When the armies of the Rashidun Caliphate entered Jerusalem in 638, the city was quite different from what it is today—one of the most important cities for three religions.
As John Hosler writes in his latest book, Jerusalem Falls: Seven Centuries of War and Peace:
Three things may seem nearly inconceivable to modern readers: that the Temple Mount, a place of such incredible significance and symbolism, once served as Jerusalem’s garbage dump; that it once went wholly unmentioned in a political treaty; and that a conqueror essentially acquired it with little effort.
Throughout his book, starting from the Persian invasion of 614 and ending with the Sixth Crusade in 1229, John explains how these successive “falls” of the city to invaders ended up setting the boundaries for inter-religious relations for centuries afterward. Invaders may have wanted to expel their religious competitors—but soon learned that governing the city without their help was impossible, eventually settling on a system of grudging tolerance and respect for each other’s holy sites.
In this interview, John and I talk about the many “falls” of Jerusalem: to the Persians, the Arabs, and the Crusaders, and how the many negotiations over the city helped build a durable status quo that persisted for centuries.
John D Hosler is a Professor of Military History at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. An expert in medieval warfare in Europe and the Near East, he is the author of over 60 essays and reviews, and also the author and editor of seven books, including John of Salisbury: Military Authority of the Twelfth-Century Renaissance (Brill, 2013), and The Siege of Acre: 1189-1191 (Yale University Press, 2018), the latter of which was named among the best books of 2018 by the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a Trustee of the US Commission for Military History, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and he sits on the editorial board for War Studies Journal.