"Jerusalem: Capital of the Jews": The Jewish Identity of Jerusalem in Greek and Roman Sources by Rivkah Duker-Fishman
"Jerusalem: Capital of the Jews":1
The Jewish Identity of Jerusalem in Greek and Roman Sources*
For ancient Greek and Roman pagan authors, Jerusalem definitely was a Jewish city. This article draws on references to Jerusalem from nearly twenty different sources, dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, which are included in the late Professor Menahem Stern's comprehensive anthology, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism. An examination of these texts indicates the unanimous agreement that Jerusalem was Jewish by virtue of the fact that its inhabitants were Jews, it was founded by Jews and the Temple, located in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion. In these sources, Jerusalem appears in several contexts: foundation narratives, descriptions of and links to the Temple, historical events, usually relating to invasions and captures of the city, physical descriptions, and the derogatory use of the term "Solyma" by Roman writers after its destruction by Titus in 70 CE. It is noteworthy that despite the negative views of Jews and Judaism expressed by authors such as Manetho, Apion, Tacitus and Juvenal, the Jewish identity of Jerusalem is always clear and never a subject of dispute. These ancient texts, therefore, disprove recent attempts by Muslims and others to deny the historic connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and the location of the Temple in Jerusalem through fabrications and lies.
The Jewish identity of Jerusalem as recorded in the writings of Greek and Roman authors of classical antiquity is a subject worthy of study in its own right. This article draws on references to Jerusalem in nearly twenty different sources dating from the third century BCE to the third century CE, roughly six centuries.
An examination of the sources indicates their authors' complete and unanimous agreement that Jerusalem was Jewish by virtue of the fact that it was founded by Jews, its inhabitants were Jews and that the Temple, located in Jerusalem, was the center of the Jewish religion. Despite the fact that some of these authors had distinctly negative views about Jews and Judaism, they were all in agreement about the Jewish identity of the city. These texts possess an importance which transcends their purely academic and cultural content. Newcomers to the historical stage and their apologists have based their political claims upon historical accounts which they have fabricated. For example, in his lengthy account of the Camp David Summit of July 2000, chief American negotiator Dennis Ross attributes much of its failure to the late Chairman Yasir Arafat of the Palestinian Authority who not only repeated "old mythologies" but invented "a new one ... [that] the Temple did not exist in Jerusalem but in Nablus."