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ACCO, ACCHO (ăk'ō, Heb. ‘akkô, Judg.1.31; kjv Accho; in asv, rsv, and niv, Acco). The name occurs in some manuscripts and versions of Josh.19.30. In the NT, Ptolemais; modern Arabic, ‘Akka; English, Acre. A seaport, eight miles (thirteen km.) north of Mount Carmel, thirty miles (fifty km.) south of Tyre. The river Belus flows into the Mediterranean Sea close to the town. Acco was in the portion assigned to the tribe of Asher, but the Hebrews did not drive out the original inhabitants (Judg.1.31). It received the name Ptolemais from the Ptolemies of Egypt, from whom it was wrested by the Romans. Paul stayed there a day with Christian brethren on his way from Tyre to Caesarea (Acts.21.7). The Crusaders occupied the town and named it St. Jean d'Acre. In modern times it was part of the Turkish Empire, except for a time when it was occupied by Egypt, being restored to the Turks with British help. Today it is in the nation of Israel, opposite the larger city of Haifa.

ACCO ăk’ ō (עַכֹּ֔ו, LXX ̓Ακχω; KJV ACCHO; for other forms cf. below); NT PTOLEMAIS tŏl’ ə mā ĭs (Πτολεμα̈́ις). Canaanite-Phoenician coastal city in the territory of Asher.


In OT times the city was located at Tell el-Fukhkhâr, one of the most impressive mounds in Pal. The site stands at a natural dividing line between the southern and northern halves of the coastal plain, between the Carmel headland and the “Ladder of Tyre” (Râs en-Nāqûrah). To the S there is a sandy beach which extends for quite a distance inland; in classical tradition, this was the source of an excellent type of sand used in the manufacture of glass (Strabo, XVI. 2. 25; Jos. War, II. x. 2. [188-191]; Pliny, Nat. Hist., V, 75, XXXVI, 191; Tacitus, Hist. V. 7). The N shore line is rocky and rugged down to the water’s edge. The northern cove of the Haifa bay has served as Acco’s seaport, prob. from time immemorial. There was prob. a small town on the shore even in the Israelite period, but during the Hel. age the town spread from its tell to the site of the present town (Ptol. V. 15. 5).


Bronze Age.

Acco was an important Canaanite city state in the Middle and Late Bronze Ages. Its first recorded appearance is in the Egypt. execration texts of the 19th cent. b.c. where it is written cky (Posener, No. E 49) and its prince is T3cmw.

It was conquered by Thutmose III (mid-15th cent. b.c.) apparently during his first campaign (No. 47 on his list, c-k-3).

During the next cent. Acco continued to play a major role in the affairs of Canaan, mentioned repeatedly in the Amarna letters. The names of its two known rulers are evidently non-Sem., perhaps Indo-Aryan.

During the 13th cent. b.c. Acco was again of key importance to the pharaohs of the 19th dynasty. Seti I was there on his first campaign to Canaan. One of Ramses II’s wall reliefs depicts the conquest of Acco. A school text (Papyrus Anastasi I) records Acco as one of the principal towns on the coastal route.

Iron Age.

The only sure mention of Acco in the OT (unless the suggested reading of “Acco” in some Gr. MSS of Joshua 19:30 be accepted) is to the effect that “Asher did not drive out the inhabitants of Acco...but the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites....” (Judg 1:31, 32).

The city of Acco, therefore, became an integral part of the Israelite monarchy only under David; sometime in Solomon’s reign its region (called after Cabul, q.v., modern Kābûl) was transferred to Tyrian control (1 Kings 9:12, 13; 2 Chron 8:1, 2). Thus it remained Phoen. territory throughout the rest of the OT period. When Sennacherib, king of Assyria, made his punitive expedition to Pal. (701 b.c.) his forces took Acco (uruak-ku-ú) along with the other fortified towns belonging to the king of Sidon at that time (ANET, p. 287).

On the return march from his campaign against the Arabs (c. 660 b.c.), Ashurbanipal found it necessary to punish severely the towns of Ushu and Acco (ANET, p. 300).

Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods.

Acco always remained a Phoenician-Hellenistic city. It figured largely in the Maccabean wars, but was never joined to a Jewish kingdom under the Hasmonaeans or the Herods.

