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Friday, 29 March 2013

Herod's Colourful Past

Further to my post last week comes the revelation (if that's the right word), that doubts have been raised that Herod actually built the second temple .....

Now I was under the impression that all archaeological excavations on the temple mount were banned by the Arabs (they claim its sacrilege, but its believed to stop Jews uncovering the sites of the 1st and 2nd temples) - although there is suspicion that they have been actively tunnelling underneath, and destroying anything not 'Islamic' that they find. Personally I would have said, 'to the victors the spoils', and evicted the Arabs from the mount in 1967, making it a secular free site (like the Sophia Hague in Constantinople) ... after all, the Arabs only took it by conquest themselves.

However, all that argument aside, apparently archaeologists have found a Roman coin under the walls which was dated from a Proconsul 20 yrs after the death of Herod, and working the on the basis that whatever is built on top of a coin, must have gone up later than the date of the coin, this suggests that the wall was built during or after that Proconsuls service. So maybe I was giving him too much credit ..... still, out of curiosity, I have tried to find out whether the walls of the second temple and the surrounding complex would have been painted (as so much of antiquity was ....).

Its seems inconceivable that they were just white (in an age when every other building and temple was painted but ......) ... it may have been white walls of marble, and resting on pink coloured stones ........ but while the inner temple and the temple veil are described in detail by the Jewish historian Josephus, who would have been familiar with the Temple before the destruction in 70 CE, the rest of the building isn't..

The Second Temple - Jerusalem

What he said in 'Wars of the Jews, Book 5', was that .... "it had golden doors fifty-five cubits high and sixteen broad. Before these hung a veil (katapevtasma) of equal length, of Babylonian tapestry (Babul!nioÍ poikilto;Í), with embroidery of blue,and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvellous skill. Nor was this mixture of materials without its mystic meaning: it typified the universe. For the scarlet seemed emblematical of fire, the fine linen of the earth, the blue of the air, and the purple of the sea; the comparison in two cases being suggested by their colour, and in that of the fine linen and purple by their origin, as the one is produced by the earth and the other by the sea. On this tapestry was portrayed a panorama of the heavens, the signs of the Zodiac excepted. . . . The innermost recess measured twenty cubits, and was screened in like manner from the outer portion by a veil (katapetavsmati). In this stood nothing whatever: unapproachable, inviolable, invisible to all, it was called the Holy of Holies". (J.W. 5.5.4 §211–5.5 §219 LCL).

But no one really described the complex buildings outer appearance in such detail .... although the Temple itself is described as a building of shining white marble and gold, with bronze entrance doors. It was said that you could not look at the Temple in daylight as it would blind you. It even had gold spikes on the roof line of the building to prevent birds sitting on the Temple and soiling it. Josephus also speaks of the doors being “covered with variegated veils”, which may not be a reference to the main temple veil on the 'Holy of Holies' and refer to other doorways and walls.

The Second Temple Would Have Been Colourful

Personally I suspect that outside of the inner sanctum (which as described above, was white and gold), that the rest of the complex was painted much like the palaces of Herod and temples in Rome, Greece and Egypt, but there is no proof of this.

Herod's Palaces - As Grand as the Emperor Augustus

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