(the habitation of peace), Jerusalem stands in latitude 31 degrees 46′ 35″ north and longitude 35 degrees 18′ 30″ east of Greenwich. It is 32 miles distant from the sea and 18 from the Jordan, 20 from Hebron and 36 from Samaria. “In several respects,” says Dean Stanley, “its situation is singular among the cities of Palestine. Its elevation is remarkable; occasioned not from its being on the summit of one of the numerous hills of Judea, like most of the towns and villages, but because it is on the edge of one of the highest table-lands of the country. Hebron indeed is higher still by some hundred feet, and from the south, accordingly (even from Bethlehem), the approach to Jerusalem is by a slight descent. But from any other side the ascent is perpetual, and to the traveller approaching the city from the east or west it must always have presented the appearance beyond any other capital of the then known world—we may say beyond any important city that has ever existed on the earth—of a mountain city; breathing, as compared with the sultry plains of Jordan, a mountain air; enthroned, as compared with Jericho or Damascus, Gaza or Tyre, on a mountain fastness.”–S. & P. 170,
Jerusalem, if not actually in the centre of Palestine, was yet virtually so. “It was on the ridge, the broadest and most strongly-marked ridge of the backbone of the complicated hills which extend through the whole country from the plain of Esdraelon to the desert.”
Roads—There appear to have been but two main approaches to the city:
Topography—To convey an idea of the position of Jerusalem, we may say, roughly, that the city occupies the southern termination of the table-land which is cut off from the country round it on its west, south, and east sides by ravines more than usually deep and precipitous. These ravines leave the level of the table-land, the one on the west and the other on the northeast of the city, and fall rapidly until they form a junction below its southeast corner. The eastern one—the valley of the Kedron, commonly called the valley of Jehoshaphat—runs nearly straight from north by south. But the western one—the valley of Hinnom—runs south for a time and then takes a sudden bend to the east until it meets the valley of Jehoshaphat, after which the two rush off as one to the Dead Sea. How sudden is their descent may be gathered from the fact that the level at the point of junction—about a mile and a quarter from the starting-point of each—is more than 600 feet below that of the upper plateau from which they began their descent. So steep is the fall of the ravines, so trench-like their character, and so close do they keep to the promontory at whose feet they run, as to leave on the beholder almost the impression of the ditch at the foot of a fortress rather than of valleys formed by nature. The promontory thus encircled is itself divided by a longitudinal ravine running up it from south to north, called the valley of the Tyropoeon, rising gradually from the south, like the external ones, till at last it arrives at the level of the upper plateau, dividing the central mass into two unequal portions. Of these two, that on the west is the higher and more massive, on which the city of Jerusalem now stands, and in fact always stood. The hill on the east is considerably lower and smaller, so that to a spectator from the south the city appears to slope sharply toward the east. Here was the temple, and here stands now the great Mohammedan sanctuary with its mosques and domes. The name of Mount Zion has been applied to the western hill from the time of Constantine to the present day. The eastern hill, called Mount Moriah in 2 Chronicles 3:1, was, as already remarked, the site of the temple. It was situated in the southwest angle of the area, now known as the Haram area, and was, as we learn from Josephus, an exact square of a stadium, or 600 Greek feet, on each side. (Conder (“Bible Handbook,” 1879) states that by the latest surveys the Haram area is a quadrangle with unequal sides. The west wall measures 1601 feet, the south 922, the east 1530, the north 1042. It is thus nearly a mile in circumference and contains 35 acres.–ED.) Attached to the northwest angle of the temple was the Antonia, a tower or fortress. North of the side of the temple is the building now known to Christians as the Mosque of Omar, but by Moslems called the Dome of the Rock. The southern continuation of the eastern hill was named Ophel, which gradually came to a point at the junction of the valleys Tyropoeon and Jehoshaphat; and the northern Bezetha, “the new city,” first noticed by Josephus, which was separated from Moriah by an artificial ditch, and overlooked the valley of Kedron on the east; this hill was enclosed within the walls of Herod Agrippa. Lastly, Acra lay westward of Moriah and northward of Zion, and formed the “lower city” in the time of Josephus.
Walls—These are described by Josephus. The first, or old wall, was built by David and Solomon, and enclosed Zion and part of Mount Moriah. The second wall enclosed a portion of the city called Acra or Millo, on the north of the city, from the tower of Mariamne to the tower of Antonia. It was built as the city enlarged in size, begun by Uzziah 140 years after the first wall was finished, continued by Jotham 50 years later, and by Manasseh 100 years later still. It was restored by Nehemiah. Even the latest explorations have failed to decide exactly what was its course (See Conder’s Handbook of the Bible, art. Jerusalem). The third wall was built by King Herod Agrippa and was intended to enclose the suburbs which had grown out on the northern sides of the city, which before this had been left exposed. After describing these walls, Josephus adds that the whole circumference of the city was 33 stadia, or nearly four English miles, which is as near as may be the extent indicated by the localities. He then adds that the number of towers in the old wall was 60, the middle wall 40, and the new wall 99.
