the Israeli flag since 1967, Jerusalem continues to be internally divided, its
legal status unresolved, and its symbolic value as contentious as ever.
The future of Jerusalem
Jerusalem continues to be in the news. The city's future is one of the "final status" issues in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Since 2000, redivision of soverignty over Jerusalem has been on the negotiating table. Meanwhile, settlement activities sponsored by the Israeli government change the facts on the ground and seem to aim to forestall redivision. Even archaeological work in the "holy basin" is contentious.
In this section, I am collecting sources for further study. Please feel free to submit further links!
City: Jerusalem in time, space and imagination
Michael Zank, Boston University Dept. of Religion