The Conspiracy

This … Is … Jewish Identity!

What if Helen of Troy was Jewish? Is it possible that Greek myth’s most legendary beauty was an MOT? That proposition is a bit far-fetched, but ancient sources record that the Spartans and Jews may have been related. Is that tale even true, though, or is it a product of later political impositions?

According to 1 Maccabees, Jonathan wrote a kind letter to the Spartans in which he calls them the “brothers” of his people and references a past letter to a previous High Priest, Onias, from “Arius, who was king among you, stating that you are our brothers, as the appended copy shows” (1 Macc. 12:7). The letter goes on to reemphasize the continuous alliance and shared kinship between the two peoples. In 2 Maccabees, the author says that the High Priest Jason fled to the Spartans “in hope of finding protection because of their kinship” (2 Macc. 5:9). Additional references hint at a very close relationship in antiquity, or at least a purportedly close one, between Jews and Spartans.

Is this relationship a true one? Was Sparta so close to Judea that its people called themselves “brothers”? If so, does that mean that Sparta was comprised of people of Israelite descent? In his Studies in Hellenistic Judaism, Louis Feldman says that the appeal to Spartan brotherhood was a means of impressing the Romans, with whom the Maccabees were also closely allied (Feldman 197). According to Feldman, the Spartans were very highly thought of by the Romans at that period in time, so seeking a positive relationship with them would impress the Jews’ prospective allies, the Romans. At the same time, though, this doesn’t account for the purported blood relationship between the two people.

Feldman thinks that the alleged blood ties were borne more of similarities between the Jews and Spartans than anything else (Feldman 196). Indeed, the scholarly research done on the subject makes it seem highly unlikely that the Jews and Spartans were blood kin. Perhaps the term “brother” in antiquity was used as a means of political brotherhood, rather than literal blood relations. Either way, if the Jews saw the Spartans as brothers (and the Spartans felt the same way), what would this mean for the way we perceive ancient Sparta?

What would it mean if Helen of Troy was Spartan and, thus, Israelite? Would it change the way Jewish women perceived themselves? It isn’t likely; indeed, Helen probably didn’t even exist. Even if she did, the relationship is tenuous at best, due to lack of historical information and distance through time. Either way, there is no reason we Jewish ladies should define ourselves in terms of another woman. We’re good enough by ourselves! For you guys out there, what would it mean if King Leonidas, the hero Gerard Butler portrayed in 300, was Jewish?

The answer to these questions is that, for the people of today, a Jewish-Spartan relationship likely wouldn’t matter. Ultimately, no matter whom we were related to in the past, the Jewish people have carved out their own identity, independent of ancient alliances. This self-determination is a hallmark of our people, one that has been &#8212 and will hold up &#8212 throughout the ages.

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2 Older Responses to “This … Is … Jewish Identity!”

  1. David Zarmi
    January 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Very cool. Dr. Feldman actually cited my research work on similarities between the Moses and Lycurgus stories in an article he wrote for a collections of essays on Josephus. I don’t have a copy with me to refer to, but given that research, I could easily understand why they might have seen the Spartans as ideologically related, as odd as that might sound. While so much of Spartan society is antithetical to Judaism, they both had a tora given to them by a lawgiver and respected many of the same virtues.

    There are two possible things we could learn from this. First, apparently despite some of the horrors of Spartan society (infanticide, systemic pedophilia and homosexuality, cruelty), these declarations of kinship could show an openness to take the good from a corrupt society and leave the bad. Kind of like Modern Orthodoxy. Second, it can broaden what we think of as Jewish values – a strong military can be a Jewish value. Judaism doesn’t require us to scurry away ion the corners when trouble comes. Apparently. I want to review my paper now!

  2. craig braginsky
    June 16, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    You are the type of Jews that give Jews a bad name. Most of the Great Jews were originally pagan. Einstein, Freud,Marx were all from pagan european bloodlines. I own the largest private collection of original scrolls, letters and other ancient greek historical documents. The Spartans were in FACT directly related to the Jewish people as were most Ancient Greeks. One group settled in one place and one in another. They may have had a different religion, but the earliest account of Greek religion begins with the story of the ONE god who then creates the heavens and earth and the other gods (Titans). Be proud of your accomplishments and how you treat other people. Lose the obsession of Jewish superiority (though we have certainly been the “Greeks” of the last 1,000 years)! There is no arguing that the Spartan people and the Jewish people were once the same and I own the proof. I am in talks to loan out my pieces to scholars in both the USA and Israel. Helen of Sparta was unquestionably of the same blood as the Jewish people and there IS proof that Helen existed. Try going to a museum or reading a book once in awhile. The mainstream world has already known of the blood ties of the Jews and Spartans (Dorian Greeks) since 1989. Get with it. Your article sounds like a statement from the Catholic Church, full of lies, blunders and self importance.

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