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The Acra, also spelled or Akra, was a fortified compound in Jerusalem built by Antiochus Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, following his sack of the city in 168 BCE. The fortress played a significant role in the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt and the formation of the Hasmonean Kingdom. It was destroyed by Simon Thassi during this struggle. To consolidate his hold on the city, monitor events on the Temple Mount and safeguard the Hellenized faction in Jerusalem, Antiochus stationed a Seleucid garrison in the city.
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The Acra is often called the Seleucid Acra to distinguish it from references to the Ptolemaic Baris as an acra and from the later quarter in Jerusalem which inherited the name Acra. The available sources do indicate the Acra stood south of the temple, and because 1 Maccabees is a contemporaneous account of the Maccabean revolt, its account of the Acra (1:35–38) is considered the most reliable.
In November 2015 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced the probable discovery of the "Acra". According to archaeologists Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen, excavating the Givati parking lot adjacent to the City of David, they had unearthed a complex of rooms and fortified walls they identified as the Acra. Finds include fortification walls, a watchtower measuring 4 by 20 meters, and a glacis.
Archaeological Remains Identified As Part of Acra
Benjamin Mazar's excavations of the Ophel, the area adjoining the southern portion of the platform, have unearthed the foundations of a massive structure, possibly dating to the Hellenistic period. Tentatively identified as remnants of the Acra, these archaeological structures feature rows of small interconnected rooms (inspect), believed to be the remains of a barracks. These had been demolished and built over during the Hasmonean period, matching the descriptions in Josephus. The Hasmonean constructions were, in turn, flattened to create a public square fronting the main gates to the Temple platform during the Herodian renovations.
The large pool dated back to the Hellenistic era, has been tentatively identified as remnants of the Acra.
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- Birch, W.F. (1886). "Acra, South of the Temple". Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement. Palestine Exploration Fund: 26–31., or for his citation in Wikisource, see s:Palestine Exploration Fund - Quarterly Statement for 1894/Ancient Jerusalem—Zion, and Acra, South of the Temple. Quote: "On passing from the Bible to 1 Maccabees, the second point, that Zion (already proved to be the City of David) was coincident with Akra, is clear beyond doubt, because 1 Macc., i, 33, states, 'They builded the City of David and it became an Acra for them.' The identity seems to me complete. Ignoring this passage does not diminish its force. I dealt with this point in 1893, 326.
The Macedonian Akra in the Antiq. of Josephus is obviously identical with that of 1 Macc., and is, I maintain, coincident with Zion. The Akra of his Wars, however, is first the hill on which the lower city stood (V, iv, 1); next it is the lower city itself (V, vi. 1), while in Ant. XII, V, 4, Akra is placed in the lower city" (END QUOTE).
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