Jerusalem: The Biography
Number of Pages: 544
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9
I kept thinking of this verse from Ecclesiastes while reading Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The author starts by describing the fall of Jerusalem to Titus and the Romans in 70AD. It was not a pretty picture. Mass crucifixions, utter chaos, and devastating slaughter. The book doesn’t get any lighter after this.
“The angry face of Yahweh is brooding over the hot rocks which have seen more holy murder, rape, and plunder than any other place on this earth.”
~ Arthur Koestler
The history of Jerusalem is one of tragedy, death, and destruction. It’s one group taking over from another group, usually by killing, enslaving, maiming, and raping to make that happen. It’s a history kicked off by King David with three religions more or less calling it home. It’s filthy and transcendent. It’s dangerous and divine. And most of the history of western civilization has run through this city.
I have read bits and pieces of different portions of the history of Jerusalem, but never a book that puts it all together in one volume. I loved this book. I took my time, some days only reading 3 pages. I underlined nearly half the book, read every single enlightening footnote, and took a bunch of notes in the back. I wrote “wow” in the columns multiple times and was amazed by the history, the connections, and the tragedy.
I love how the history of western civilization runs through this book. You get a great overview of empires, key people, history-defining battles, and political intrigue. It’s a great cursory history that makes you want to explore more. This was one of my favorite books from the reading project so far.