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Has the Acra of Jerusalem Been Found?

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) recently announced on the discovery that supposedly solves a long time riddle – the location of the Hellenistic period “Acra” of Jerusalem.

The “Acra” (Short for Greek “Acropolis” – the citadel of the city) is documented by the book of Maccabees as built near the temple, in the City of David:

And they built the city of David with a great and strong wall, and with strong towers, and made it a fortress [Greek: Acra] for them: And they placed there a sinful nation, wicked men, and they fortified themselves therein: and they stored up armour, and victuals, and gathered together the spoils of Jerusalem; And laid them up there: and they became a great snare. And this was a place to lie in wait against the sanctuary, and an evil devil in Israel. (I Maccabees 1:35-38).

In Josephus’ writings the “Acra” is said to be built:

in the lower part of the city, for the place was high, and overlooked the temple; on which account he fortified it with high walls and towers, and put into it a garrison of Macedonians. “ (Ant. 12:252)

The “Acra” was used by the Seleucid Greeks until 141 BCE, when Simon Maccabeus finally conquered it.

He didn’t demolish it and used it for a few more years.

The recent excavation conducted just outside the Ottoman old city walls uncovered a wall, the base of a tower, with impressive proportions, 20 meters long and four meters wide. The wall’s outer base was coated with a slippery slope, to make it difficult for attackers to scale it.

 

acra 1s

A team member of the expedition standing at the massive uncovered by the IAA expedition next to the old city of Jerusalem ,which is attributed to the long lost Seleucid “Acra”.

© Assaf Peretz, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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Acra rec s

A reconstruction of the Wall and Glacis Uncovered in the City of David.

(C) YAkov Shimchov

תכנית החקרא

Suggested plan of the Seleucid Acra.

(C) Drawing by V. Asman and N. Zack. Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority

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The small finds in the fill of the structure included Hellenistic era imported wine jars (Amphorae) , lead sling shots, bronze arrowheads, and round ballista balls.

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Lead sling stones and Bronze arrowheads, some of which are stamped with tridents (marked by a red arrows), which were also the symbol of Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”.

© Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Rhodian jar handle acra s

Stamped Jar Handle Inscribed “Poaios Agrianioy”, indicating the origin of the wine.

(C) Yoav Rofe

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Coins found among the ruins ranged from the time of Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”, to the reign of Antiochus VII “Sidates”, who died in 129 BCE.

Before this discovery various suggestions were made to locate the Seleucid “Acra”, but non in this specific site. Although this location is lower than the Temple (contra Josephus description) it is located in the heart of Jerusalem of the second century BCE, and in the area described both in the book of Maccabees and in the writings of Jospehous.

I hope further research in this area will provide additional evidence on the identity of this massive Hellenistic building.