I was reading the Book of Maccabees (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
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 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
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 21:23
  • Can you source the quote in Josephus into the question?
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 21:36

10 Answers 10


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, accompanied Hercules into North Africa. His daughter married Hercules and had a son Diodorus.

Kingship Myth in Ancient Greece

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    "Cleodemus Malchus" I can't tell if that is greek or hebrew or both? :) Cledemus Malkut maybe? :P
    – avi
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 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." Commented Jul 23, 2012 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. Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 2:35
  • @avi ping plus more text Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 2:37
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    @CharlesKoppelman Doesn't really make a difference. They did not learn about being being sons of Abraham from the letter itself but from this other story.
    – avi
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 14:35

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 Judaism. 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
    Commented Jan 6, 2012 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
    Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 16:01

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.

Source: “Descendants of Abraham: Part IV: Sons of Keturah”. Copyright © 2007 Wade Cox & anor.

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    In StackExchange, it is best if you can summarize the key points of the link.
    – avi
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 13:42
  • Ok..thank you for your feedback.I will take care for future
    – Tofeeq
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 4:13
  • I have edited my post, so if it helpful then remove downvote
    – Tofeeq
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 4:29

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
    Commented Jan 6, 2012 at 15:35
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    Instead of just links, can you provide a summary?
    – avi
    Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 16:01

Please see the website here- it explains that the Phoenicians (who have the same blood and alphabet but different religion) were frequently equated with the Hebrew people. The Phoenicians were known for their ships, as were the tribe of Dan. The Spartans were even called Sephardi (form of it) before the name was given to Spain.



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 connects 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 & Phoenician 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
    Commented May 25, 2013 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
    Commented May 26, 2013 at 7:20

Well, I'm going to toss something out there. J1 haplogroup (J-M267) used in genetic studies in proto-Semitic / Semitic peoples represented by the major branch P58 which all Semitic peoples are found in the haplogroup for genetic study purposes.

Focus has largely been on famous Cohan model downstream from BY68,or Z640 associated with Samaritans, FGC11/FGC12 associated with Prophet Mohammed, FSC76 also among Jews such as founder of FTDNA Bennett Greenspan. There is another sibling branch to Z640, FSC76, FGC11. That is PF4872. PF4872 has been described as sea merchants, not really given much attention until next generation testing Y700 and full sequencing services arrived. It changed everything.

J1 is a bit of a late arrival to the Levant, bronze age, no J1 has been discovered prior layers such as Natufian culture. Follows the biblical narrative of Abraham to the Levant. This PF4872 is unique, it is not found in Arabia, or Maghreb, it is Levant specific branch with a westward migration to Europe. Next generation testing has demonstrated with new SNPs downstream a continuous maritime connection across the Mediterranean sea, which genetically is really a lake or pond, representing thousands of years of migrations and reverse migrations.

Then you have Tel Dan, with the famous Mycenaean grave and Mycenaean artifacts. Phoenicians "And Hiram sent his men--sailors who knew the sea--to serve in the fleet with Solomon's men. 1 Kings 9:27.

These ancient sea routes had been in continuous use since the Bronze era, and expanding through history. 50% of southern Italians have some Jewish heritage with automosal testing. There is one or two PF4872 Jewish reported, one from Basra Iraq.

  • Hey Pegasusphm1 and welcome to Mi Yodeya! I hope you stick around the site. It would be helpful to many users here if you sourced your answer and if you could possibly clarify the scientific terms, as not everyone is familiar with these.
    – Harel13
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 9:11

"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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 22, 2012 at 22:32
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    Also, I don't think the Jews actually worshiped the snake on the staff.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 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
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 15:21
  • @HodofHod See the above comment, which is accurate TTBOMK.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 2, 2013 at 23:27
  • @Double Interesting. I stand corrected. I think I'll leave my comment for others, though.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 2:36

I think it can easily be demonstrated that the Spartans are Dorian Greeks descended from Dor in Palestine. Phoenicians from the seed of Abraham and of Jacob Israel. The problem with associating Spartans and Jews as kinsmen. If we are talking about Jews as Judeans then the anthropological and archeological connections are not there.

1 John 2:19 tells us "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us". This can be collaborated by Josephus who mentioned the Edomite "conversion" into Israel. There clearly contradicts "we have discovered that both the Jews and the Lacedemonians (Spartans) are of one stock". The contradictions are only etymological.

Relating Jews to Hebrews is a false claim.

The 1905 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia states that "Edom is in Modern Jewry".

Also, according to The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (1977 p. 589; and Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, Vol. 6, p 378) "Judah Maccabee's son, John Hyrcanus, conquered the whole of Edom and undertook the forced conversion of its inhabitants to Judaism."

Edom is in 'Modern Jewry' Jewish Encyclopedia, 1925 edition, Vol. 5, p. 41

"Strictly speaking, it is incorrect to call an ancient Israelite a "Jew" or to call a contemporary Jew an "Israelite" or a "Hebrew." "IDENTITY CRISIS," " The Jewish Almanac , compiled and edited by Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980) p. 3



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    Using the christian mythology as a source is not valid. Similarly, just because the word "Jew" comes from the kingdom of Judea does not mean that modern Jews are not "Hebrews" or "Israelites". That is a matter of what words are used at differnt times in history. However, it is still the same people. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:08
  • I used a number of jewish sources. The anthropology, archeology, historicity and language all collaborate the European people being the tribes of Israel. “I am Yahawah Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins". Can only be one people. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:54
  • I used a number of jewish sources. The anthropology, archeology, historicity and language all collaborate the European people being the tribes of Israel. “I am Yahawah Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins". Can only be one people. Not only Etymology but also social and cultural use of a word is a main tool to shift though the deception. Examples being world, goy or gentile. Only way one can equate Jews to "Hebrews" or "Israelites", is if one is under the spell of Edomite φαρμακεία. Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 14:08

The tribe of Simeon was very numerous in the first census taken by Moses after leaving Egypt in a census taken years later the numbers for Simeon are Quite small and other tribes lost a certain number of their warriors... If there was a falling out after the incident with the Midianites this could explain it as these people left for greener pastures such as possibly Troy and or Sparta...

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