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FIXING THE MIND
By Alexander Eterman
Posted June 9, 2005
often than not, the Internet exposes us to something new and unfamiliar --
that's what the Internet is all about, after all. It turns out, however, that
it is also capable of unexpected feats akin to time travel. The last thing I
would have expected to encounter on the web was the once famous but, alas, long
forgotten article by Chaim Heifetz entitled Malchut Paras uMadai b'Tekufat
Bayit Sheni u'Liphaneha -- Iyun Mechadash 
(which should be translated as "The Persian-Median Kingdom During the
Second Temple Period and Before: A Revised Approach"), published in 1991
in issue 14 of the Israeli national-religious Megadim magazine. The
article sets out a historical theory developed by the author -- a rabbi and a
lawyer -- in the 1980s, far in advance of the emergence of computer webs in the
modern sense of the term. It would appear that much of the site's material
(small essays, most of them "in favor", a few "against")
devoted to this theory had been written even before Heifetz's article saw
light. How they found their way onto the site is beyond comprehension.
any rate, encountering the aforementioned article, along with an essay by Brad
(who, incidentally, translated Heifetz's article into English) devoted to Heifetz's
theory, as well as other sundry elements of the "Heifetz" debate, I
experienced a feeling of nostalgia. The fact is, in the late 1980s I, too, was
actively involved with the very same problem tackled by Heifetz -- to wit,
analysis of the fundamental discrepancy between the scientific and the Jewish
orthodox accounts of the history of the Near East between the birth of the
Persian Empire and its death at the hands of Alexander the Great. Unsatisfied
with the obtained results, I carried my research into the following years.
to this topic today, over ten years later, I once again cannot help being
amazed at the arguments put forward by Heifetz-Aaronson, as well as by their
supporters and opponents. Having renounced the scientific process of evaluating
the relevant data, for the most part they have no idea of what they are saying
and writing. It is impossible to engage in scientific research while treating
science with total disregard, let alone revulsion. Even more so, it is
impossible to achieve any sort of acceptable result while ignoring the
systematic approach. Continuing the scholastic debate over who is right -- the
Jewish or the Greek sources -- diluting it with purely ideological contentions
about the infallibility of Jewish Sages and the inherent Greek anti-Semitism,
they seem to forget about the elementary duty of the scholar to seek after
truth rather than self-justification. Quite intentionally, they overlook the
crux of the matter: first, the selection of relevant historical materials,
second, the spirit of the period in question, i.e. the actual nature and
essence of the issues related to the topic under discussion.
believe that a dialogue born of scholastic inspiration is capable of being
equal to the real problems -- in our case, problems related to the
aforementioned historical-chronological discrepancy. Their principal mistake
stems from their belief that this discrepancy can be studied in a vacuum,
isolated from any undesirable influences; that it is not a part of a broader
and deeper set of issues that naturally emerge in the course of mastering
historical reality. More often than not, in fact, they do not even view the
past as reality, making an unwitting choice in favor of destructive
deconstructivism. A pity, for by doing so they ignore the real challenges posed
by the utterly fascinating Jewish history 
and turn a blind eye to the vital, not to say the only, scientific question
that matters: how did it really happen?
anyone who sets out to explore this subject, I am obliged to begin by
explaining to the reader (who may have already been subjected to this torture a
dozen times) what exactly is being discussed. I will make this as brief as
possible, retaining the right to revise the very definition of the issue as
time goes by.
us begin with a "narrow" definition of the aforementioned
science believes that:
- The Neo-Babylonian Empire was established by
Nabopolassar and his son, Nebuchadnezzar, circa 605 BCE, following the battle
of Karkemish. Some historians, however, trace the birth of the empire to
several years earlier (to the year 612 BCE for example), following the fall of
Nineveh. For us, these minor discrepancies are of no concern.
- The Neo-Babylonian Empire was destroyed by the Persian king Cyrus
in 539 or 538 BCE.
- In turn, the Persian Empire established by Cyrus was destroyed by
Alexander the Great in a victorious war whose conclusion, somewhat tentatively,
may be dated to 331 BCE, following the Battle of Gaugamela. Thus the Persian
Empire existed for 207-208 years.
This reconstruction implicitly includes, among other things, quite a
few pivotal events in Jewish history, above all the destruction of Jerusalem by
Nebuchadnezzar in 587/586 BCE, with the subsequent expulsion of the majority of
Jewish inhabitants of the Kingdom of Judea, the return of part of those
expelled and their offspring to Judea under the Persian kings Cyrus, Darius I,
and Artaxerxes I, the establishment of a Jewish autonomy in Judea, and the
construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Jewish traditional sources are not overly abundant in historical
information concerning the period in question. Nevertheless, the
chronologically relevant books of the Bible (Esther, Daniel, Ezra
and Nehemiah, with parts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and
certainly some of the "minor prophets") paint a different historical
picture that is significantly at odds with the conventional scientific account.
These books clearly depict a totally different reality; their depiction,
however, suffers from regrettable lack of detail. Nevertheless, there is a
solid, albeit considerably later historical Jewish tradition, one that
is reasonably  consistent
with the Biblical text, which relies, among other things, on the Tannaitic work
Seder Olam. This tradition maintains, inter alia, that the period outlined above was
far more compact. Translated into the currently accepted historical language,
its main assertions are as follows:
- Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar established the Neo-Babylonian
Empire in 433 BCE (provided, once again, that we take the Battle of Karkemish
as the turning point in the history of the Middle East).
- Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 422 BCE.
- In 370 BCE, the Median king Darius and his Persian relative Cyrus
conquered Babylon and destroyed the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing their
own Persian-Median (subsequently Persian) Empire.
- In 318 BCE, Alexander the Great, having won the Battle of
Gaugamela, destroyed the Persian (formally Persian-Median) Empire, establishing
his own empire instead.
Therefore the Persian Empire existed for a mere 52 years.
Clearly, what we have here are two radically divergent historical
theories that cannot be reconciled solely by means of cosmetic adjustments.
Like it or not, we must make a choice. The truth lies either with historical
science or with the Jewish tradition, or else it belongs to neither of the two
-- whatever the case may be, the two theories cannot be both right at the same
It must be noted that acceptance of the traditional Jewish chronology
is fraught with yet another serious problem: all other, pre-Persian historical
events in all the lands in question would be "rejuvenated" by 150
years. In some cases, such "rejuvenation" bodes nothing short of
The positions of the sides
science does not pay the traditional Jewish version as such any particular
attention, and this is mainly due to the latter's insufficient corroboration.
Indeed, the Jewish version is founded solely on its own claims, ignoring a
plethora of facts and, for two millennia, making no attempt to adjust to
external data. On the other hand, the scientific reconstruction of ancient
history was a product of painstaking labor; as it emerged, it underwent
numerous modifications, particularly in the last two fruitful centuries and in
principle, it is open to further revisions -- provided that they are duly
argued and corroborated. The mere fact that Jewish or other sources, however
ancient, make a different claim does not constitute an argument where science
is concerned; at the most, this is raw material that merits further study to a
larger or smaller degree -- especially since historical science has had to deal
with every possible kind of singular assertion, some of them far-fetched in the
extreme. Since the Jewish Sages made no particular effort to garner
scientifically acceptable arguments, until recently Jewish historical
reconstruction remained their exclusive domain.
noteworthy fact is that the set of specific Jewish disciplines included the
aforementioned historical reconstruction only as a rather marginal theory. As
with all empirically based fields of inquiry, ancient history held no
particular interest for the Jewish Sages. To be sure, this type of
reconstruction had active supporters who openly accused European science of
both illiteracy and falsification of historical facts, even though they failed
to come up with any reasons for the latter other than general anti-Semitism. At
the very least, European historians were held accountable for flagrant bias in
favor of Greek historical literature at the expense of its Jewish counterpart
-- hence, allegedly, the dramatic chronological error.
the other hand, quite a number of Jewish scholars made timid attempts to
question the traditional Jewish historical reconstruction in the belief that
its chances to endure in a serious scientific debate were miniscule, while any
gains to be had were negligible. They proposed a wide range of methods for
rehabilitating the European scientific model -- from an alternative
interpretation of the Jewish sources used as the
basis for traditional reconstruction, to take these sources out of the bounds
of empirical reality. Naturally, these ideas were subjected to ferocious
ideological criticism. The very fact that Jewish historical reconstruction won
the approval (albeit half-hearted) of the majority of religious authorities of
all times makes it invulnerable to internal criticism. Hence the appearance of
a historical work that would attempt to provide a "scientific" basis
for this reconstruction at any cost was only a matter of time.
is in this light that we should examine the theory put forth by Heifetz. Aimed
at the Jewish religious audience, it is not properly scientific in the common
sense of the word. Strangely enough, this has nothing to do with its
professional merit (which, frankly, is dubious, even though on occasion Heifetz
does show flashes of outstanding erudition). What is important about this
theory is that its true purpose was educational rather than scholarly; by
virtue of its appearance, it was intended to encourage and console that part of
Jewish religious public that is equally steeped in Jewish orthodox ideology and
European education. One of the admirers of Heifetz's work remarked that it
would be no big tragedy if this work were eventually found to be imperfect;
what matters is that for the first time, it provided an alternative to the
"non-Jewish" historical reconstruction, whose very divergence from
Jewish tradition undermines the Sages' authority. In the view of the Jewish
religious world, the total disagreement of modern science with the silent,
meekly acquiescent Jewish historical tradition compromised Jewish orthodoxy itself,
which had good reason for calling itself rabbinical Judaism. The very idea that
the Jewish Sages could be wrong was inconceivable. Yet if they were right, why
does science fail to acknowledge this? Why does science refuse to consider the
Jewish historical reconstruction as at least one of the acceptable versions?
What Heifetz tried to instill in his audience was above all hope, hope for a
future victory in the battle against "external" knowledge. Even if
his theory has its flaws, it has paved the way for new Jewish historical
research, a "Jewish" science. Eventually the "non-Jewish"
science will admit that the truth in this matter always lay with the Jews. At
the very least, he had to show that the score is even, that science too knows
next to nothing about the era in question. That being the case, the Jewish
tradition emerges as an equal partner in historical knowledge, and can now hope
for a brilliant scientific future.
method resorted to by Heifetz was entirely determined by the objective he had set
for himself. Heifetz acted like an ER doctor rather than a scholar -- save the
patient and damn the details. As far as the true problems of Jewish history, he
simply ignored them. All he knew was that it was essential to force 208 years
of Persian history into the 52 years allotted to it by Jewish tradition. He
realized that he was going too far, that the only way to solve this
mathematical problem would be by reformulating it, ideally by splitting it up.
That is why he shifted some of the events undeniably relevant to Persian
history to an earlier time, redefining them as acts performed by the Persians
before they became masters of their own empire. Anything that could not be
reshuffled was compressed. In a consistent, uniform, repeated manner Heifetz carries
out the same tedious operation: he welds several historical figures into one
and glues separate events together. As a result (using nothing but glue), he
has fashioned and presented to the reader his own version of Persian,
Neo-Babylonian, and Jewish history, one that fits the framework set by Jewish
reconstruction and conforms almost perfectly to Jewish tradition. A slight
departure from Jewish sources should be forgiven due to his good intentions and
expression of unconditional loyalty to the same sources. This version puts to
use, albeit in minor roles, most of the Persian, Babylonian and Jewish
characters known to historical science and literature, but the Jewish religious
play they stage is totally different and quite unfamiliar.
I will discuss in detail the character and nature of Heifetz's reconstruction.
Unfortunately, this discussion has no scientific significance, even though it
is likely to be of some culturological and psychological interest (see below).