Under Emperor Claudius (a.d. 52-54) Ptolemais was raised to the status of a colonia (Pliny, Nat. Hist., V, 17), and the veterans of various legions settled there. The pagan deities worshiped during the Hel. and Rom. periods were known under nearly a dozen Gr. names, but recent evidence suggests that most of these were epithets for the two main Syrian deities, Hadad and Atargatis.

Because of its pagan influences, the Jewish rabbis disputed as to whether Ptolemais should be included in the “Holy Land.” That is, they did not feel that the commandments incumbent upon a person dwelling in “Israel” were in effect for a resident of Acco.

Sometime during this period a small Christian community had developed at Ptolemais, because at the end of Paul’s third missionary journey (a.d. 57), the apostle and his traveling companions stopped over there for one day en route from Tyre to Caesarea (Acts 21:7). The local fellowship had doubtless sprung up among the Jews living in Ptolemais (cf. Acts 11:19 which marked the beginning of the movement there), but the Hellenic nature of the city itself was also a probable factor in the reception of Christianity. By this time the Rom. coastal highway from Tyre to Ptolemais was prob. completed.


G. T. Newell, The Dated Alexander of Sidon and Ake (1916); A. J. Rustam, “Akka (Acre) and its Defences,” PEF. QSt (1926), 143-157; A. H. M. Jones, Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces (1937), 241, 242, 251, 257, 281; G. T. Newell, Late Seleucid Mints in Ake—Ptolemais and Damascus (1939); A. B. Brett, “Seleucid Coins of Ake-Ptolemais in Phoenicia. Selucus IV to Tryphon,” American Numismatic Society Museum Notes, I (1945), 17-35; N. Makhouly and C. N. Johns, Guide to Acre (2nd ed. 1946); G. Orshan, “A Vegetation Map of the Sand Dunes in the Southern Acre Plain,” IEJ, V (1955), 109-113; M. Avi-Yonah, “Syrian Gods at Ptolemais-Accho,” IEJ, IX (1959), 1-12; S. Applebaum, “Accho,” IEJ, IX (1959), 274; L. Kadman, The Coins of Akko Ptolemais (Corpus Numorum Palestinensium, IV, Jerusalem, 1961); Y. H. Landau, “A Greek Inscription from Acre,” IEJ, XI (1961), 118-126; Govt. of Israel, Prime Minister’s Office, Dept. for Landscaping and the Preservation of Historic Sites, Acre, The Old City, Survey and Planning (1962); Z. Goldmann, “The Refectory of the Order of St. John in Acre,” CNFI, XII, No. 4 (Jan., 1962), 13-17; J. Schwartz, “Note complémentaire (à propos d’une inscription grecque de St. Jen d’Arce),” IEJ, XII (1962), 135, 136; E. F. Campbell, The Chronology of the Amarna Letters (1963), 49, 53, 80, 84, 104, 109, 110, 115, 125, 132, 134, 135; L. Kadman, “Coins at Akko as Illustrations to Passages in Mishna and Talmud,” Israel Numismatic Journal (1963), 52-54; A. F. Rainey, “Merchants at Ugarit and the Patriarchal Narratives,” CNFI, XIV, No. 2 (July, 1963), 24; I. L. Merkr, “Notes on Abdalonymos and the Dated Alexander Coinage of Sidon and Ake,” American Numismatic Society Museum Notes, XI (1964), 13-20; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1966), 21, 22, 358, 359, et passim; M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land (1966), 14, 27-29, 39; A. F. Rainey, “Gath-padalla,” IEJ, XVII (1967).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A town on the Syrian coast a few miles north of Carmel, on a small promontory on the north side of a broad bay that lies between it and the modern town of Haifa. This bay furnishes the best anchorage for ships of any on this coast except that of George, at Beirut, and Alexandretta at the extreme north. As the situation commanded the approach from the sea to the rich plateau of Esdraelon and also the coast route from the north, the city was regarded in ancient times of great importance and at various periods of history was the scene of severe struggles for its possession. It fell within the bounds assigned to the Israelites, particularly to the tribe of Asher, but they were never able to take it (Jos 19:24-31; Jud 1:31).

