A Newly Discovered Inscription Sheds Light on an Ancient Negev City

March 15 2019

Archaeologists excavating the ruins of an ancient city in southern Israel have found a Greek inscription with the city’s name, confirming that it is indeed Ḥalutsah—in Greek, Elusa. The Jewish Press reports:

The discovery of an inscription with the name of the ancient city in a site itself is a rare occurrence. . . . The name of the city of Elusa appears in a number of historical documents and contexts, including the Madaba mosaic map, the Nessana papyri, and [elsewhere]. However, this is the first time that the name of the city has been discovered in the site itself. The inscription mentions several Caesars of the tetrarchy, [a period when governance of the Roman empire was divided among four rulers], which date it to around 300 CE.

In addition, in the recent excavation season, a bathhouse and Byzantine church were uncovered. The 130-foot-long three-aisled church contained an eastward apse, whose vault was originally decorated with a glass mosaic. Its nave was decorated with marble. The bathhouse is a large, urban complex of which were revealed part of the furnace and caldarium (hot room). . . .

Elusa was founded toward the end of the 4th century BCE as an important station along the Incense Road, the ancient road between Petra, [in what is now Jordan], and Gaza. The city continued to develop, reaching its peak in the Byzantine period in the 4th-to-mid-6th centuries CE. In that period, it was inhabited by tens of thousands of inhabitants and was the only city in the Negev.

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More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, History & Ideas, Negev

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy