The Roman Plaza Museum is located on the remains of the Roman plaza at the entrance of Aelia Capitolina.
Today, this gate stands under the Damascus Gate when entering Old City of Jerusalem.
Aelia Capitolina was the pagan city Roman emperor Hadrian built on Jerusalem after the Romans razed it about fifty years earlier.
Jews were forbidden to enter the city on penalty of death after the Bar Kochba Revolt, where the Jews recaptured Jerusalem and which took Hadrian three years to put an end to.
To celebrate victory, Hadrian built a free-standing victory arch consisting of a large middle entrance, with identical, more modest gates to the city on either side.
At the center of the plaza behind the gate stood a 72-foot-high pillar atop which was statue of Hadrian.
This marked the beginning of Cardo and can still be seen depicted on the 6th-century Madaba Map located in the Cardo.
One of the smaller entrances remains almost intact, and is found below and to the left of Damascus Gate. Today this is the entrance to the Roman Plaza Museum.
On either site of the gate still stand the bases of two arches. You can also see a Roman inscription stating that this was the entrance to Aelia Capitolina.
Two massive watchtowers also stand on either side of the gate, built from Second Temple era stones, and were kept by the Ottomans when they built Damascus Gate.
The stones were likely removed from public buildings and the retaining walls of the Temple Mount destroyed by the Roman legions and repurposed here.
As visitors passed through the Hadrian’s Gate, they enter a room that was once open air but was given a roof during the Crusader period.
The floor of museum is the original floor paved by Hadrian, including the grooves carved into the stone to stop any chariots from slipping when wet.
On the floor, there’s an engraving of a game board that the Roman soldiers would play.
In this room there are stairs that lead to left tower.
The tower is fully preserved, standing about 40 feet high, and visitors can climb up the original stairs. From here you can enjoy the view and connect to the Ramparts Walk.
The Museum shows the history of Damascus Gate, displays remains of a Roman plaza and gate dating back almost 2,000 years.