An Ancient Persian Military Base Discovered in Northern Israel

Dec. 28 2018

The book of Esther describes the Persian king Ahasuerus as having reigned over an empire that stretched “from India to Ethiopia”—and thus, as a matter of simple geography, must have included Egypt. It was Cambyses II, the son and successor of Cyrus the Great, who added Egypt to the vast empire he inherited in the late 6th century BCE. Recently, archaeologists have discovered the ruins of a Persian military base near the Israeli city of Acre that Cambyses likely used in preparing for his campaign against the pharaoh, writes Philippe Bohstrom. (Free registration required.)

Among the findings at Tel Keisan, a hill rising 28 meters from the coastal plain . . . in northern Israel, were ruins dated to the Persian period by ceramic jars and cooking pots in the Greek and Phoenician styles typical of that time. The Phoenicians . . . and their fleet had been subjugated by the Assyrians and then by the Persians; and the ancient Greek historian Herodotus said that Greek mercenaries fought in the Persian emperor Cambyses’ army. The Greek and Phoenician ceramic finds in the Persian layer of Tel Keisan [thus] suggest that this area was part of the base camp of the great Achaemenid campaign.

It was on the Acre plain that Cambyses assembled his army that would sweep down to Egypt, in the 520s BCE. Why were the Persians so adamant about conquering Egypt, aside from the usual human weakness for building empires? One reason is because the various empires in the Levant and Middle East considered Egypt to be a major threat. That is just one more reason for their desire to control the land of Israel—a fertile land with a long coast, and a convenient [place from which to launch] attacks on Egypt. Or, at least, to contain Egypt’s influence over the Levant. . . .

The forces Cambyses massed on the coast would have needed a huge apparatus and an incredible amount of resources. Tel Keisan would have been only one of a series of supply points along the Acre plain, Indeed the archaeologists found remnants of storage jars and cooking pots in large quantities that may have been used by Cambyses’ armies. A key bit of evidence was a large pit with organic debris and substantial quantities of pottery, some of which was Phoenician pottery and some imports from Greece, mainly from Athens.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Ancient Greece, Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Esther, History & Ideas, Phoenicia

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia