Friday, January 2, 2009


Lyman Coleman, in Text Book and Atlas of Biblical Geography, Philadelphia, 1854

Osher Collection, University of Southern Maine

This is the frontispiece of a popular nineteenth-century biblical geography book designed to call attention to "a most important but neglected branch of education." "Modern Jerusalem" is actually the old walled city as it existed in the mid-nineteenth century. Many important holy sites are identified, including the ancient Temple, the Church of the Holy Sepulchure, the Mosque of Omar and the "Wailing Wall."

Jerusalem had the protection of the deep, steepsided valleys of Kidron and Gehenna to the east, south and west: these acted as vast natural fosses in front of the city walls and of the east wall of the Temple enclosure, which was itself part of the fortifications. On the north there was only manmade protection. The first north wall was Hasmonaean. The second was possibly built in the latter part of the first century BC by Herod the Great, who strengthened the north west angle with three massive towers. The line of this wall is conjectural, but it is known to have run from near Herod’s towers to Antonia, his new fortress built for the protection of the Temple on more or less the same site as two earlier ones. These two walls were not demolished when Agrippa I planned a new north wall (not actually completed until early in the war of AD 66–70) to enclose the growing suburb of Bezetha. Some scholars hold that this new wall followed roughly the line of the present sixteenth-century wall, but evidence is accumulating for the more northerly line of the wall, named ‘Mayer-Sukenik’ after the archaeologists who found the first traces of it. Robinson’s Arch at the southern end of the western wall of the Temple enclosure supported a broad stairway leading down to the Tyropoeon or Cheesemakers’ Valley. Wilson’s Arch is the first arch of a viaduct leading across the valley to the Upper City. Josephus describes the city, its fortifications, and the Temple in his Jewish War 5.136–247.

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