Aelia Capitolina – Roman Jerusalem

Related Articles

Related Articles

Aelia Capitolina was a Roman colony, constructed after the siege of 70 AD during the First Jewish-Roman War, when the city of Jerusalem and the Second Temple on Temple Mount was destroyed.

The First Jewish-Roman War, also called the Great Revolt was the first of three rebellions against the Roman Empire that started in AD 66 during the reign of Emperor Nero. The seeds of the revolt were in response to increasing religious tensions and high taxation, leading to reprisal attacks against Roman citizens.

In retaliation, the Roman Governor of Judea plundered the Second Temple and launched raids to arrest senior Jewish political and religious figures. This led to a wide-scale rebellion, resulting in the pro-Roman client King Herod, and the Roman officials abandoning Jerusalem to the rebels.


Nero tasked Vespasian, a Roman general (who would succeed to the role of Emperor during the “Year of the Four Emperors”) to crush the rebellion with the support of Vespasian’s son – Titus as the second-in-command. Within several months, the Roman forces had conquered several major Jewish strongholds, displaced large population groups, and dealt a swift punishment on the inhabitants of Judea.

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

Titus and his legions reached Jerusalem in AD 70, placing the city under siege for four months. After several battles, the entire city and the Second Temple was destroyed, with contemporary historian Titus Flavius Josephus stating: “Jerusalem … was so thoroughly razed to the ground by those that demolished it to its foundations, that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation.”

Of the 97,000 Jewish survivors from the siege, thousands were forced to become gladiators in the arena, with many others forced into slavery to build the Temple of Peace (also called the Forum of Vespasian), and the Colosseum in Rome.

In the ruins of Jerusalem, Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of Colonia Aelia Capitolina in dedication to Jupiter Capitolinus, and to Hadrian himself.

Image Credit : Carole Raddato

Aelia Capitolina was built in the form of a typical Roman city, consisting of a grid system separated by two pairs of main roads, the cardines (north-to-south) and the decumani (east-to-west) which has been preserved in parts of the layout of the Old City of Jerusalem today.

At the junction of the main cardo and decumanus, Hadrian placed the city’s main forum and a large temple dedicated to Venus (where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is now situated).

Where Herod’s Struthion Pool (a large cuboid cistern) was originally constructed, the structure was vaulted and paved over, being later turned into a secondary forum. The remains of the paving can still be seen under the Convent of the Sisters of Zion.

Image Credit : Carole Raddato

Aelia Capitolina had no defensive walls but was instead protected by a light garrison of the Tenth Legion that encamped on the western hills. The garrison was responsible for enforcing a ban on Jews entering the city, except for one day each year, during the holiday of Tisha B’Av.

During the reign of Emperor Constantine I, Aelia Capitolina was renamed to Jerusalem in AD 324 and remained in Byzantine control after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Apart from a brief period under Persian rule, Jerusalem was ruled by the Byzantines until the early 7th century AD, when the city was captured by Sassanid’s, aided by Jews of Palaestina Prima.

The Byzantines would recapture the city in AD 629, but fall to the Arab armies of Umar ibn al-Khattab in AD 638 and renamed to “Iliya”, reflecting the Roman name Aelia Capitolina, with the site of the Temple Mount being named Madinat bayt al-Maqdis – meaning ‘City of the Temple’.

Header Image Credit : Carole Raddato

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Camulodunum – The First Capital of Britannia

Camulodunum was a Roman city and the first capital of the Roman province of Britannia, in what is now the present-day city of Colchester in Essex, England.

African Crocodiles Lived in Spain Six Million Years Ago

Millions of years ago, several species of crocodiles of different genera and characteristics inhabited Europe and sometimes even coexisted.

Bat-Winged Dinosaurs That Could Glide

Despite having bat-like wings, two small dinosaurs, Yi and Ambopteryx, struggled to fly, only managing to glide clumsily between the trees where they lived, according to a new study led by an international team of researchers, including McGill University Professor Hans Larsson.

Ancient Maya Built Sophisticated Water Filters

Ancient Maya in the once-bustling city of Tikal built sophisticated water filters using natural materials they imported from miles away, according to the University of Cincinnati.

New Clues Revealed About Clovis People

There is much debate surrounding the age of the Clovis - a prehistoric culture named for stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico in the early 1930s - who once occupied North America during the end of the last Ice Age.

Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years

Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions - monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study at the University of Zurich has shown.

Bronze Age Herders Were Less Mobile Than Previously Thought

Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought.

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

Popular stories

Legio IX Hispana – The Lost Roman Legion

One of the most debated mysteries from the Roman period involves the disappearance of the Legio IX Hispana, a legion of the Imperial Roman Army that supposedly vanished sometime after AD 120.

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.