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XYSTUS:

A building in Jerusalem, erected, as is shown by the name, in the Hellenistic period, probably under the Herodians. The term properly denotes a covered colonnade in the gymnasia, although the Romans employed the word "xystus" to designate open terraces before the colonnades of their country-houses. That the Xystus of Jerusalem was an open terrace, as Buhl rightly assumes, is clear from the fact that from it Titus conducted his negotiations with the leaders of the Jews while they stood in the upper city, a proceeding which would scarcely have been possible had it been a covered building. The translation "colonnade" is erroneous. It was artificially formed by erecting on the western edge of Mount Moriah a structure supported by pillars, the roof, which was practically level with the Temple area, constituting the Xystus. Similar buildings, also called Xysti, were found in a number of Greek cities, as in Elis.

Site.

The site of the Xystus of Jerusalem can be approximately, though not definitely, determined. The first wall on the north, beginning at the so-called tower of Hippicus, extended to the Xystus, then skirted the council-house (βουλή), and ended at the western cloister of the Temple (Josephus, "B. J." v. 4, § 2). Both the Xystus and the council-house were, therefore, situated within the wall, the former lying to the north and the latter to the south. When Titus negotiated with the Jews concerning their surrender, he stood on the western side of theouter Temple, facing the upper city, taking this position on account of the gates upon the Xystus, and also being influenced in his choice by the bridge which connected the upper city with the Temple and which lay between the Jewish leaders and himself (ib. vi. 6, § 2). The Xystus was, moreover, the scene of an assembly of the people before the outbreak of the rebellion, when Agrippa II. addressed them while his sister Berenice remained in sight of the populace in the house of the Hasmoneans, which overlooked the Xystus (ib. ii. 16, § 3). In his account of this conference, Josephus states, curiously enough, that the bridge connected the Temple with the Xystus and not with the upper city. This can be explained only on the assumption that the Xystus, as was natural, lay below Mount Moriah itself, and was, perhaps, separated from the hill by a ravine. A bridge running from the upper city would, therefore, connect the Xystus with Mount Moriah, and this agrees with the assumption that the bridge, like the gates, was constructed "above the Xystus." During the factional strife between Simeon bar Giora and John of Giscala a fortified tower was built on the Xystus (ib. iv. 9, § 12), and this edifice later marked the limit set by Titus for the burning of the Temple cloister (ib. vi. 3, § 2).

Connection with "Robinson's Arch."

It thus becomes evident that the Xystus formed a portion of the western cloister of the Temple, while the council-house lay to the south, but in the same direction and probably built into the cloister. The Hasmonean palace, raised still higher by Agrippa II. (Josephus, "Ant." xx. 8, § 11), stood opposite, on the western heights of the upper city, which was at that point connected with the Xystus by a bridge. Many investigators regard "Robinson's Arch," which is still preserved, as an anchorage for this bridge, but the absence of any corresponding structure on the western hill opposite inclines others to identify "Robinson's Arch" with the remains of the stair-tower mentioned by Josephus (ib. xv. 11, § 5). An additional argument against any identification of "Robinson's Arch" with the Xystus is found in the fact that it lies in the lowest portion of the wall and almost in the bottom of the valley, while the Xystus evidently equaled Mount Moriah in height. It must have been situated, moreover, where the first wall joined the cloister of the Temple and turned toward the south. Mommert's hypothesis that the lower city, which was called Akra and which was leveled and graded by the Maccabees, included the open space of the Xystus, is disproved by the fact that the Temple, on which the Xystus bordered, did not extend to the lower city.

Equally erroneous is the theory of Schürer, supported by Buhl, that the so-called hall of hewn stone ("lishkat ha-gazit"), in which the Sanhedrin held its sessions, was built on the Xystus and that is identical with ξυστός; because, according to the Mishnah, this body deliberated within the precincts of the Temple, and not in the buildings which surrounded it, so that this hypothesis is rightly rejected by Bacher and Büchler.

Bibliography:
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 211 (opposed by Bacher, in Hastings, Dict. Bible, iv. 399);
  • Büchler, Das Synedrion in Jerusalem, p. 15, Vienna, 1902;
  • Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, pp. 135, 144, 146, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, 1896;
  • Z. D. P. V. x. 243;
  • Baedeker, Palästina und Syrien, 6th ed., pp. 28, 59, Leipsic, 1904;
  • Mommert, Topographie des Alten Jerusalem, i. 67, ib. 1900.
G. S. Kr.
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