It was, like Tyre and Sidon, too strong for them to attack and it became indeed a fortress of unusual strength, so that it many a siege, often baffling its assailants. In the period of the Crusades it was the most famous stronghold on the coast, and in very early times it was a place of importance and appears in the Tell el-Amarna Letters as a possession of the Egyptian kings. Its governor wrote to his suzerain professing loyalty when the northern towns were falling away (Am Tab 17 BM, 95 B). The Egyptian suzerainty over the coast, which was established by Thothmes III about 1480 BC, was apparently lost in the 14th century, as is indicated in Tell el-Amarna Letters, but was regained under Seti I and his more famous son Rameses II in the 13th, to be again lost in the 12th when the Phoenician towns seem to have established their independence. Sidon however surpassed her sisters in power and exercised a sort of hegemony over the Phoenician towns, at least in the south, and Acco was included in it (Rawl. Phoenica, 407-8).

But when Assyria came upon the scene it had to submit to this power, although it revolted whenever Assyria became weak, as appears from the mention of its subjugation by Sennacherib (ib 449), and by Ashurbanipal (ib 458). The latter "quieted" it by a wholesale massacre and then carried into captivity the remaining inhabitants. Upon the downfall of Assyria it passed, together with other Phoenician towns, under the dominion of Babylon and then of Persia, but we have no records of its annals during that period; but it followed the fortunes of the more important cities, Tyre and Sidon. In the Seleucid period (BC 312-65) the town became of importance in the contests between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies. The latter occupied it during the struggles that succeeded the death of Alexander and made it their stronghold on the coast and changed the name to PTOLEMAIS, by which it was known in the Greek and Roman period as we see in the accounts of the Greek and Roman writers and in Josephus, as well as in New Testament (1 Macc 5:22; 10:39; 12:48; Ac 21:7).

The old name still continued locally and reasserted itself in later times. The Ptolemies held undisputed possession of the place for about 70 years but it was wrested from them by Antiochus III, of Syria, in 219 BC and went into the permanent possession of the Seleucids after the decisive victory of Antiochus over Scopas in that year, the result of which was the expulsion of the Ptolemies from Syria, Palestine and Phoenicia (Ant., XII, iii, 3). In the dynastic struggles of the Seleucids it fell into the hands of Alexander Bala, who there received the hand of Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy Philometor, as a pledge of alliance between them (ib XIII, iv, 1). Tigranes, king of Armenia, besieged it on his invasion of Syria, but was obliged to relinquish it on the approach of the Romans toward his own dominions (BJ, I, v, 3).

Under the Romans Ptolemais became a colony and a metropolis, as is known from coins, and was of importance, as is attested by Strabo. But the events that followed the conquests of the Saracens, leading to the Crusades, brought it into great prominence. It was captured by the Crusaders in 1110 AD, and remained in their hands until 1187, when it was taken from them by Saladin and its fortifications so strengthened as to render it almost impregnable. The importance of this fortress as a key to the Holy Land was considered so great by the Crusaders that they put forth every effort during two years to recapture it, but all in vain until the arrival of Richard Coeur de Lion and Philip Augustus with reinforcements, and it was only after the most strenuous efforts on their part that the place fell into their hands, but it cost them 100,000 men. The fortifications were repaired and it was afterward committed to the charge of the knights of John, by whom it was held for 100 years and received the name of Jean d’Acre. It was finally taken by the Saracens in 1291, being the last place held by the Crusaders in Palestine

It declined after this and fell into the hands of the Ottomans under Selim I in 1516, and remained mostly in ruins until the 18th century, when it came into the possession of Jezzar Pasha, who usurped the authority over it and the neighboring district and became practically independent of the Sultan and defied his authority. In 1799 it was attacked by Napoleon but was bravely and successfully defended by the Turks with the help of the English fleet, and Napoleon had to abandon the siege after he had spent two months before it and gained a victory over the Turkish army at Tabor. It enjoyed a considerable degree of prosperity after this until 1831 when it was besieged by Ibrahim Pasha, of Egypt, and taken, but only after a siege of more than five months in which it suffered the destruction of its walls and many of its buildings. It continued in the hands of the Egyptians until 1840 when it was restored to the Ottomans by the English whose fleet nearly reduced it to ruins in the bombardment. It has recovered somewhat since then and is now a town of some 10,000 inhabitants and the seat of a Mutasarrifiyet, or subdivision of the Vilayet of Beirut. It contains one of the state prisons of the Vilayet, where long-term prisoners are incarcerated. Its former commerce has been almost wholly lost to the town of Haifa, on the south side of the bay, since the latter has a fairly good roadstead, while Acre has none, and the former being the terminus of the railway which connects with the interior and the Damascus-Mecca line, it has naturally supplanted Acre as a center of trade.

H. Porter