The Shape of Jerusalem Throughout the Ages.

In order to understand and appreciate fully how Jerusalem expanded from its earliest days as the small Jebusite city - Jebus - to become the Capital of King David's Kingdom of Israel and later the larger walled city we know today, it is worthwhile having a look at the topography - how the hills and valleys dictated or impeded the different stages of its growth and the construction of its various important buildings - administrative, royal and defensive, as, possibly, more sophisticated building techniques allowed otherwise, earlier impractical expansion to continue.
Here is a topographical map of Jerusalem; you can see the present walled city superimposed.

A Topographic Map of Jerusalem

The first thing to notice is the old City of David occupying the ridge of a very narrow spur of the hill running south from the Temple Mount (the eastern hill). It is worth pointing out that, although the slope downwards of the spur is itself fairly steep, its average height above sea level is 675 metres and surrounded by much higher hills (the highest point in Jerusalem itself is 850 metres). Why then, in spite of all, build a city, low down and surrounded by hills? Quite simply because down in the valley, to the east of the ridge of this spur was that most essential of commodities, the only sustainable source of water in the vicinity - the Gihon Spring (for some unaccountable reason, it has been placed on the east flank of the valley instead of the west. I am unable to explain this error; it should be somewhere between the 'K' of Kidron and the 'vi' of David).
The spur is protected on the east by the Kidron Valley and immediately on the west by the somewhat shallow Tyropoeon Valley which runs through the centre of the old city from north of the Damascus Gate, gradually edging over to the east, to finish up running alongside the Western Wall, and down out of today's southern wall at the Dung Gate - or immediately east of it. As we shall see in later periods, the city expanded westwards and upwards, out of the Tyropoeon Valley towards today's Jaffa Gate, where the very steep, deep Hinnom Valley protected the expanded city on the west and south: the Hinnom Valley, as you can see, curves round Mount Zion (the south-western hill), to meet with the Tyropoeon Valley and the Kidron Valley at the southern point of the City of David. To the north there is a slight depression running across the city called the Transverse Valley. When you walk from the Jaffa Gate eastwards to the Western Wall down David and Chain Streets today, you are following more or less the line of the Transverse Valley. For a few hundred years that represented the northern building line of the old city (see below), being more defensible. North of the City of David the ground continues to rise to the Temple Mount itself. Here Abraham attempted to sacrifice his son, Isaac, King Solomon built the first Temple, the second was built after the return from Babylon and subsequently largely remodelled by Herod the Great, to be finally destroyed by Titus in 70 C.E.

Below you will find a series of images showing how the walls of Jerusalem varied throughout the major time periods. In all of them, the outline of today's walled city is incorporated. They are mostly self explanatory; here and there I make a comment.

The earliest Jebusite city and the City of David occupied only a very small area. Immediately to the north of the city and below today's southern wall was a depression - the Millo. There is still some scholarly doubt as to if, how and when (ca 1000 B.C.E.?) - if this was at all the Millo - it was filled and built upon. Until then, however, there was a gap between the city and the Temple Mount itself.

This next image shows how the depression has been filled and the separation between the lower city and the now occupied Temple Mount eliminated in order to provide foundations for the palace(?) and more importantly the Temple:-

After the reigns of David and Solomon, and the Kingdom became divided into those of Israel, in the north of the country and Judah in the south, we have some clear archæological evidence showing a gradual expansion westwards from the City of David up the slopes of the south-western hill and northwards to the Transverse Valley; thus it remained for several hundred years - until the destruction of the First Temple, in fact, in 586 B.C.E. The city, during this period occupied the area shown here:-

For one-hundred years from about 536 B.C.E., until about 445 B.C.E., the Jews, first under Sheshbazzar, then Zerubbabel, Ezra and then finally Nehemia, returned to the country from their exile, settling mainly in Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls against much political interference. It is believed that the Jerusalem walls that were rebuilt at this time were the walls enclosing the old City of David, since we are told (Nehemiah VI: 15) that the work took only fifty-two days. It is most difficult to conceive of the larger city depicted in the previous sketch, having an encompassing wall rebuilt in such a short space of time. That being so, during the Persian "resettlement" and control, which lasted basically until the last quarter of the 4th Century B.C.E., it is thought that only the old City of David was occupied - at least in general and for a major portion of the time:-

In 332 B.C.E Alexander set out on his conquests and the country fell under Greek rule and culture. The stability encouraged an expansion and it is thought that Jerusalem again began to grow, rebuilding and reoccupying areas on the south-western hill again. This became an area of affluence and remained so for many centuries. Jerusalem at this time looked something like this:-

In the year 70 B.C.E. Pompey conquered the country to quell the civil disturbances caused by the internecine disputes of the last of the Hasmoneans. Forty years later, Herod the Great came to power and magnificent building works of all descriptions were undertaken - the Temple, including its massive platform and retaining wall - still in existence today, and it is believed he was responsible for the addition of another wall running from the Jaffa Gate area to the north, creating there an exit which became eventually today's Damascus Gate. You may like to know that Calvary-Golgotha is traditionally sited in the bottom right-hand corner, of the open area at the north-west corner of the city. It follows that the wall running north had an exit through which Jesus passed when "....they took him outside the city to a place called in the Hebrew tongue Golgotha" John 19. That gateway is traditionally marked as the 7th. Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa
The city looked like this:-

Forty years after the death of Herod the Great and some four(?) years after the crucifixion of Jesus, Agrippas I ruled under Roman authority and the city began to expand northwards. This is the so-called "third" wall mentioned earlier, the line of which is situated about 200-300 yards north of the Damascus Gate. Thereafter - as a result of the failure of the Bar Kochva revolt and the destruction wrought by Hadrian in 135 C.E., the walls of Jerusalem remained in a sadly deteriorated condition until early in the Byzantine era. This was the largest dimensions of ancient Jerusalem and it is believed that the area it enclosed looked like this:-

The next and last but one significant change was during the Byzantine period - possibly even while Constantine I yet lived. The recently added New City, just described was excluded from within the new wall which was reconstructed from the old, and Jerusalem contracted to very nearly the size we know today:-

During the first centuries of Islamic rule, several violent eathquakes shook the country doing much structural damage particularly in Jerusalem. It was during this period that the walls were again reconstructed this time leaving Mount Zion and the City of David outside. This is indeed the line of the city walls that we know today:-

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