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Tabula imperi romanii: Iudaea-Palaestina, Eretz Israel in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Periods.

By Y. TSAFRIR, L. DI SEGNI and J. GREEN with contributions by I. ROLL and Ts. TSUK. Publications of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Section of Humanities. Jerusalem: THE ISRAEL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES, 1994. Pp. x + 264.

This work, together with its maps, forms a milestone in the study of historical geography in the Land of Israel and it will prove to be an essential tool for anyone interested in Palestinology. It is also a contribution to the international project Tabula Imperii Romani (TIR), a long standing endeavor to map the entire Roman world. The team that produced this monograph is also working on the Onomasticon of Eretz Israel in the Greek and Latin Sources, and one hopes that this companion project will come to fruition in the near future. The five maps accompanying the volume are splendid productions, the work of the Archaeological Survey of Israel. They will be highly useful to everyone engaged in research on historical geography.

The Gazetteer, which comprises the main part of the book, contains some 1250 sites, 524 of which are known from literary sources (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac). The remainder are documented only as archaeological sites. The disparity between archaeological and written documentation shows just how limited is our knowledge of the society in Palestine during the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods. It also shows that the archaeological database is finally reaching usable proportions, which was hardly the case forty years ago when the late M. Avi-Yonah was doing his pioneer work.

To place this new volume in its proper context, a few observations are in order. First of all, it should be recognized that for those concerned with the older periods, Bronze and Iron Ages - the so-called "biblical period" - a thorough acquaintance with the Graeco-Roman geographical data is essential. One has to mention only the Onomasticon of Eusebius, a tool no biblical geographer can do without. Secondly, the converse is also true: data from the Bronze and Iron Ages is often crucial for identifying the site of an historically attested settlement. This pertains not only to the mention of the towns by name but also to other data regarding the geographical locale as indicated by the Bronze and Iron Age sources. It is in the area of biblical geography that the authors need to strengthen their foundations even though their interests are in the later periods.

Thirdly, the term Negev or Negeb is not attested in Graeco-Roman sources. In the Bible, Negeb means "south," "south land." However, all indications are that the biblical Negeb is the modern Beer-sheva basin and the Besor drainage area. Someone at Kadesh-barnea was not in the Negeb; he had to go up to the Negeb (Num. 13:17). But in the volume under review the authors use the modern term Negev to refer to the entire area from Beer-sheva to Elath. This may be in accordance with the erroneous usage current in modern Israel, but it is misleading when used anachronistically in a scholarly work such as this. For example, Eboda (pp. 114b-15a) is said to be a "Nabataean-Byzantine town in the central Negev." Historically this is dead wrong. And since the authors use other geographical terms such as Galilee, Sharon, Samaria, Judea, etc., the hapless reader would assume that the use of Negev is as valid as Galilee and the others. It simply is not. Therefore, in future editions, I suggest that the term Negev be dropped.

Finally, authors of a gazetteer such as this one are faced with an almost insurmountable challenge in toponymy. The composers of the present gazetteer have done an admirable job. Places attested in ancient sources appear in CAPS while modern site names appear with initial capitalization only. The latter names consist of Hebrew and Arabic toponyms as recorded by governmental agencies. That means that the Arabic names are usually in a "literary form"; no other form would be acceptable in official documents and on official maps. In most cases, both the modern Hebrew and the Arabic names are given together. Here and there, one finds only one or the other (even when both forms exist, e.g., En Gedi, p. 121a). Diacritical marks and accents are held to a minimum, which is an understandable economy measure. One is puzzled about the criteria followed in deciding whether to transcribe the Hebrew sade by "s" or by "z" (cf. the authors' remarks, p. 4). Moreover, had they marked the cognate Arabic sad by the "s", considerable misunderstanding could have been avoided. Also, the choice of "th" for ancient taw and "t" for ancient tet is unjustified. When the Greek toponym has theta then "th" is certainly in order and when it has taw, then "t." For Semitic languages, the ancient tet should be marked by "t" just as "h" has been correctly adopted for ancient het. The "th" in Hebrew should be reserved for post-vocalic taw. The problems are complex and consistency is hard, perhaps impossible, to achieve. Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that archaeology and geography have been divorced for so long from Semitic and Classical linguistics. Are there no linguists with whom the geographers could consult? At least the present authors have shunned the Israel Survey Department's barbaric use of "z" for sade and "h" for het, symbols selected by the government geographers and cartographers without consulting specialists in Semitic linguistics. Michael Avi-Yona's Gazetteer of Roman Palestine (Jerusalem: Institute of Archaeology, 1976), which Tsafrir saw through the press, used Greek script and gave the original documented forms, in the tradition of P. Thomsen's Loca Sancta (Halle: Rudolf Haupt, 1907). Semitic names were given in italic script with diacritical accents. The present work comes as a supplement but not as a substitute for the work of Avi-Yonah (and don't throw away your Loca Sancta!).

The mapping of the Roman roads by Israel Roll (cf. his remarks herein, pp. 21-22) is especially useful. Roll has been doing productive research on the road system for many years and it is a pleasure to have access to the fruits of his labors. The other contribution, by Ts. Tsuk, on the "Water-Supply Systems in Roman Palestine," is also an invaluable piece of work.

