Jerusalem emerges from the fog of prehistory at around the time when Egypt began to expand its riverine civilization and began to control the southern Levant. At that time, c. 1800 BCE, Jerusalem is attested by name in Egyptian “execration texts.” Jerusalem shared the fate of other Canaanite city-states, declining in the late second millennium BCE. The iron-age “City of David,” the core of biblical Jerusalem, is one of the best remembered ancient cities because the literature celebrating its rise, lamenting its fall, and chronicling its restoration was eventually canonized as Tanakh, the Old Testament.
From late antiquity to the modern age, the city served as a pilgrimage city commemorating sacred history and awaiting a messianic future, as Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Frankish knights, Ayyubids and Mamluk sultans, and finally the Ottomans took turns in claiming the biblical city as a crown-jewel in their respective imperial projects of ruling in the name of the Almighty.
The city of scholars, mystics, and pilgrims was propelled onto the stage of modern international politics toward the end of the First World War, when Arabs rose against Turks, British and French garnered League of Nation mandates, and the modern Middle East emerged. Today, Jerusalem remains divided by the conflicting national claims of Israel and the Palestinians.
For an introduction to the major epochs in the history of Jerusalem, use the interactive timeline at http://www.bu.edu/mzank/Jerusalem.
For a brief overview, see Jerusalem Chronicle-4000 years for a brief history (pdf).
Use the links provided on the sidebar to access two draft chapters of a history of Jerusalem I have been working on. The first link is to the first chapter, dealing with the ancient city until 586BCE, the destruction of Judahite Jerusalem by the neo-Babylonians; the second link is to a chapter on the history of the restored city under Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman rulers, ending with the second destruction of the city, in 70CE.