Leen Ritmeyer

Aelia Capitolina. In 130 C.E., Emperor Hadrian celebrated the transformation of Jerusalem into a Roman colony by plowing a traditional furrow, called a pomerium, around the city to mark its new boundaries. Jews were barred, on penalty of death, from entering the city. The name Aelia memorialized the family of the emperor, whose full name was Publius Aelius Hadrianus; Capitolina recalled the Capitoline Hill in Rome, the location of a temple of Jupiter. As a new colony, Aelia Capitolina was given the right to erect a similar monument dedicated to the most powerful Roman deity.

As shown in this reconstruction, Aelia Capitolina was laid out as a typical Roman colony—rectangular in shape and divided into four quadrants with the major street, the Cardo Maximus, extending from the Damascus Gate in the north to the southern edge of the civilian quarter. Three towers, Phasael, Hippicus and Mariamme marked the Tenth Roman Legion’s headquarters on the western hill of Jerusalem. The small detachment of soldiers camped all over the southern part of the hill. A Roman temple or statue, dedicated to Jupiter, may have stood on the site of the destroyed Jewish Temple.

Throughout the city, signs of the Roman destruction were apparent, including the scattered stones of the First Wall, which had protected Jewish Jerusalem, and the charred remains of houses in the once elegant Upper City.