Three fragments of a Greek inscription, believed to be part of the "Heliodoros stele" were recently found at an Israel Antiquities Authority excavation at the National Park of Beit Guvrin.
The Heliodoros stele, dating back to 178 B.C.E. and consisting of 23 lines inscribed in limestone, is considered one of the most important ancient inscriptions found in Israel.
Dr. Dov Gera, who studied the inscriptions, determined that the fragments were actually the lower portion of "The Heliodoros stele". This discovery confirmed the assumption that the stele originally stood in one of the temples located where Maresha- Beit Guvrin National Park stands today.
The new fragments were discovered in a subterranean complex by participants in the Archaeological Seminars Institute's "Dig for a Day" program.
As published by Professors Cotton and Wörrle in 2007, this royal stone stele bears a proclamation by the Seleucid king, Seleucus IV (father of Antiochus IV). The contents of the stele shed light on the Seleucid government's involvement in local temples, mentioning an individual named Olympiodoros, the appointed "overseer" of the temples in Coele Syria - Phoenicia, including Judea.
The order of the king was sent to Heliodorus, who was probably the same person mentioned in the book of II Maccabees. According to the story in Maccabees, Heliodorus, as the representative of King Seleucus IV, tried to steal money from the Temple in Jerusalem but instead was severely beaten as a result of divine intervention.
Three years later, Seleucus IV was assassinated and was succeeded by his son Antiochus IV, who was the ruler, who according to II Maccabees, eventually issued an edict of persecution against the Jewish people and desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Maccabean Revolt.
In short, it can be determined that this royal stele originated in the city of Maresha, and adds important archaeological evidence and historical context to understanding the period leading up to the Maccabean Revolt, an event celebrated each year on the holiday of Hanukah.
Dr. Ian Stern, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority adds, "this discovery is the fruit of a joint effort on the part of the Archaeological Seminars Instititute's 'Dig for a Day' program, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the staff of the of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority in the National Park of Beit Guvrin."
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