The Holy Land
The over-promised land. This territory, the land between the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the Jordan River to the east, the heights associated with the Bekaa Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the north, and the Sinai Wasteland to the south and southwest, has had perhaps the greatest impact on human history of any other. Certainly it is one of the oldest continually occupied lands on the planet. Either directly or indirectly, much of the tension and conflict in the world today stems from the continuing circumstance that three closely related but trenchantly antagonistic religious communities regard this land as fundamentally sacred to the very core of their essence, and cannot walk away from this place without losing a part of their being. Two disparate ethnic communities are waging what amounts to a full-scale war over control of this land, with no end in sight. The Regnal Chronologies Archive is a site devoted to factual presentation of historical information, so I will stop short of editorializing. But I urge you, the reader, to look over these lists, and ponder carefully the record of travail and triumph present in this tiny land for the past 11,000 years.

contains Akko (Acre), Arsuf, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Caesarea, Dor, Edom, Ekron, Galilee, Gath, Gaza, Haifa, Israel-Palestine, the High Priests of the Temple, Jaffa, Judah, the Kenites, the Midianites, the Philistines, the Rechabites, Salem, Samaria-(ancient) Israel, the Samaritan High Priests, and the Sanhedrin.

AKKO (Arabic Akka, French Acre) A city in northen Israel, on the Mediterranean coast. Akko is extremely old; it dates back at least to 2000 BCE and possibly much earlier. It was an outpost for the Egyptians and a valuable port city to various regional empires. It was known as St. Jean d'Acre to the Crusaders, and following the capture of Jerusalem by the Saracens it became the center of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Its status declined steadily over the years; only since the Israeli capture of the town in 1948 has it enjoyed an economic revival.

ARSUF (Arsur, Apollonia) Arsuf was a Crusader city and fortress located in what is now Israel, about 9 miles (15 km.) north of Tel Aviv. Arsuf was settled in the 6th or 5th century BC, and was known as Arshuf (the name comes from Reshef, a Canaanite-Phoenician god of fertility and the underworld). Arshuf grew in size as the result of its production of purple dye, which it exported to the Roman Empire.

The CAANANITES The Caananites were a Western Semitic folk intimately related to the Ammonites, Edomites, Midianites, and the Hebrews who supplanted them - one portion of the Caananite ethnoi evolved into the Phoenicians of later Antiquity. The Holy Land was at one time dotted with dozens of tiny Caananite city-states, the conquest of which forms much of the subject matter of the earlier Old Testament Scripture. See notes on these polities in the Caananite file - for Phoenician city-states, see Byblos, Dor, Sidon, Tyre and Yopa.

CAESAREA (Caesarea Palaestina, Caesarea Maritima) A town built by Herod the Great about 25-13 BC, lies on the sea-coast of Israel 22 miles (35 km.) south of Haifa and 31 miles (49 km.) north of Tel Aviv, on the site of a place previously called Pyrgos Stratonos ("Strato" or "Straton's Tower," in Latin Turris Stratonis). It is a rubble-field now, adjacent to the small community of Sedot Yam. The civil life of the new city began in 13 BC, when Caesarea was made the civil and military capital of Judaea, and the official residence of the Roman procurators and governors.

DOR An ancient city, located about 15 miles (24 km.) south of modern Haifa. The site has been occupied (by Phoenicians, the southernmost settlement of that people) from at least 1500 BCE, and is mentioned in Egyptian texts. Because of it's strategic location on the coast road, it has had a diverse and chequered history. There is a village of the same name nearby, founded in modern times; and the kibbutz settlement of Nahsholim is also in the immediate vicinity.

EDOM (Idumaea) A Western Semitic people closely related to the ancient Hebrews, and originally living as semi-nomadic herders in what is now the Negev and the Sinai Peninsula.

GALILEE (ha Galil) The highland region in northern Israel, with Samaria to the south, the Lebanon mountains in the north and the Golan Heights (see Bashan) to the east. The chief towns in classical (and modern) times are Akko (see Akko) and Tiberias (T'veriyya), a town built by Herod Antipas in 20 CE and named for the Emperor Tiberius, renowned throughout the Levant for its hot springs. To Christians, this district will always be held in reverence as the homeland of Jesus (Nazareth is a primary city in Lower Galilee) and the site of his early ministry - Roman Catholics in particular note this area as the birthplace of Simon Cephas, St. Peter. The Galileans as a people have long had a reputation as a tough and rather intransigent folk, impatient with outside authority.

HAIFA (Hefa) First mentioned in 1st-4th cents. CE, it's Roman name was Sykaminos. A major industrial city in northern Israel, on the coast north of Mount Carmel, just opposite Akko (Acre) on Haifa Bay. During Crusader times Haifa was a feudal ecclesiastic domain within the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In modern times, it has become not only the principal Israeli port, but also the world headquarters of the Baha'i faith.

The HEBREWS The Hebrew tribes were a grouping of Semitic clans, originally nomadic herders/warriors. The impact on world history of these folk is well known, but the relationship between the various clans as described in various scriptural sources is complex, and requires extended commentary. The co-editor of this archive, Brian Gottesman, has provided an overview of these peoples which I have edited as a separate file; access it HERE.

ISRAEL See Controversy file. This list focuses on the nations and rulers who held the city of Jerusalem within their sway, but should be regarded as providing coverage for the region as a whole. See also the Patriarchs of Jerusalem for the Orthodox religious authorities.