The following remarks on items in the Gazetteer are not meant to detract from the credit due to Yoram Tsafrir and his colleagues. It is just that perfection is still a distant goal and unanimity of opinion is even more remote.

ABILA (p. 55b): If this really is biblical Abel-beth-maacah, then Eusebius must have erred when he said that Abila was "between Paneas and Damascus." He must have meant to say "between Paneas and Tyre," since there was an important Roman road from Paneas to Tyre which Eusebius referred to elsewhere when he gave the distance for locating biblical Dan.

ACCARON (p. 56a): The main settlement from the Roman-Byzantine period is not at Tel Miqne (Khirbet el-Muqanna) but in an area of about 2 1/2 acres 300 yards northwest of the tell. Sherds of the 5th-6th century C.E. are scattered all over that part of the open field.

(ADOLLAM) (p. 58a): This form should be cross-referenced to ODOLLAM (p. 197).

ANAEA I and ANAEA II (p. 62): One of these twin villages appears in Josh. 15:50 and Arad Letter no. 25 refers to nm thtnm "lower Anim" and nm lynm "upper Anim."

BEEROTH, BEREA (p. 75a): As Z. Kallai had observed ("An Attempt to Determine the Location of Beeroth," Eretz-Israel 3 [1954]: 115), there are several arguments from the sources that militate against the location of this Gibeonite town at el-Bireh (el Bire). Eusebius places it seven miles along the road to Nikopolis, not Neapolis. Kallai also realized that it must be the turn off from that road that was seven miles north of Jerusalem (typical of many distances given by Eusebius, especially in the area of Benjamin, north of Jerusalem). In the Israelite period, there were other clans such as the Zophim, located in the area of el-Bireh. Beeroth ought to be closer to the other towns in the Gibeonite enclave, GABAON (p. 126b, el-Jib), Chephirah (Kh. el-Kefireh) and CARIATHIARIM (p. 100, Deir el-Azhar), all of them clustered in the southern part of the Benjaminite territory. Kallai had suggested Nebi Samwil as the Site of Beeroth. S. Yeivin ("The Benjaminite Settlement in the Western Part of their Territory," Israel Exploration Journal 21 [1971]: 141-54) suggested that the Byzantine site was at Kh. el-Biyarah (cf. Kh. el Biyar, p. 91b) which is in the right place to satisfy the reference in Eusebius and is in southern Benjamin. The Iron Age site was probably Kh. el-Burj (167137), on the ridge above Kh. el-Biyarah.

BETH HA-KEREM II (p. 82): Aharoni's suggestion to place this biblical town at Ramat Rahel (Kh. Salih) is mentioned in the bibliography but evidently not given much credence by the authors. This reviewer finds Aharoni's arguments compelling in spite of the name Ein Karim at the village west of Jerusalem. The reference to raising a fire signal at Bethhaccherem (Jer. 6:1) in context with Tekoa doesn't make sense if Bethhaccherem was at Ein Karim, which is down in a ravine. It does make sense at Ramat Rahel which is on a prominent hill with eye contact from Tekoa to Jerusalem and to the ridge in Benjamin north of Jerusalem.

BOUTAFIS, BETHAFU (p. 92a): There is manuscript evidence for [Greek Text Omitted], which would point to Beth-tappuah as the original (E. Z. Melamed, The Onomastikon of Eusebius [Jerusalem, Israel Exploration Society, 1966], 24, no. 232).

EBODA (pp. 114b-15a): Cf. the remarks above about the misuse of the term Negev. The same holds true for ELUSA (p. 119), dubbed the capital of the "Byzantine Negev." Where is the documentation for this "Byzantine Negev"? As a matter of fact, it doesn't exist in any ancient document, but only in the minds of modern archaeologists.

EGLON (p. 115b): The cross reference to Agla (p. 58b) is misguided. Under the AGLA rubric there is no attempt to link that toponym to biblical Eglon. Of course, earlier explorers (Robinson, Conder, Albright) did assume that Agla preserved the name of Eglon. But Eusebius made no such claim. Since the LXX had generally confused Eglon with Adullam (cf. ODOLLAM, p. 197a), Eusebius also equated them. But he did record the name [Greek Text Omitted] (Onom. 84:22-24) and located it east of Eleutheropolis. Agla was west of Eleutheropolis.

GALAIA, GALAA (p. 127b): The correct form is GALLAIA. It is questionable whether this site is really in the Shephelah; it would be more appropriate to say that it is in the "inner coastal plain." It is mentioned by Eusebius in relation to ACCARON, "They say that there is some village near Accaron called Gallaia" (Onom. 72:7), and Accaron/Ekron was Philistine, not Judean. The term Shephelah refers to the western zone of the Judean kingdom; Philistia was defined as "the plain" (misor, 2 Chron. 26:10) or "coast" (hop, Deut. 1:7) and is distinguished from Shephelah. Again we see the same sloppiness in the use of biblical geographical terms.

