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The Cardo – A Colorful Piece of Roman Civilization in Jerusalem’s Old City


While the Romans may have had the upper hand nearly 2,000 years ago, all that remains of that civilization in the Old City is a road. Jerusalem is once again the undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people.

In the Old City of Jerusalem, in the heart of the Jewish Quarter, runs the Cardo – the ancient marketplace from the Roman and Byzantine eras. The ancient Cardo actually links up with today’s modern marketplace, which is still referred to as the Cardo. As we stand in the Cardo, we can get a feel for what it may have been like to be there over 1500 years ago.

When the Romans destroyed the Jewish Temple and exiled the Jews in 70 CE, they subsequently attempted to transform Jerusalem into a typical Roman city. In every Roman city there was a north-south road running from one end of the city to the other in a straight line, known as the Cardo. Jerusalem, would be no different. A Cardo was constructed beginning at the Damascus Gate and extending to somewhere in the vicinity of Zion Gate. There was also an east-west road which was called the Decumanus Maximus.

Located in today’s Cardo is a beautiful, modern fresco depicting a typical market day in the ancient Cardo. If you have a sharp set of eyes you will be able to identify some interesting details in the painting. You will notice a boy from the modern era with a green knapsack, a red baseball cap and a bottle of water, standing next to a young Roman girl who is extending her hand with a pomegranate to the boy. The artist is depicting the continuity and fluidity of history. You will also notice, on the left side of the painting, that the artist painted into the picture Teddy Kollek, a long-time mayor of Jerusalem, archaeologist Nachman Avigad (who excavated the Old City) and the artist himself wearing Roman togas.


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