Graphs of the chronological and spatial distribution of amphora stamps dated by Rhodian eponyms may contribute greatly (but not alone) to the understanding of the trade and also the political History of a given site in the Hellenistic period.
Akko-Ptolemais is a case-study par excellence, as it was the most important city-harbor during all the period and because many archaeological excavations of various extents are undertaken there since the sixties of the XXth c. CE. All the areas of today's city were explored: the ancient tell (Tel Furkhar) – which eventually became the acropolis of the Hellenistic city –, the Old City – below the buildings of the Crusader period –, and the Modern City (the "Lower City"), located between the two others.
The comparison with the graph of Rhodes itself (i.e. Lindos, supposed to display most closely the variations in the production of amphoras) shows that the local data fully influenced the imports. The city was not only an opening to the influx of products, but it was also an important consuming spot.
In the Old City (i.e. mostly the Hospitaller Center), imports may be traced since the 60s of the 3rd c. BCE, with a non-specific significant quantity in late 40s and 30s, when it is understood that production expanded and stamping became systematic. The Modern City was moderately supplied, most probably because the settlement in the Lower City was not yet significant.
The most stunning period of imports started after 215 BCE, reached a peak of five times the average quantity of all the other moments between 206 and 210, and fell drastically to a still significant quantity in the turn of the century. The only possible explanation seems to be provided by the consequences of the harsh victory of the Ptolemies over Antiochus III, at Raphia in 217 BCE, which was probably followed by an influx of soldiers – who were supplied with the most common Rhodian wine – further north, in order to protect Egypt more efficiently. This may explain that the final battle of the conquest of "Coele-Syria" by Antiochus III took place in Panias and not near the border of Egypt.
A first significant settlement in the Modern City dates in the 80s of the 2nd c. BCE, when activities started to take place in the area of today's harbor, as can be seen by the finds from the underwater excavations undertaken there. A durable settlement in the "Lower City" appears only with the reign of Antiochus IV, a phenomenon evidenced in other cities of the Southern Levant. The area of the Crusader (Old) City was progressively and comparatively less active from that period on.
Although each increase and decrease in the imports cannot be fully understood now (or even necessarily be historically significant), it is remarkable that two last peaks in the Old City are evidenced during the reigns of Alexander I Balas – who settled in Ptolemais for a while, got married and honored Jonathan the Maccabean there (150-146) – and of Diodote-Tryphon, who was also very active in the region (especially in Dor, 142-138).
Finally, the Lower City seems to have been quite active between the reign of John I Hyrcanus (since 135) and the beginning of the struggle between the brothers Antiochus VII and Antiochus IX (since 116 BCE), who waged many battles on the South Levantine coast.
In the future, the above graphs should be compared with that of the Rhodian amphora stamps from M. Dothan's and more recent excavations on Tel Akko, which are now progressively processed. Avner Raban devoted much energy to record and preliminarily analyze the over 2000 items found there. He kindly invited me to examine all the collection, fifteen years ago, but our plan to publish it was, unfortunately, not undertaken before his sad and untimely demise.