Ptolemais


Modern Acco

Acco, Acre. The original site is a mound called Tell-el-Fukhar, located one mile E of the present city.

Few towns have had a more chequered or calamitous history. Of great antiquity Acre is probably to be identified with the Aak of the tribute-lists of Thutmoses III (c. 1500 B.C.), and it is certainly the Akka of the Amarna letters. To the Hebrews it was known as Acre (Revised Version spelling), but it is mentioned only once in the Old Testament, namely Judges 1:31, as one of the places from which the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanite inhabitants. Theoretically it was in the territory of the tribe of Asher, and Josephus assigns it by name to the district of one of Solomon's provincial governors. Throughout the period of Hebrew domination, however, its political connections were always with Syria rather than with the Philistines: thus, about 725 BC it joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against Shalmaneser V. It had a stormy experience during the three centuries preceding the Christian era.,

The Greek historians name it Ake (Josephus calls it also Akre); but the name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest, and then to Ptolemais, probably by Ptolemy Soter, after the partition of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.

Strabo refers to the city as once a rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egypt. About 165 BC Simon Maccabaeus defeated the Syrians in many battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BC Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus Epiphanes, contesting the Syrian crown with Demetrius, seized the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to obtain Jewish support against his rival, including the revenues of Ptolemais for the benefit of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in vain. Jonathan threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BC he was received by him with great honour in Ptolemais. Some years later, however, Tryphon, an officer of the Syrians, who had grown suspicious of the Maccabees, enticed Jonathan into Ptolemais and there treacherously took him prisoner.

The city was also assaulted and captured by Alexander Jannaeus, by Cleopatra VII of Egypt and by Tigranes II of Armenia. Here Herod built a gymnasium, and here the Jews met Petronius, sent to set up statues of the emperor in the Temple, and persuaded him to turn back. St Paul spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). A Roman colonia was established at the city, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris.

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