David’s Jerusalem

Posted in: Ancient Near East Today
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03000 By: Daniel Pioske In a letter sent to Charlemagne sometime just prior to 800 CE, Alcuin of York praised his “David,” as Charlemagne wished to be called later in life, for the benevolence with which he “ruled and governed” over Jerusalem. “David’s Entry into Jerusalem,” by Frans Francken II (Dutch, early 16th century CE). Hermitage Museum.   In truth, Charlemagne’s influence in Jerusalem was restricted to sponsorship of a few religious houses and orders permitted by the actual ruler of the city, the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. But Alcuin’s pointed association between Charlemagne’s dominion and that of David’s capital attests to just how profoundly the idea of Jerusalem has shaped the worldviews and aspirations of communities, past and present, who are informed by the biblical portrayal of David’s ruling center. We may deride the many historical inaccuracies strewn throughout famous representations of David and Jerusalem, such as Frans Francken II’s celebrated portrait of David’s entry into his royal city. But such depictions serve as an important reminder that the desire to claim David’s Jerusalem as one’s own did not end with Charlemagne’s reign. Jerusalem is an idea as much as a place. Archaeological evidence from ancient Jerusalem, however, provides the means to confront cultural and historical assumptions about David’s capital from another vantage point. To be sure, this perspective

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