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I was reading the Book of Maccabbees (I and II) over shabbat and in it there is a letter written to Sparta to ask for peace, goodwill and friendship.

In the reply letter back from Sparta, they affirm everlasting peace and friendship, and say that the Jewish people are Kin of Sparta for they are the children of Abraham.

Does anyone know what this means, or how Sparta knows this, or what they mean by it?

Chapter 12 verse 20-23 of the Book of Maccabees I

"Arius, king of the Spartans, sends greetings to Onias, the chief priest. It has been found in a writing concerning the Spartans and Jews, that they are a kinsmen, and that they are descended from Abraham. Now since we have learned this, please write us about your welfare. We for our part write you that your cattle and property are ours and ours are yours. So we command them to report to you to this effect."

According to one reading of Josephus, Josephus makes the same claim:

"Areus, King of the Lacedemonians, to Onias, sendeth greeting ... we have discovered that both the Jews and the Lacedemonians (Spartans) are of one stock, and are derived from the kindred of Abraham ... This letter is four-square; and the seal is an eagle, with a dragon in his claws"(Ant.12:4:10).

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Can you source the verses in Maccabees? –  Double AA Dec 18 '11 at 0:40
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It just occurred to me, that there might be a connection between Sparta and one of the son's of Ketura? If that helps anyone find the answer. –  avi Dec 18 '11 at 21:03
    
Interesting idea. Based on enwp.org/Keturah it seems that most of her descendants became tribes in Arabia. Some, though, we know nothing about. –  Double AA Dec 18 '11 at 21:12
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Just found out that Josephus makes the same claim, and actually talks about the same letter. (with slightly different wording) Curiouser and Curiouser –  avi Dec 18 '11 at 21:23
    
Can you source the quote in Josephus into the question? –  Double AA Dec 18 '11 at 21:36
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7 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted
+200

The Hellenistic writer Cleodemus Malchus (a contemporary with the author of I Maccabees.). He is quoted by a Hellenistic historian who is then quoted by Josephus. The son of Abraham and Keturah, Aphras, accompained Heracles into North Africa. His daughter married Hercales and had a son Diodorus.

Kingship Myth in Ancient Greece

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Yashar Koach! Thanks! –  avi Jan 10 '12 at 8:43
    
"Cleodemus Malchus" I can't tell if that is greek or hebrew or both? :) Cledemus Malkut maybe? :P –  avi Jan 10 '12 at 8:44
    
later in the book, though, it says (after explaining that Greeks tended to use Greek ancestors to refer to other peoples): "Areus' letter to the High Priest Onias, then, seems to be inauthentic." The author claims, "Jonathan likely fabricated Areus' letter for his own purposes around 143." And later, "Jonathan's purpose was... not assimilation [as if he used a Greek hero to form a kinship bond,] but an assertion of distinctiveness in the wider world." –  Charles Koppelman Jul 23 '12 at 2:34
    
... so although Spartans may have acknowledged a relationship to Abraham in their mythology, this is not evidence of that - it's evidence of Jews telling Spartans that they're related through Abraham. –  Charles Koppelman Jul 23 '12 at 2:35
    
@avi ping plus more text –  Charles Koppelman Jul 23 '12 at 2:37
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This is a quote from the following, I found it hard to summarize, the entire article is very interesting.I can't vouch for the author, but he appears to be knowledgeable in both history and Judasim. The Missing Simeonites

The Book, Sparta, by A.H.M. Jones, a Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge University, noted several things about Sparta. He states the Spartans worshipped a "great law-giver" who had given them their laws in the "dim past" (page 5 of his book). This law-giver may have been Moses. Professor Jones also noted the Spartans celebrated "the new moons" and the "seventh day" of the month" (page 13). Observing new moons was an Israelite calendar custom, and their observance of "a seventh day" could originate with the Sabbath celebration. Prof. Jones also notes, as do other authorities, that the Spartans were known for being "ruthless" in war and times of crisis. This sounds exactly like the Simeonite nature, which was given to impulsive cruelty, as the Bible confirms.

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+1 for research effort. I don't find these arguments (at least the one's quoted here) to be very convincing though. –  Double AA Jan 6 '12 at 14:03
    
Very cool, but I'm looking from something from the greeks/spartans themselves or from Midrash which gives a history of the spartans and where they come from. Or confirmation that the idea exists because of the Book of Maccabees which Josephus copied. –  avi Jan 7 '12 at 16:01
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Sheba and Dedan The second son of Keturah by Abraham, Jokshan, had two sons Sheba and Dedan. Dedan is recorded as being the progenitor of the Asshurim, the Letushim and the Leummim (Gen. 25:3).

Confusion can arise with several of these names. For instance: although the term Asshurim here is related to Asshur (SHD 804), it refers to a different people from the Assyrians (also 804), who were descendants of Asshur son of Shem. Similarly, Sheba was the name given generations earlier to one of thirteen sons of Joktan, son of Eber (from whom the Hebrews are named).

Asshurim (SHD 805) means steps in the sense of taking steps to go somewhere. In later Jewish literature the Asshurim are described as ‘travelling merchants’.

Letushim (SHD 3912) means hammered or oppressed (Strong), directly related to a word (3913) meaning to sharpen, hammer, whet (BDB), that is, the Letushim were occupied in the sharpening of cutlery and weaponry.