ISRAEL: The HIGH PRIESTS  While primarily a secular archive, I have at various places added religious authorities where it seems appropriate or necessary. It seems to me that a listing of authorities within the Levant would be highly incomplete without notes on the ancient High Priesthood of the Israelites, and so I include them here.  The position was originally for life; the death of the high priest was an event for general mourning and amnesty for exiles and manslaughterers. The office passed several times between the houses of Eleazar (Aaron's eldest son) and the house of Itamar, Eleazar's brother. After the Babylonian Exile the priesthood was restored to the House of Zadok, a descendent of Eleazar. However, during the Hellenistic period it was Seleucid practice to appoint their own candidates for High Priest, who were often deemed to be far from the most worthy candidates. The Hasmoneans, from a non-Zadokite branch of the Kohen caste, took over the High Priesthood until the time of Herod.

JAFFA (Joppa, Yopa)A coastal city in central Israel, located more-or-less within the site of modern Tel Aviv. Long the port of entry and embarkation for Jerusalem and the interior of Judaea.

The MIDIANITES A group of West Semitic tribes which inhabited the deserts of southern Israel, the northwestern part of Arabia and the Sinai during the late second millennium BCE. They engaged in pastoral pursuits, caravan trading, and banditry, and their main contacts with the Israelites were from the period of the Exodus (13th century BCE) through the period of the judges (12th-11th century BCE).

The PHILISTINES The Philistines were among the so-called "People of the Sea", northern sea-raiders from the Mycenaean-era Aegean Sea area who disrupted the Levant in the 13th century BCE, toppled dynasties in Egypt, and ultimately settled in, well, Palestine, there merging to one degree or another with local Caananites. They established a number of city-states and Kingdoms, most of which are poorly documented; rather than clutter this page with a number of one or two person lists, I will keep all my Philistinian data here until I have more substantial information. Philistine kings bore the title of "seren"; which may come from the same archaic origin as the Greek word for a non-hereditary monarch (tyrannos). Moreover, the Philistine kings appear to have acted in concert, rendering their territory a loose confederation of allied states rather than entirely independent kingdoms. Scholars are divided as to the origin of the Philistines; some hypothesize a Mycenaean Greek origin while others, pointing to the names of the Philistine gods, the similarities between the title of their kings, and the fact that they were early iron-users, prefer to postulate that the Philistines were actually Hittites. The fact that the Bible gives Caphtor (usually identified with Crete) as their ancient homeland, but that other ancient writings transliterate Caphtor as Cappadocia (in Anatolia), does little to resolve the issue. Note that all of the Philistine cities except Ashdod were destroyed by the Assyrians and Babylonians; later inhabitants were primarily settlers from other parts of theose empires and were almost totally Hellenized subsequent to Alexander the Great's invasion of the 330's. Ironically, this means that the cities were conquered by (probably) Greek-speaking peoples who became gradually Semiticized, only to then be re-conquered by Semites who became rapidly Greek.

RECHABITES A nomadic tribe inhabiting ancient Israel. In Jeremiah (xxxv.) it is recorded that Rechab, their ancestor, had commanded them not to drink wine or other strong drink, live in houses, sow seed, or plant vineyards, and had enjoined them to dwell in tents all their days. They are traditionally regarded as a Kenite tribe (see Midianites) but may represent an indigenous Canaanite population reacting against urban Canaanite life and religion which allied itself with the invading Israelites. Thereafter the Rechabites generally merged with the population of Judea. However, as late as 1160 CE a Jewish traveler named Benjamin of Tudela made ambiguous references to meeting Rechabites during his journeys in Arabia and the Levant.

SAMARIA The hilly highland region north of Jerusalem and south of the Galilee, excluding the coastal plain region. Historically, the primary cities of the area were Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Samaria (Shomron); the latter was the center of administration from the 800s onwards.

The SAMARITANS The Christian story of the "Good Samaritan" is widely known, but few are familiar with the group itself. There are three theories as to the origins of the Samaritans. The first, propounded by the Samaritans themselves, says that they are remnants of the northern Israelite tribes, left behind when their brethren were deported by the Assyrians. The second, developed by scholars in the 19th century, says that they are descendents of Mesopotamian tribes deported by the Assyrians and Babylonians to Samaria, the hill country north of Jerusalem. Current evidence suggests that both are correct; namely, that foreign deportees mingled with local Israelite remnants and developed a divergent Jewish sect between the 800's and 500's BCE. At the time that Jesus spoke of them, they numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but they were decimated during a revolt against the Byzantines in the 500's CE. They survived as a people, but many were forced to convert to Islam, while many others joined the mainstream Jewish people despite a history of emnity between the two groups. Today only a few hundred Samaritans remain, mostly around Mount Gerizim near the city of Nablus. They are officially Israeli citizens and most identify themselves as Jewish to some extent. Their Temple on Mount Gerizim is still the site of ancient Israelite rituals such as animal sacrifice on Passover. They speak a dialact of ancient Hebrew mingled with Aramaic for liturgical purposes.

The SANHEDRIN Normally I would not include the leaders of legislative or judicial bodies in an archive such as this, but within the context of the Holy Land the Sanhedrin is a special case, in that its existence looms large in not only Jewish historical lore, but also Christian memory as well; it's inclusion may therefore be of more than passing interest to readers. The Sanhedrin had its origins in the council of sages that advised Moses in the Bible. It was probably not formalized until the return from the Babylonian Exile in the 500's. It consisted of 71 elders, including the President or Rosh Sanhedrin, who was referred to as Nasi (Prince). The second most senior member of the Sanhedrin was called the Av Beit Din, or Father of the House of Justice, and served as a sort of Chief Justice when the Sanhedrin sat on a criminal case. The following are the leaders of the Sanhedrin and post-Sanhedrin Nasi'im whose names are recorded. A * next to a person's name indicates that that person was the Av Beth Din rather than the Nasi.