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Home / History of the Holy Land / Bible history, archeology and the Holy Land / A temple to the Roman gods (135-335 AD)
A temple to the Roman gods (135-335 AD)

"Jesus, saviour of humanity, shepherd,
protector, guide and moderator,
celestial path for the flock of saints"
- (Clement of Alexandria)
Emperor Hadrian suppressed the revolt in 135 AD and decided to demolish the whole city of Jerusalem in order to erase all sites which could incite another revolt by the Jewish people. The emperor also forbade any Jewish presence in the new city. A Gentile-Christian community continued to live in Jerusalem and they ensured the continuity of identification of the sacred sites (the first bishop of this community was Marcus).
A coin minted in  Hadrian's Aelia  Capitolina

A coin minted in Hadrian's Aelia Capitolina - Jerusalem

Hadrian thus prepared a completely new city structured on Hellenistic plans and renamed it "Aelia Capitolina" ("Aelia" in his honour and "Capitolina" because it was to contain a Capitol for the Roman gods). In this new architectural plan the Garden of Golgotha came to be at the centre of the new city. Some authors maintain that the area on this Garden became the Capitol of the new city with altars for the three main Roman gods - Jupiter at the centre flanked by Juno and Minerva. Others, quoting evidence provided by the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, maintain that the temple was dedicated to Aphrodite. Both schools of thought agree that a pagan temple was erected on this site.

A marble slab on the Tomb of Jesus

A marble slab on the Tomb of Jesus which
had been covered by the pagan temple

Christian literary sources recount how the Garden of Golgotha was filled up to level off the area for the construction of the new Roman temple. Here is how Eusebius of Caesarea (265-340 AD), a native of Palestine, describes these events in his Life of Constantine:

"This sacred cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought to remove entirely from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus they should be able to effectively obscure the truth. Accordingly, they brought a quantity of dirt from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot; then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone, concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their purpose had been effectively accomplished, they prepared on this foundation a truly dreadful sepulchre of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that their object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying the sacred cave beneath these foul pollutions." (III, XXVI - see also the account by Eusebius about the Holy Sepulchre)

It is worth noting that the profanation of the site by Emperor Hadrian targeted an existing place of worship of the Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem both at the tomb and on Calvary. This early worship lies at the roots of the apocryphal writings of this primitive Judeo-Christian community of Jerusalem (these writings are known as the Adam and Eve cycle comprising "The Cave of Treasures" and "The combat of Adam").

The Chapel of Adam

The Chapel of Adam under the Spur of Calvary

The pagan temple of Hadrian was built on the east-west axis and was surrounded by a Temenos (a protective wall with its faзade on the Cardus Maximus from where you entered into the sacred enclosure). St. Jerome, in a letter to Paulinus in 395 says that:

"Since the times of Hadrian up to the empire of Constantine, for almost 180 years, the statue of Jupiter was venerated on the place of the Resurrection and on the rock of the cross a marble statue of Venus placed there by the gentiles. In the intentions of the perpetrators of the persecutions they would have removed our faith in the resurrection in the cross had they profaned the holy sites with idols".

The Cave under Calvary

The Cave under Calvary unearthed during the archaeological research

The Cave under Calvary

Another view of the same cave under Calvary

From these descriptions, confirmed also by the archaeological research carried out in the area, we know that this pagan temple of Aelia transformed the Judeo-Christian site into a pagan one by placing the cult of Jupiter on the tomb of the Lord and that of Venus on Calvary. This situation continued for about 180 years as is stated by Jerome himself.

Remains of the Temenos

Remains of the Temenos (surrounding wall) of the pagan temple



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