Water Supply—Jerusalem had no natural water supply, unless we so consider the “Fountain of the Virgin,” which wells up with an intermittent action from under Ophel. The private citizens had cisterns, which were supplied by the rain from the roofs; and the city had a water supply “perhaps the most complete and extensive ever undertaken by a city,” and which would enable it to endure a long siege. There were three aqueducts, a number of pools and fountains, and the temple area was honeycombed with great reservoirs, whose total capacity is estimated at 10,000,000 gallons. Thirty of these reservoirs are described, varying from 25 to 50 feet in depth, and one, called the great Sea, would hold 2,000,000 gallons. These reservoirs and the pools were supplied with water by the rainfall and by the aqueducts. One of these, constructed by Pilate, has been traced for 40 miles, though in a straight line the distance is but 13 miles. It brought water from the spring Elam, on the south, beyond Bethlehem, into the reservoirs under the temple enclosure.–ED.
Pools and fountains—A part of the system of water supply. Outside the walls on the west side were the Upper and Lower Pools of Gihon, the latter close under Zion, the former more to the northwest on the Jaffa road. At the junction of the valleys of Hinnom and Jehoshaphat was Enrogel, the “Well of Job,” in the midst of the king’s gardens. Within the walls, immediately north of Zion, was the “Pool of Hezekiah.” A large pool existing beneath the temple (referred to in Ecclus. 1:3) was probably supplied by some subterranean aqueduct. The “King’s Pool” was probably identical with the “Fountain of the Virgin,” at the southern angle of Moriah. It possesses the peculiarity that it rises and falls at irregular periods. It is supposed to be fed from the cistern below the temple. From this a subterranean channel cut through solid rock leads the water to the pool of Siloah or Siloam, which has also acquired the character of being an intermittent fountain. The pool of which tradition has assigned the name of Bethesda is situated on the north side of Moriah; it is now named Birket Israil.
Burial-grounds—The main cemetery of the city seems from an early date to have been where it is still—on the steep slopes of the valley of the Kedron. The tombs of the kings were in the city of David, that is, Mount Zion. The royal sepulchres were probably chambers containing separate recesses for the successive kings.
Gardens—The king’s gardens of David and Solomon seem to have been in the bottom formed by the confluence of the Kedron and Himmon (Nehemiah 3:15). The Mount of Olives, as its name, and the names of various places upon it seem to imply, was a fruitful spot. At its foot was situated the garden of Gethsemane. At the time of the final siege the space north of the wall of Agrippa was covered with gardens, groves and plantations of fruit trees, enclosed by hedges and walls; and to level these was one of Titus’ first operations. We know that the Gennath (i.e. “of gardens”) opened on this side of the city.
Gates—The following is a complete list of the gates named in the Bible and by Josephus, with the reference to their occurrence:
To these should be added the following gates to the temple: Gate Sur (2 Kings 11:6), called also gate of foundation (2 Chronicles 23:5); Gate of the guard, or behind the guard (2 Kings 11:6,19), called the high gate (2 Kings 15:35; 2 Chronicles 23:20; 27:3); and Gate Shallecheth (1 Chronicles 26:16). At present the chief gates are
Population—Taking the area of the city enclosed by the two old walls at 750,000 yards, and that enclosed by the wall of Agrippa at 1,500,000 yards, we have 2,250,000 yards for the whole. Taking the population of the old city at the probable number of the one person to 50 yards, we have 15,000, and at the extreme limit of 30 yards we should have 25,000 inhabitants for the old city, and at 100 yards to each individual in the new city about 15,000 more, so that the population of Jerusalem, in its days of greatest prosperity, may have amounted to from 30,000 to 45,000 souls, but could hardly ever have reached 50,000, and assuming that in times of festival one-half was added to this amount, which is an extreme estimate, there may have been 60,000 or 70,000 in the city when Titus came up against it. (Josephus says that at the siege of Jerusalem the population was 3,000,000, but Tacitus’ statement that it was 600,000 is nearer the truth. This last is certainly within the limits of possibility.)
Streets, houses, etc.—Of the nature of these in the ancient city we have only the most scattered notices. The “east street” (2 Chronicles 29:4); the “street of the city,” i.e. the city of David (2 Chronicles 32:6); the “street facing the water gate” (Nehemiah 8:1,3), or, according to the parallel account in 1 Esdr. 9:38, the “broad place of the temple towards the east;” the “street of the house of God” (Ezra 10:9; the “street of the gate of Ephraim” (Nehemiah 8:16); and the “open place of the first gate toward the east,” must have been not “streets,” in our sense of the word, so much as the open spaces found in eastern towns round the inside of the gates. Streets, properly so called, there were, (Jeremiah 5:1; 11:13, etc.); but the name of only one, “the bakers’ street” (Jeremiah 37:21), is preserved to us. The Via Dolorosa, or street of sorrows, is a part of the street thorough which Christ is supposed to have been led on his way to his crucifixion. To the houses we have even less clue, but there is no reason to suppose that in either houses or streets the ancient Jerusalem differed very materially from the modern. No doubt the ancient city did not exhibit that air of mouldering dilapidation which is now so prominent there. The whole of the slopes south of the Haram area (the ancient Ophel), and the modern Zion, and the west side of the valley of Jehoshaphat, presents the appearance of gigantic mounds of rubbish. In this point at least the ancient city stood in favorable contrast with the modern, but in many others the resemblance must have been strong.