Leummim (SHD 3817) means peoples or communities, from a root word meaning to gather. In later Jewish writings the Leummim are described as the ‘chief of those who inhabit the isles’, perhaps alluding to the Greek islands.

This would also help to further explain the two major Semitic Haplogroups 
of the Greeks
being J and I with the later major haplogroup being the Hamitic E3b from North 
African occupation there. These sons of Keturah may be the Laconian Greeks or
Spartans although they did not inhabit the islands rather the mainland.
Thus two branches of the sons of Keturah may be involved in Greece.

For more information see link

Useful Link

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In StackExchange, it is best if you can summarize the key points of the link. –  avi Jan 9 '12 at 13:42
    
Ok..thank you for your feedback.I will take care for future –  TofeeqAhmad Jan 10 '12 at 4:13
    
I have edited my post, so if it helpful then remove downvote –  TofeeqAhmad Jan 10 '12 at 4:29
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In the Sefer Toldos HaKohanim HaGedolim and in Divrei HaYomim Livnei Yisroel it mentions the Spartans.

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The first one just quotes (in Hebrew) the same letter referenced in Avi's question. The second is a little more interesting, though: he suggests that it may just have been the Spartans' attempt to curry favor with the Jews (and in the footnote there he cites an idea that it's not talking about Sparta itself at all, but about a Spartan colony in Netzivin, northern Babylonia - and the people from there might indeed be able to claim descent from Avraham (or at least from his family, since they originated in that general area). –  Alex Jan 6 '12 at 15:35
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Instead of just links, can you provide a summary? –  avi Jan 7 '12 at 16:01
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There are a couple of discussions of this on the web:

http://www.allempires.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=4502 and http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/bb981014.htm (a Christian site)

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Would you care to summarize the ideas or conclusions there? –  Isaac Moses Dec 20 '11 at 18:23
    
Interesting find, both sources seem to say the same thing, that Sparta comes from Edom, but don't explain where they get that idea from. –  avi Dec 20 '11 at 19:42
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While I know of no source for this, it would make sense since the dominant characteristic of Edom is that they "Lived by the sword." I can't think of any society that exemplified this characteristic more than classic ancient Sparta. –  follick Dec 25 '11 at 1:38
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Have any of you done any research into a possible link between the tribe Dan and Sparta?

The Spartans are said by Herodotus to be descended from Hercules.

The long-hair/Samson connection as well as the Pillars of Hercules in Herodotus (a Phonecian monument) seem eerily reminiscent of Samson's destruction of the Philistines by pushing out the temple pillars in the book of Judges. Herodotus also notes an Egyptian Herculean myth in which he was being led away to be sacrificed to Zeus and then turned and destroyed his captors.

Also, Judges tells of the Danites being seafaring and even impersonating the Sidonian. Finally Ezekiel connect Dan to the Greeks (Javan) in their trade with the city of Tyre.

Eze 27:19 Dan also and Javan going to and fro occupied in thy fairs: bright iron, cassia, and calamus, were in thy market.

I think the connection between Dan and the Greek & Phoenecian sea merchants is clear but I can only find speculative evidence of their connection to Sparta. Still, I think it is a safe bet that the myths of Hercules were at least influenced by Samson.

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Hi, Welcome to Mi Yodea. thank you for your interesting insight. You bring circumstantial claims, using hard sources would make the answer more reliable. –  JNF May 25 '13 at 20:11
    
I second @JNF's welcome and comment, and am commenting here myself only to recommend you register your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  msh210 May 26 '13 at 7:20
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"Kadmos sent some of his men to fetch water from the spring of Ares, but a Serpent, said by some to be a child of Ares, guarded the spring and destroyed most of those who had been sent. In outrage Kadmos killed the Serpent, and then, following the instructions of Athena, planted its teeth. From this sowing there sprang from the earth armed men, called Spartoi . . . As for Kadmos, to atone for the deaths he served Ares as a labourer for an ‘everlasting year,’ for a year then was equal to eight years now." http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/AresWrath.html#Adonis

Apparently the 8th star, the morning star, was a god of the Phoenicians, Eshmun, meaning the 8th, symbolizing resurrection and life, as did the serpent. The Greeks also knew him as Adonis and as Asklepios. The Hebrews also worshiped a serpent that Moses lifted upon a staff and which Hezekiah destroyed. Perhaps the Spartans saw themselves descended from the same god as the Hebrews, or at least from the Phoenicians which they may have seen as close of kin to the Hebrews.

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You are speculating that the two peoples are related because both at some point worshiped a snake? Sounds like a weak argument to me. –  Double AA Jul 22 '12 at 22:32
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Also, I don't think the Jews actually worshiped the snake on the staff. –  HodofHod Jul 30 '12 at 7:16
    
The bronze snake was destroyed when people began to worship it instead of using it as a memorial to God who caused the healing. –  user2340 Feb 2 '13 at 15:21
    
@HodofHod See the above comment, which is accurate TTBOMK. –  Double AA Feb 2 '13 at 23:27
    
@Double Interesting. I stand corrected. I think I'll leave my comment for others, though. –  HodofHod Feb 3 '13 at 2:36
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