GAMALA: This reviewer is still an unregenerate skeptic with regard to (Kh.) es-Salam. Bezalel Bar-Kochva's arguments against this new identification with GAMALA have never been answered by anyone in the archaeological community. The excavations at es-Salam have produced exciting finds of a siege and destruction; but no evidence as to the name of the ancient town has come to light. The toponymic evidence in favor of el-Ahdab beside Jamleh still stands. Bar-Kochva suggested that the site of es-Salam may be the Solyma in western Gaulanitis that revolted against Agrippa II at about this time (Jos. War 2:20:6 [573]; Life 37 [188]).

GATH RIMMON (p. 129b): The name should be GETHREMMON, as recorded in Eusebius. This biblical town must be identical with GITTHAM (Hebrew, Gittaim) since it was people of the Rimmon clan that had fled to Gittaim in the reign of Saul (2 Sam. 4:2). All biblical indications are in favor of placing Gittaim/Gath-rimmon in the vicinity of Ramla. Ras Abu Humeid (wrongly called Hamid here) is a possibility, but it could just as well be Gibbethon. This reviewer has suggested that Ramla itself was built on the site of ancient Gath/Gittaim/Gath-rimmon ("Tel Gerisa and the Danite Inheritance," in R. Zeevy, ed., Israel: People and Land, Eretz Israel Museum Yearbook, 5-6 [23-24] [5748-49 (198789)]: 59-72). The Gitta of the Madeba Map, which the caption identifies as one of the five Philistine cities, is very close to DIOSPOLIS (= LOD, LYDDA, p. 171); so it is probably Gath(-rimmon)/Gittaim which the author of the map confused with Gath of the Philistines. This Gitta would also be the GATH RIMMON identified by Eusebius; the mileage he gives, viz. [Iota][Beta]' (12), is probably just an error for [Beta]' (2). The position of Gitta on the Madeba Map looks just like it ought to be at Ramla, i.e., two miles from DIOSPOLIS/LOD/LYDDA.

GERAR, SALTUS GERARITICUS (pp. 132b-33a): Should be GERARA (Onom. 60:7). The Roman-Byzantine settlement would most likely be at Kh. Umm Jerrar/H. Gerarit (p. 133a). That would suit perfectly the smallness of the site on the Madeba Map. There are other possible identifications for Tel Haror/Tell Abu Hureira, such as Sharhan (Sharuhen) though biblical Gerar is still an option (Gath of the Philistines is not, cf. below).

GETH (p. 134b): Eusebius places GETH on the road from DIOSPOLIS to ELEUTHEROPOLIS "near the fifth milestone" (Onom. 68:6-7). That certainly points to Tell es.-Safi (Hebrew Tel Zafit) as recognized by the authors. The assumed "location" on the road from ELEUTHEROPOLIS to GAZA derives from a remark in Jerome's commentary to Micha. In fact, when leaving Belt Guvrin towards Gaza, Tell es-Safi is still visible on the northern horizon. But the various identifications of Gath with Araq el-Menshiyeh listed under this rubric in the bibliography section give priority to Jerome's remark over Eusebius' precise description. But Jerome himself had translated the Onomasticon to Latin, so he certainly was not intending to contradict its statement. In short, there is no validity in seeking a southern Gath on the basis of Jerome's commentary to Micha; neither is there any other ancient source in favor of a "southern Gath."

RHINOCORURA (pp. 214b-15a): The bibliographical reference to Reeg, who equated RHINOCORURA with el-Arish and with the biblical nahal Misraim, "The Brook of Egypt," is certainly correct. The Hebrew nahal Misraim is translated by Rhinocorura in LXX (Isaiah 27:12). The authors of the Gazetteer should have known better than to call it the "River of Egypt." The nehar Misraim "River of Egypt" (Gen. 15:18) was the eastern branch of the Nile that passed by Pelusion. The Brook of Egypt and the River of Egypt were never the same (Incidentally, the cross reference to Gazetteer, p. 91 does not mention RHINOCORURA!).

SAPHITHA (p. 222b): This was most likely the village site called Kh. es-Safiyeh that was located at the foot of Tell es-Safi, on the north eastern side (136123).

SARONA II (p. 223a): The Eshmunazer inscription demonstrates that the Sharon Plain included the hinterland of both Dot and Joppe. The modern assumption that the Wadi el Auja (the so-called Yarkon of today) is the southern border of the Sharon is contrary to Eusebius as well as Eshmunazer. What is now called Gush Dan was also part of the Sharon Plain.

SIMONIAS (p. 232b): This town was called Shim on in biblical times; three times in the Hebrew of Joshua (11:1; 12:20; 19:19) it is called Shimron, but the LXX has Symonia and twice in the book of 2 Chronicles (15:9; 34:6) it appears in its correct form, Shim on. The Amarna letters and the topographical lists of Thutmose III and Amenhotep III all support the testimony of LXX and 2 Chronicles. Shimron is a ghost word. Once more I suggest that the authors of this Gazetteer should improve their acquaintance with biblical toponymy and with the data from Bronze and Iron Age historical geography.

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Author:Rainey, Anson F.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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