the First Week of Lent
Click to donate today!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Ac´cho, a town and haven within the nominal territory of the tribe of Asher, which however never acquired possession of it (Judges 1:31). The Greek and Roman writers call it Ace, but it was eventually better known as Ptolemais, which name it received from the first Ptolemy, king of Egypt, by whom it was much improved. By this name it is mentioned in the New Testament (Acts 21:7). It was also called Colonia Claudii Caesaris, in consequence of its receiving the privileges of a Roman city from the emperor Claudius. But the names thus imposed or altered by foreigners never took with the natives, and the place is still known in the country by the name of Akka. During the Crusades the place was usually known to Europeans by the name of Acon: afterwards, from the occupation of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, as St. Jean d'Acre, or simply Acre.
This famous city and haven is situated in N. lat. 32° 55´, and E. long. 35° 5´, and occupies the north-western point of a commodious bay, called the Bay of Acre, the opposite or southwestern point of which is formed by the promontory of Mount Carmel. The city lies on the plain to which it gives its name. Its western side is washed by the waves of the Mediterranean, and on the south lies the bay, beyond which may be seen the town of Caipha, on the site of the ancient Calamos, and, rising high above both, the shrubby heights of Carmel. The mountains belonging to the chain of Anti-Libanus are seen at the distance of about four leagues to the north, while to the east the view is bounded by the fruitful hills of the Lower Galilee. The bay, from the town of Acre to the promontory of Mount Carmel, is three leagues wide and two in depth. The port, on account of its shallowness, can only be entered by vessels of small burden; but there is excellent anchorage on the other side of the bay, before Caipha, which is, in fact, the roadstead of Acre. In the time of Strabo Accho was a great city, and it has continued to be a place of importance down to the present time. But after the Turks gained possession of it, Acre so rapidly declined, that the travelers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries concur in describing it as much fallen from its former glory. Traces of its ancient magnificence, however, still remained in the fragments of spacious buildings, sacred and secular, and in portions of old walls of extraordinary height and thickness. An impulse was given to the prosperity of the place by the measures of Sheikh Daher, and afterwards of Djezzar Pasha, and the town greatly increased in actual importance. The population in 1819 was computed at 10,000, of whom 3000 were Turks, the rest Christians of various denominations. Approached from Tyre the city presented a beautiful appearance, from the trees in the inside, which rise above the wall, and from the ground immediately around it on the outside being planted with orange, lemon, and palm trees. Inside, the streets had the usual narrowness and filth of Turkish towns; the houses solidly built with stone, with flat roofs; the bazaars mean, but tolerably well supplied. The principal objects were the mosque built by Djezzar Pasha, the pasha's seraglio, the granary, and the arsenal. The trade was not considerable; the exports consisted chiefly of grain and cotton, the produce of the neighboring plain; and the imports chiefly of rice, coffee, and sugar from Damietta. As thus described, the city was all but demolished in 1832 by the hands of Ibrahim Pasha; and although considerable pains were taken to restore it, yet, as lately as 1837, it still exhibited a most wretched appearance, with ruined houses and broken arches in every direction.
As the fame of Acre is rather modern than biblical, its history must in this place be briefly told. It belonged to the Phoenicians, until they, in common with the Jews, were subjugated by the Babylonians. By the latter it was doubtless maintained as a military station against Egypt, as it was afterwards by the Persians. In the distribution of Alexander's dominions Accho fell to the lot of Ptolemy Soter, who valued the acquisition, and gave it his own name. Afterwards it fell into the hands of the kings of Syria; and is repeatedly mentioned in the wars of the Maccabees. It was at one time the headquarters of their heathen enemies. In the endeavor of Demetrius Soter and Alexander Balas to bid highest for the support of Jonathan, the latter gave Ptolemais and the lands around to the temple at Jerusalem. Jonathan was afterwards invited to meet Alexander and the king of Egypt at that place, and was treated with great distinction by them, but there he at length (B.C. 144) met his death through the treachery of Tryphon. Alexander Jannaeus took advantage of the civil war between Antiochus Philometor and Antiochus Cyzicenus to besiege Ptolemais, as the only maritime city in those parts, except Gaza, which he had not subdued; but the siege was raised by Ptolemy Lathyrus (then king of Cyprus), who got possession of the city, of which he was soon deprived by his mother Cleopatra. She probably gave it, along with her daughter Selene, to Antiochus Grypus, king of Syria. At least, after his death, Selene held possession of that and some other Phoenician towns, after Tigranes, king of Armenia, had acquired the rest of the kingdom. But an injudicious attempt to extend her dominions drew upon her the vengeance of that conqueror, who, in B.C. 70, reduced Ptolemais, and, while thus employed, received with favor the Jewish embassy which was sent by Queen Alexandra, with valuable presents, to seek his friendship. A few years after, Ptolemais was absorbed, with all the country, into the Roman Empire; and the rest of its ancient history is obscure and of little note. It is only mentioned in the New Testament from St. Paul having spent a day there on his voyage to Caesarea (Acts 21:7). It continued a place of importance, and was the seat of a bishopric in the first ages of the Christian Church. The see was filled sometimes by orthodox and sometimes by Arian bishops; and it has the equivocal distinction of having been the birth-place of the Sabellian heresy. Accho, as we may now again call it, was an imperial garrison town when the Saracens invaded Syria, and was one of those that held out until Caesarea was taken by Amru in A.D. 638.
The Franks first became masters of it in A.D. 1110, when it was taken by Baldwin, king of Jerusalem. But in A.D. 1187it was recovered by Salahed-din, who retained it till A.D. 1191, when it was retaken by the Christians. This was the famous siege in which Richard Caeur-de-Lion made so distinguished a figure. The Christians kept it exactly one hundred years, or till A.D. 1291; and it was the very last place of which they were dispossessed. It had been assigned to the Knights Hospitallers of Jerusalem, who fortified it strongly, and defended it valiantly, till it was at length wrested from them by Khalil ben Kelaoun, or Melek Seruf, Sultan of Egypt. Under this dominion it remained till A.D. 1517, when the Mamluke dynasty was overthrown by Selim I, and all its territories passed to the Turks. After this Acre remained in quiet obscurity till the middle of the last century, when the Arab Sheikh Daher took it by surprise. Under him the place recovered some of its trade and importance. He was succeeded by the barbarous but able tyrant Djezzar Pasha, who strengthened the fortifications and improved the town. Under him it rose once more into fame, through the gallant and successful resistance which, under the direction of Sir Sidney Smith, it offered to the arms of Buonaparte. After that famous siege the fortifications were further strengthened, till it became the strongest place in all Syria. In 1832 the town was besieged for nearly six months by Ibrahim Pasha, during which 35,000 shells were thrown into it, and the buildings were literally beaten to pieces. It had by no means recovered from this calamity, when it was subjected to the operations of the English fleet under Admiral Stopford, in pursuance of the plan for restoring Syria to the Porte. On the 3rd of November, 1840, it was bombarded for several hours, when the explosion of the powder-magazine destroyed the garrison and laid the town in ruins.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Accho'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​a/accho.html.