Roof Tiles Found in Jerusalem Traced to Greek King Antiochus IV of Chanukah Fame

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Photo by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority on 5 December, 2023
By Pesach Benson • 6 December, 2023

 

Jerusalem, 6 December, 2023 (TPS) — Israeli archaeologists in Jerusalem uncovered ceramic roofing tiles dating back to the reign of Greek King Antiochus IV, best known for his persecution of Jews under his rule during the events of the Chanukah holiday. The discovery was announced by the Israeli Antiquities Authority on Wednesday.

“Until now, we had little material evidence for the presence of the Seleucid Greeks in Jerusalem. The new tiles discovered in the City of David provide tangible remains of the Seleucid Greek presence in the region, linking us with the story of Chanukah. It’s very exciting to encounter the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV ‘face-to-face’, almost 2,200 years after the events of Chanukah,” said Dr. Filip Vukosavovi? of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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The presence of ceramic roofing tiles, a technology originating from Greece around the 7th Century BCE, had not been prevalent in the Land of Israel until 16 fragments of such tiles were discovered by archaeologists from the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.

The holiday of Chanukah recounts Antiochus IV’s cultural and military war in Israel n 168 BCE, which led to the renowned Maccabean Revolt. Following this, Antiochus constructed the imposing fortress known as the “Acra” in an attempt to fortify his control over Jerusalem.

The Greek soldiers living in the fortress continued to rule Jerusalem after the Maccabees cleansed the Temple. According to descriptions in the books of the Maccabees and in the later writings of Flavius Josephus, the fortress embittered the lives of the Jewish residents in the city and the Temple. Despite several descriptions of the fortress in the Jewish and external literary sources, its exact location within the city still remains a puzzle debated by scholars.

Vukosavovi? suggested that the tiling played a part in the king’s cultural war against the Jews, deliberately bringing Greek building styles and practices to Israel.

“The climate and the relatively low precipitation in Israel, as well as other factors, do not justify the use of tiles for roofing, yet Antiochus still chose to make use of these roof tiles, probably for cultural reasons and to make a statement, by introducing Greek monumental material culture in the country at a short distance from the Jewish Temple,” Vukosavovi? said.

“It is therefore probably not incidental that with the collapse of Seleucid rule and the ascent of the Hasmoneans, roofing tiles disappear from Jerusalem, until the arrival of the new Roman conquerors,’ he added.

The eight-day Chanukah holiday begins on Thursday night.

The City of David National Park, where the tiles were found, is where King David established his capital and where many pivotal Biblical events took place. Visitors can see the excavated remains of houses, cisterns, and fortifications, getting a glimpse into Jerusalem’s ancient history.

The park is best known for Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which was constructed by King Hezekiah to provide water to the city ahead of an Assyrian siege led by Sennacherib.

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