The so-called Letter of Aristeas is really a lengthy discourse in the tradition of Hellenistic literature. The author Aristeas (probably a pseudonym) provides the classic view concerning how the Torah (or the Pentateuch) was translated from Hebrew into Greek in just 72 days by 72 elders brought to Alexandria at the behest of Ptolemy Philadelphus (283–246 B.C.); this translation of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible was called the septuagint (LXX), but the term was later extended to include all of the Hebrew Bible translated at various times into Greek. See Leonard J. Greenspoon, “Mission to Alexandria Truth and Legend About the Creation of the Septuagint, the First Bible Translation,” Bible Review, August 1989.


See Lawrence E. Stager and Samuel R. Wolff, “Child Sacrifice at Carthage—Religious Rite or Population Control?” BAR 10:01.



Ya’akov Meshorer, City Coins of Eretz-Israel and the Decapolis in the Roman Period (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1985), p. 26.


Shimon Applebaum, “Economic Life in Palestine,” in The Jewish People in the First Century, ed. S. Safrai and M. Stern (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), vol. 2, p. 688 and n. 10, with reference to inscriptions nos. 1717–1724 and 2283 from Delos (in Launey and Roussel, Inscriptions de Delos [1937]).


“Letter of Aristeas,” line 115, in John R. Bartlett, Jews in the Hellenistic World, Cambridge Commentaries on Writings of the Jewish & Christian World 200 BC to AD 200 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985), vol. I, part 1, p. 27.


David Flusser, “Paganism in Palestine,” in Safrai and Stern, The Jewish People in the First Century vol. 2, p. 1099.


Applebaum, “Economic Life in Palestine,” p. 688, n. 10.


On the authority of Julius Africanus (c. 170–243 A.D., cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Bk. I 6.2, 7.11). See Eusebius, The History of the Church, transl. G.A. Williamson (New York: Dorset, 1965), pp. 51, 55.


Josephus, The Jewish War 1.21.42.


Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17.11.5 (321).


E.D. Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire AD 312–460 (Oxford Clarendon, 1984), p. 93 and n. 54, citing Origen, Contra Celsum 4.44 and Eusebius, Onomasticon, 168.


Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage, p. 93, n. 55, Citing Eustathius, De Engastrimytho 21 (ed. E. Klostermann, Kleine Texte 83 [1912]).


This reconstruction of the evidence allows us to make sense of some other texts that mention the Wells of Abraham. Ibn Batutah observes that “you descend to these [Wells of Abraham] by broad steps leading to a chamber. On all four sides of the chamber are springs of water gushing out from the stone conduits.” Antoninus Martyr, writing c. 560 A.D., describes the Well of Peace (Puteus Pacis) at Ashkelon in similar words: “There is a Well of Peace made after the manner of a theater, in which one descends by steps into the water.” Garstang mistakenly located the Well of Peace in the apse of the large basilica, i.e., in his putative bouleuterion. Of course, when he completed the excavations in the apse, there was no well to be found. The Well of Peace is just another name for the Wells of Abraham or the Bir Ibrahim. And it is now clear that Origen, Antoninus Martyr and Ibn Batutah were describing all that remained of the Greco-Roman the water: “wells” noted for “their strange and extraordinary style of construction” and “built after the manner of a theater.” Compare, for example, John Garstang, “The Fund’s Excavation of Askalon” Palestine Exploration Quarterly (PEQ) 21 (1921), pp. 14–16; “The Excavations at Askelon,” PEQ 22 (1922), pp. 112–117; “Askalon,” PEQ 24 (1924), pp. 24–35.


Cornelius Vermenle, “Askalon,” in M News (Boston: Museum of the Fine Arts, 1991), pp. 85–89, Vermeule and Kristin Anderson, “Greek and Roman Sculpture in the Holy Land,” in Burlington Magazine, 1981, pp. 7–20. Vermeule believes the sculpture excavated from the Severan basilica represents the “most splendid Roman imperial architectural sculpture to be found east of Ephesus and Corinth,” p. 15.


See Charles L. Meryon, Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope, from the Completion of Her Memoirs, Narrated by Her Physician, vol. 3 (1846), p. 162. From his drawing one can see the Gorgoneion in the center of the breastplate, with two griffins flanking some object below. A twin of the Ashkelon statue was recently excavated in Roman Beth-Shean—a larger-than-life-size marble statue (head missing) of a cuirassed soldier, probably an emperor, with the same motifs on the breastplate (for a photo, see “Glorious Beth-Shean,” BAR 16:04).

Unfortunately, Lady Hester Stanhope’s basilica has been pillaged of all its masonry. However, Frank Koucky would locate it in an area that today is a parking lot for visitors to the beach, below the north slope of the south mound (al-Hadra) and just north of Grid 38 (lower). He could do this because of the detailed and accurate rendition of buildings and monuments of Ashkelon published in 1855 by David Roberts, as viewed from a perspective on the north mound looking south.


Professor Benjamin Mazar, personal communication.


For an excellent discussion of the differences between Greco-Roman and Christian sexual codes and the ideal conduct during the second to fourth centuries A.D., see Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (New York: Knopf, 1987), especially chapter 7, aptly titled “Living Like Angels,” pp. 336–374. Also see Paul Veyne, “Homosexuality in Ancient Rome,” in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, ed. Philippe Ariès and André Béjin; transl. Anthony Forester (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), pp. 26–35.


It is the same type of epithet as Astarte’s sûem ba‘al, or “Name of Ba‘al,” attested at Ugarit in the Late Bronze Age and at Sidon in the fifth century B.C. These epithets represent a phenomenon in Canaanite Phoenician and Israelite religion that Professor Frank Moore Cross characterizes as “hypostases of deity,” in which aspects of transcendence become personified and activated in the cultic world (Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic [Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1973], p. 30).


Actually it is a series of doorways, each a bit smaller, reaching all the way to the inner sanctum, or holy of holiest. The outermost doorway and facade (also the largest) is flanked by columns supporting a disc and crescent (symbol of either Tanit or Ba’al H|amoµn) and a frieze of Egyptian uraei (cobras) above the lintel. One coin type reprinted here revealed the deity worshipped in the temple: on one side is a portrait of the beautiful Syrian empress Julia Domna; on the other is the goddess Tanit, as paneµ Ba’al, framed by the temple facade. See Meshorer, City Coins of Eretz-Israel, coins #47–50.


See “Elagabalus,” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, ed. N.G.L. Hammond and H.H. Scullard (Oxford: Clarendon, 2nd ed., 1970), p. 377.


For Ba’al H|amoµn as “Lord of the Amanus,” rather than the more common interpretation “Lord of the Brazier (or the Incense Altar)” (Ba’al hamman), see Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, pp. 26–28, where he also links Ba’al H|amoµn with a deity known in Hurrian as “El the One of the Mountain H|aman.” To render Elagabal, “El of the Mountain,” we derive –gabal from Arabic jebel, meaning “mountain,” not from Hebrew or Punic gbl, meaning “boundary.” It should be remembered that Emesa (Homs), Syria, the home of Elagahal, was established in the first century B.C. by Arabs, who identified strongly with Phoenician culture on the coast. See Anthony R. Birley, Septimius Severus, the African Emperor (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, rev. ed., 1988) pp. 68–71. For Empress Julia Domna’s identification with (Dea) Caelestis, or Tanit, see Arnaldo Momigliano On Pagans Jews, and Christians (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1987), p. 126.


Personal communication from Professor Katherine Dunhabin.


See John Boswell, The Kindness of Strangers—The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (New York: Pantheon, 1988). He is more sanguine than I am about the prospects of exposed infants and children being rescued.


Naphtali Lewis, Life in Egypt Under Roman Rule (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), p. 54.


Michael Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land: From the Persian to the Arab Conquest (536 B.C.–A.D. 640) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977), pp. 195–196, and Applebaum, “Economic Life in Palestine,” p. 648.


Strabo, 16.2.29; Pliny, Natural History 19.32.101–107.


John A. Riley, “The Pottery from the First Session of Excavation in the Caesarea Hippodrome,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, p. 30, n. 20.


Riley, “The Pottery from the First Session,” p. 30.


Ann Killebrew of the Hebrew University has added another type of amphora (her Type A found at Deir el-Balah) to the repertoire of so-called Gaza wine jars. Our results at Ashkelon confirm her suggestion.


Mitchell Allen, “The Ashkelon Regional Archaeological Survey.” Paper presented at the national AIA convention in San Francisco, December, 1990. This research will soon appear as part of his Ph.D. dissertation being completed at the Institute of Archaeology, UCLA.


See Ann Killebrew’s chapter on Roman and Byzantine pottery, final report of the excavations at Deir el-Balah (forthcoming).


Gabi Mazor, “Wine Presses in the Negev,” Qadmoniot (1981), pp. 51–60.


Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage, p. 99.


Philip Mayerson, “The Pilgrim Routes to Mount Sinai and the Armenians,” Israel Exploration Journal 32 (1982), pp. 44–57, for Ararat, see Eusebius’ Onomasticon 2–4, ed. E. Klostermann, Die griechischen christlichen Schriftstellar der ersten drei Jahrhunderte (Leipzig 1904, reprinted 1966).


Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage, pp. 130–131.


Riley, “The Pottery from the First Session,” p. 30, n. 20.


Myriam Rosen-Ayalon, “The Islamic Jewellery from Ashkelon,” in Jewellery and Goldsmithing in the Islamic World, An International Symposium, Jerusalem, ed. Na’ama Brosh (Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1991), pp. 9–20.


These Fatamid fortifications are usually attributed incorrectly to the Crusader period.


William of Tyre, A History of Deeds Done Beyond the Sea, transl. E.A. Babcock and A.C. Krey (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1943), pp. 17, 22. For a very readable account of Ashkelon in the Crusader period, see Meron Benvenisti, The Crusaders in the Holy Land (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press), pp. 114–130.


We know this because of the five churches at Ashkelon during the time of the Crusaders, four were Latin and one was Byzantine (Greek), namely, Santa Maria Viridis. Before our excavations scholars usually thought this church was located next to the sea (in Grid 50), near a Muslim saint’s tomb known as Maqam al-Hadra, or Shrine of the Green (Lady), from which the south mound took its name. We now know that the church was located on the opposite side of the city.


Translated from the Arabic by Professor David Ayalon of Hebrew University.


David Ayalon “The Mamluks and Naval Power—a Phase of the Struggle between Islam and Christian Europe,” Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, vol. I (Jerusalem, 1965), pp. 1–12. Also “Islam versus Christian Europe: the Case of the Holy Land,” in Pillars of Smoke and Fire: the Holy Land in History and Thought, ed. Moshe Sharon (Johannesburg, 1988), pp. 247–256.