Annals of the city—If, as is possible, Salem is the same with Jerusalem, the first mention of Jerusalem is in Genesis 14:18. It is next mentioned in Joshua 10:1. The first siege appears to have taken place almost immediately after the death of Joshua. Judah and Simeon “fought against it and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire” (Judges 1:8). In the fifteen centuries which elapsed between this siege and the siege and destruction of the city by Titus, A.D. 70, the city was besieged no fewer than seventeen times; twice it was razed to the ground, on two other occasions its walls were levelled. In this respect it stands without a parallel in any city, ancient or modern. David captured the city and made it his capital, fortified and enlarged it. Solomon adorned the city with beautiful buildings, including the temple, but made no additions to its walls. The city was taken by the Philistines and Arabians in the reign of Jehoram, and by the Israelites in the reign of Amaziah. It was thrice taken by Nebuchadnezzar, in the last of which it was utterly destroyed. Its restoration commenced under Cyrus, and was completed under Artaxerxes I., who issued commissions for this purpose to Ezra and Nehemiah. It was later captured by Alexander the Great. Under the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae the town was prosperous, until Antiochus Epiphanes sacked it. In consequence of his tyranny, the Jews rose under the Maccabees, and Jerusalem became again independent and retained its position until its capture by the Romans under Pompey. The temple was subsequently plundered by Crassus, and the city by the Parthians. Herod took up his residence there as soon as he was appointed sovereign, and restored the temple with great magnificence. On the death of Herod it became the residence of the Roman procurators, who occupied the fortress of Antonia. The greatest siege that it sustained, however, was at the hands of the Romans under Titus, when it held out nearly five months, and when the town was completely destroyed, A.D. 70. Hadrian restored it as a Roman colony, A.D. 135, and among other buildings erected a temple of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the temple. He gave to it the name of AElia Capitolina, thus combining his own family name with that of the Capitoline Jupiter. The emperor Constantine established the Christian character by the erection of a church on the supposed site of the holy sepulchre, A.D. 336. Justinian added several churches and hospitals about A.D. 532. It was taken by the Persians under Chosroes II in A.D. 614. The dominion of the Christians in the holy city was now rapidly drawing to a close. In A.D. 637 the patriarch Sophronius surrendered to the khalif Omar in person. With the fall of the Abassides the holy city passed into the hands of the Fatimite dynasty, under whom the sufferings of the Christians in Jerusalem reached their height. About the year 1084 it was bestowed upon Ortok, chief of a Turkman horde. It was taken by the Crusaders in 1099, and for eighty-eight years Jerusalem remained in the hand of the Christians. in 1187 it was retaken by Saladin after a siege of several weeks. In 1277 Jerusalem was nominally annexed to the kingdom of Sicily. In 1517 it passed under the sway of the Ottoman sultan Selim I., whose successor Suliman built the present walls of the city in 1542. Mohammed Aly, the pasha of Egypt, took possession of it in 1832, and in 1840, after the bombardment of Acre, it was again restored to the sultan. (Modern Jerusalem, called by the Arabs el-Khuds, is built upon the ruins of ancient Jerusalem. The accumulated rubbish of centuries is very great, being 100 feet deep on the hill of Zion. The modern wall, built in 1542, forms an irregular quadrangle about 2 1/2 miles in circuit, with seven gates and 34 towers. It varies in height from 20 to 60 feet. The streets within are narrow, ungraded, crooked, and often filthy. The houses are of hewn stone, with flat roofs and frequent domes. There are few windows toward the street. The most beautiful part of modern Jerusalem is the former temple area (Mount Moriah), “with its lawns and cypress trees, and its noble dome rising high above the wall.” This enclosure, now called Haram esh-Sherif, is 35 acres in extent, and is nearly a mile in circuit. On the site of the ancient temple stands the Mosque of Omar, “perhaps the very noblest specimen of building-art in Asia.” “It is the most prominent as well as the most beautiful building in the whole city.” The mosque is an octagonal building, each side measuring 66 feet. It is surmounted by a dome, whose top is 170 feet from the ground. The church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is claimed, but without sufficient reason, to be upon the site of Calvary, is “a collection of chapels and altars of different ages and a unique museum of religious curiosities from Adam to Christ.”)
Smith's Bible Names Dictionary (1866)