The project of compiling an Onomasticon of Palestine and Arabia in the Greek and Latin sources was initiated by Prof. Michael Avi-Yonah (1904–1974), perhaps the foremost twentieth-century scholar of the historical geography of Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Palestine. The Onomasticon was to be the culmination of two of his seminal works: his Map of Roman Palestine1 and his Historical Geography of Eretz-Israel from the End of the Babylonian Exile up to the Arab Conquest Avi-Yonah’s study of the historical geography of Palestine was halted by his severe illness in the late 1960s. He did not even complete the preparation for publication of his vast compilation of references to sites in Palestine and Arabia in source texts of any language, with the relevant modern scholarly bibliography, and so his Gazetteer of Roman Palestine was published posthumously (henceforth: Avi-Yonah, Gazetteer). Yoram Tsafrir, who prepared the book for publication, wrote in his Preface:

While preparing this manuscript for press and proofreading it, we decided not to alter or add to the standard which had been fijixed. Prof. Avi-Yonah was busy at the time with the preparation of material for his far-reaching work, the ‘Onomasticon of Palestine in the Greek-Roman Sources’ (which, it is hoped, will be published in the not too distant future).

Over thirty-fijive years after this prediction appeared in print, we present the first two volumes of the Onomasticon.
Avi-Yonah’s intention was not only to publish references to sources concerning sites in Palestine and Arabia, but to present the original Greek and Latin texts themselves, with a Hebrew translation.4 He started the work of copying the texts in the mid-1960s, with the help, sequentially, of several assistants, including Avraham Negev and, from 1966, Yoram Tsafrir, whose injury in the Six Day War caused another long intermission in the course of the work. At fijirst the texts were copied by hand, making the pace of the work very slow, but the introduction of the photocopier eventually facilitated the collection of the texts. In the late 1980s, material began to be transferred to electronic files. In the 1990s, this process was greatly advanced by using the database of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.

Leah Di Segni, Judith Green, Joseph Patrich and for a short period Shifra Schnoll joined the team in the early 1970s, along with several other researchers who re-
mained briefly with the project. In 1972, Avi-Yonah, by then very ill, decided to dedicate all his time to completing his great study of Hellenistic culture, published posthumously as Hellenism and the East: Contacts and Interrelations from Alexander to the Roman Conquest (Ann Arbor 1978). He asked Yoram Tsafrir to take over as Director of the Onomasticon project, a duty that he has carried out up to the present. Joseph Patrich left the team in the early 1980s, and since then, the work of collecting sources, updating editions, translating, annotating, writing the commentaries, editing the entries and assembling the bibliography has been done by the three present authors.

Many thousands of entries were selected by reading page after page of more than 1,300 works written or collected by more than 750 authors or editors, as indices, if they existed, often proved inaccurate. The source texts range from major works such as the Jewish War and Antiquities of Josephus to single letters or sermons, collections of papyri, inscriptions and coins, administrative and ecclesiastical lists, and so on. The quantity of sources included herein is greater by far than that contained in any of the historical-geographical collections published heretofore.

At the initiative of the late Prof. Joshua Prawer, then the Israel Academy’s representative in the Union Académique Internationale, the material compiled for the Onomasticon was used as the basis for creating the detailed maps and gazetteer of the Roman province of Iudaea, later renamed Palaestina, for the international
Tabula Imperii Romani project.5 The preparation of that volume led to further delay in the publication of the Onomasticon itself. The enthusiasm with which it was received by scholars in many countries was a major factor in persuading the Israel Academy and the authors to abandon the original plan of publishing the Onomasticon in Hebrew in favour of making it available to international scholarship in English.


