Jerusalem Besieged

From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel
Eric H. Cline
A sweeping history of four thousand years of struggle for control of one city


Jerusalem Besieged offers a sweeping history across the millennia, yet focuses on a single location—a view of centuries of often violent battles for one city.

Author Eric Cline tells the story of four thousand years of struggles for control of Jerusalem, a city central to three major religions and held sacred by millions of people throughout the world. No other city has been more bitterly fought over throughout its history. Jerusalem, whose name to some means "City of Peace," has seen at least 118 separate conflicts during the past four millennia—conflicts that ranged from local religious uprisings to strategic military campaigns.

Many of those disputes altered the course of history in the region, and sometimes in the larger world as well. Some have had political or religious consequences that are still important today, despite intervening decades, centuries, or millennia. These battles of yesterday also feed the propaganda of today, as the events of history are used and abused by modern military and political leaders, including Yasser Arafat, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, and Ariel Sharon.

Written for the general reader, Jerusalem Besieged chronicles the struggles of four millennia, sets their contexts, and demonstrates their continuing relevance to the social and political problems of the Middle East today.

Eric H. Cline is a former Fulbright scholar and Associate Professor of Classics and Anthropology and is Chair of the Department of Classical and Semitic Languages and Literatures at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books and numerous articles on the ancient world, including The Battles of Armageddon (University of Michigan Press, 2000).

Praise / Awards

  • "This groundbreaking study offers a fascinating synthesis of Jerusalem's military history from its first occupation into the modern era. Cline amply deploys primary source material to investigate assaults on Jerusalem of every sort, starting at the dawn of recorded history. Jerusalem Besieged is invaluable for framing the contemporary situation in the Middle East in the context of a very long and pertinent history."
    —Baruch Halpern, Pennsylvania State University

  • "A beautifully lucid presentation of five thousand years of history in a single volume. Cline writes primarily as an archaeologist---avoiding polemic and offering evidence for any religious claims---yet he has also incorporated much journalistic material into this study.  Jerusalem Besieged will enlighten anyone interested in the history of military conflict in and around Jerusalem."
    —Col. Rose Mary Sheldon, Virginia Military Institute

  • "Eric Cline's Jerusalem Besieged offers a tour de force of the history of the city that has beguiled man from ancient times to the present day. Providing a clear grasp of Jerusalem's political,cultural and religious evolution over the millennia, it debunks many myths about the city and conclusively disproves the recent denial of Jewish historic attachment to Jerusalem. A timely, and perhaps definitive, account of this most holy and historic of places."
    —Efraim Karsh, Kings College, University of London

  • "Cline compellingly reveals how Amichai's 'larger circle of pain and time' encompasses one city, four millennia, and three world cultures."
    —Tom Palaima, University of Texas, Austin

  • "Jerusalem Besieged is a fascinating account of how and why a baffling array of peoples, ideologies, and religions have fought for some 3,000 years over a city without either great wealth, size, or strategic importance. Cline guides us through the baffling, but always bloody, array of Jewish, Roman, Moslem, Crusader, Ottoman, Western, Arab, and Israeli fights for possession of such a symbolic prize in a manner that is both scholarly and engaging."
    —Victor Davis Hanson, Stanford University; author of The Other Greeks,and Carnage and Culture

  • ". . . a book that really needed to be written. . . . . [I]t should be required reading for all  politicians, both regional and national, and certainly for any of those involved in attempts to bring about peace in the area. For the general reader it will make the issues in the Middle East far clearer and reveal why a lasting peace in the area is unlikely to occur any time soon. It will also make the Arab countries' horror over the U.S. activities in the region more understandable."
    —Atheen Mills, Amazon Review

  • "It is almost impossible to write a book on Jerusalem without offending someone, but Cline has managed to write one of the most tactful books possible. Nowhere does he slide into polemic, nor has he made any religious claims in lieu of evidence. He has tried his best to write an even-handed account of Jerusalem's military past. . . . This is a must purchase for military historians and general readers alike."
    —Rose Mary Sheldon, Virginia Military Institute

  • "[Jerusalem Besieged ] . . . manages the near-impossible: maintaining . . . the right balance in a book about the long train of conflicts associated with a sacred city settled, dominated, and coveted by Jews, Christians, Muslims and others over different eras, including our own. In his thorough vetting of Jerusalem's four millennia of conflict, Cline also successfully engages the broader issues of Israel and Palestine, military history generally, and the examination of the fault lines between religious symbolism and community violence. He even takes on the interplay of ideology and mythology, challenging tendencies to exploit beliefs about the city's past to advance agendas for its present and future. . . . This book is a useful, even necessary, read about the Jerusalem of yesterday and today. Perhaps, in these troubled times, its narratives can avert a worse Jerusalem for tomorrow."
    —Matthew Hogan, History News Network

  • " . . . a useful, readable book that outlines the history of Jerusalem in broad strokes. . . .  enormously helpful to anyone who wants to better understand the holy city. . . . A pleasure to read, this work makes this important but complicated subject fascinating."
    Jewish Book World

  • "Focusing on Jerusalem's fascinating history and the 188 struggles to control this mecca of political and religious influence, the author artfully connects the past with the present of Israel's capital, whose name ironically, but promisingly, connotes peace."
    Jewish News

  • ". . . a fascinating account of the history of the city from the beginning to the present."
    Journal of Military History

  • ". . . a welcome addition to histories of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The weaving together of ancient and modern, at which Cline excels, is something that everyone interested in the Middle East should appreciate."

  • "[An] absorbing account of archaeological history, from the ancient Israelites' first conquest to today's second intifada. Cline clearly lays out the fascinating history behind the conflicts."
    —Dan Vergano, USA Today

  • "This unique book presents the struggles of four millennia for control of Jerusalem. . . ."

  • "Eric Cline, the author of an interesting book on the battles of Armageddon, now gives us a fascinating account of the history of the city from the beginning to the present."
    —Antonio Santosuosso, The Journal of Military History

Look Inside

Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 432 pages.
  • 10 colorized photographs, 4 tables, 24 maps.
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  • 2010
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  • 978-0-472-02537-4

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