When Jerusalem Stood between the Byzantine and Persian Empires

In the 6th century BCE, Cyrus the Great famously conquered the Land of Israel, making possible the rebuilding of the Second Temple. Less well known is the Persian conquest of Jerusalem from the Byzantine empire, more than a millennium later. The invading Persian armies were even joined by a Jewish force eager to help wrest the Holy Land from Christian control. A recent study of a large cache of Roman coins, known as solidi, discovered in Jerusalem’s Givati parking-lot excavation several years ago, has revealed some rare evidence of this episode. David Hendin writes:

There were 264 gold solidi [bearing] a portrait of Heraclius in the Givati hoard. Heraclius ruled the Eastern Roman [or Byzantine] empire from 610 to 641 CE. None of the coins are clipped, carry graffiti, or have any other significant signs of use. . . . The Givati hoard is singularly homogeneous, and [the Israeli scholar Gabriela] Bijovsky concludes that “during this time (608-615 CE), and especially after the capture of Antioch by the Persians in 611 and until 613, the presence of a Byzantine military garrison in Jerusalem could explain the operation of a temporary mint in order to pay the troops and to emphasize Byzantine sovereignty over the city.”

Archaeological remains associated with the Persian conquest are quite sparse in Jerusalem. The archaeologists believe that the Givati hoard is correctly identified as an “emergency” hoard that was “concealed during times of imminent danger, siege, or war. These hoards usually reflect the coinage in current circulation at the time of their deposition.”

Read more at Coin Week

More about: Ancient Persia, Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, Jerusalem, Jewish history

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy