Marisa was called Maresha in Biblical times and is listed in the Book of Joshua as one of the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:44; 1 Chronicles 2:42). Thanks to its location on one of the main routes into the Judean hills from the coastal plain, Maresha was one of the towns fortified by King Rehoboam (Solomon’s son). It was also the hometown of the prophet Eliezer (2 Chronicles 11:8, 20:37). The site’s identification as Hellenistic Marisa is confirmed by the Church Father Eusebius.1 The modern-day Arabic name Sandahannah refers to the 12th-century Crusader church of St. Anne near the tell (Sanda = Saint and Hannah = Anne).

In the Hellenistic period, the area of southern Judah is referred to in Greek texts as Idumea, indicating that Edomite settlement had expanded there. Personal names inscribed on the walls of tomb caves, including those incorporating the prefix Qos, such as Qosnatanos, written in Greek, attest to the Idumaean presence. Qos was the chief deity of the Edomites, and the Semitic name Qosnatan (literally, “given by Qos”) is analogous to the Jewish Yonatan (or Jonathan, “given by Yahweh”) and Natan’el (or Nathaniel, “given by El”). Other inscriptions, such as the one naming Sesmaios (mentioned in the accompanying article), and archaeological finds have shown that by the third century B.C.E., a Sidonian community had settled at Marisa and that a sizeable part of its population spoke Greek. Egyptian papyri record that Zenon, a tax collector for King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (281–246 B.C.E.), visited Palestine on official business in 259 B.C.E. and carried out transactions in Marisa, which had become the regional center.2 The town fell to the Hasmonaean king John Hyrcanus I during his campaign in Idumea, sometime after 129 B.C.E. (the Hasmoneans were a Jewish priestly family that had led a revolt against Seleucid rule in the mid-second century B.C.E.).3