We owe thanks to all the research assistants, ὧν Κύριος γιγνώσκει τὰ ὀνόματα, who contributed to the collection of texts for the Onomasticon. Prof. Chaim Ben-David (Kinneret College) helped with advice and references about sites in Transjordan. Much assistance was given by the administration of the Hebrew University and its Research and Development Department, and particularly by the Institute of Archaeology and its directors, Joseph Aviram and Benjamin Sekay, and their assistants, Frieda Lederman, Semadar Yosef and the late Nehama Litani.

The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities took the Onomasticon project under its wing in the mid-1970s, at first under the advice and guidance of a committee comprising the late Profs. Ze’ev Ben-Hayyim, Ephraim E. Urbach, Joshua Prawer, Chaim Wirszubski and Menachem Stern. From the mid-1990s the project benefijited from the guidance of the Chairpersons of the Academy’s Projects Committee, Prof. Shaul Shaked and after him Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, and of the Chairpersons of its Publication Committee, the late Prof. Hayim Tadmor (who also aided the project in his capacity as Vice President of the Academy), Prof. Yohanan Friedmann and now Prof. Yosef Kaplan; and it also had the steadfast support of the Academy’s Executive Director, Dr. Meir Zadok, and its Deputy Directors for Finance and Administration, formerly Joseph Lenz and now Gadi Levin. We are grateful to the present and former stafff members of the Academy’s Publications Department: to Tali Amir, its Director and Chief Editor, to former Chief Editor Zofijia Lasman and to Yehuda Greenbaum, who oversaw the book’s production. Above all, we owe many thanks to Deborah Greniman, Senior Editor of English-Language Publications, who edited these volumes faithfully through several revisions, made numerous helpful suggestions and corrections, and saw it through the press.

Our thanks also to Nurit Karshon and Tikva Blaukopf for their expert proofreading of the Greek and Latin texts.

We thank the Copyright and Permissions Department of Harvard University Press and Ms. Scarlett R. Hufffman for their generous permission to use extracts
from the translations published in the Loeb Classical Library (LCL) and to modify them slightly where needed for the purposes of this publication. Shulamit Miller
checked and evaluated the relevant translations to determine the extent of their dependence on those editions. We also thank the following authors and institutions:
Hannah Cotton, for allowing us to use her translations of some of the Judaean Desert papyri; the Israel Exploration Society, for the use of the late Naphthali Lewis’ translations of some of the Bar Kokhba letters; the American Center for Oriental Research in Amman, its Director, Barbara Porter, and the translators for permission to use their translations of the Petra Papyri; Cornelia Horn, Robert Phenix, the Society of Biblical Literature and its Director, R. Buller, for permission to use their translation from the Syriac of the Life of Peter the Iberian; Sebastian Brock for the use of his translation from the Syriac of the Letter attributed to Cyril of Jerusalem; James C. VanderKam and Peeters Publishers for the use of his translation of the Ethiopic version of the Book of Jubilees; and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago for the use of J.E. Dean’s translation of Epiphanius’ treatise on Weights and Measures.

The comparative chart of the Israel Cassini Soldner Grid (ICS, also known as the Old Israel Grid [OIG]), the Israel Transverse Mercator Grid (ITM, also known as the New Israel Grid [NIG]), the United Transverse Mercator Grid (UTM) and the World Geodetic System (WGS 84), used to create the individual charts in each volume, was prepared by Uri Offfenbacher. Tamar Sofer, cartographer of the Department of Geography of the Hebrew University, made the map showing the sites in Volume II.

We are grateful to all those who have given fijinancial support to the Onomasticon project, without which these volumes could not have been published. At the initial stage, it was fijinanced by the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and Faculty of Humanities, which are still involved and offfer much assistance. From the mid-1970s, principal responsibility for the project has devolved upon the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Contributions from Mrs. Joy Ungerleider and the Dorot Foundation in the 1980s, the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 1672/13), Yoel and Stella Carasso, Melvin and Lolita Goldstein, and especially a generous contribution by Mr. Hillel Cherni and the Holyland Hotel, Jerusalem, starting in 2008, made possible the continuation of the work.