However, we should begin by dotting the i's and crossing the t's in all that
concerns the historical aspect of the issue. 
real trouble with traditional Jewish reconstruction
must state, to my deep regret, that the traditional Jewish reconstruction of
history is one hundred percent wrong. In other words, it enters into such a
problematic relationship with the more reliable portion of the available body
of information on the ancient world that any attempt to defend it
scientifically quickly proves futile. Anticipating the natural epistemological
objection, I will say that like any other theory, this one too may prove to be
right, but only in the sense and to the extent of, say, Aristotelian mechanics
or Ptolemaic cosmology. That is to say, its chances of complying with facts are
purely theoretical, and are to be considered virtually nil. There is one
qualification: all the other (except for the empirical) versions of its
interpretation, such as metaphysical and cabbalistic, remain open to anyone
interested and do not constitute the subject of this discussion.
us take a closer look at Heifetz's model. As
we have already mentioned, in order to dilute at least somewhat the super-dense
Jewish reconstruction of history, Heifetz pitched everything he could,
(essentially every great achievement of the Persian kings) from the Persian
into the Neo-Babylonian period. Thus his "Persian era" spanned not 52
years (from 370 to 318 BCE) but rather all of 95 years (from 413 to 318 BCE).
He assigned the 52 years, in full keeping with the Jewish reconstruction,
exclusively to the Persian Empire, i.e. to the period (remolded to his liking)
between the conquest of Babylon by the Persians and the Battle of Gaugamela. In
the "preliminary era" Heifetz incorporates events like the conquest
of Egypt by the Persian Cambyses, which took place, in his opinion, in 413 BCE.
Cambyses, if we are to believe Heifetz, was not a sovereign ruler but a vassal
at the service of Nebuchadnezzar, for whose benefit he made the conquest in the
first place. Similarly, Heifetz places the Greco-Persian wars outside the frame
of the Persian era proper. As he sees it, in 410 the Median Xerxes, also in the
service of Nebuchadnezzar, led a large-scale invasion of mainland Greece; yet
unlike Cambyses, who had emerged victorious in Egypt, Xerxes suffered a
Heifetz believed that the cunning contrivance described above simplified the
task he was facing. After all, a period of 95 years is far longer than one of
52 years; moreover, the new version will have watered down the Persian history,
which would play into Heifetz' hands. Unfortunately, the entire stratagem was
totally superfluous. I suspect that had Heifetz given some thought at the time
to the following, his theory (which would have come into being in any case,
since no one had canceled the ideological order) would have looked completely
recall: Heifetz failed to truly dilute the overly thick infusion of Persian
history. All he did was pour it into a slightly larger vessel, the Neo-Babylonian
imperial pool. To understand his end-result, let us digress for a moment from
all these manipulations, focusing instead on Near Eastern history itself.
the end of the seventh century BCE, this history gave birth to a powerful
multicultural synchronism, which makes it possible to compose an effective
chronology of later periods. The synchronism in question is a combination of
the famous Battle of Karkemish (which took place, according to scientific
chronology, in 605 BCE), marking the end of Assyria, and the campaign against
Syria staged by the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho II 
and his clash with Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar.
to a series of circumstances, not the least of which was sheer luck, these
events are depicted in virtually all of ancient literature. They are recounted
in the Bible , described
by Herodotus , by Egyptian
and Babylonian chroniclers. The upshot of this is plain to see. To judge by the
(rather sizable) sum-total of the data, Necho and the young Nebuchadnezzar are,
first, contemporaries of one another, second, contemporaries of the Judean
kings Josiah and Jehoiakim, and third, contemporaries of the Athenian law-maker
Drakontos, the Milesian tyrant Thrasybulus, the poetess Sappho, and the great
reformer Solon. Fourth, Necho represents a solid link in Egypt's Saitian royal
dynasty; fifth, the Median kingdom was ruled at that time by Cyaxares, an ally
of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar.
principle, one could go through all the branches of this synchronism, but we
will concentrate on the most appropriate one -- the Greek. Scientific
chronology holds that the Battle of Karkemish and the Battle of Gaugamela were
separated by 605-331=274 years. According to the Jewish reconstruction of
history, the two events are separated by 433-318=117 years. The difference
between the two versions still comes to 157 years. Thus Heifetz has gained
nothing from his artificial splitting of Persian history into
"pre-imperial" and "post-imperial"! He still has to dissect
any history, Greek included (as well as Egyptian, if need be) in such a fashion
as to squeeze 274 years into 117. Was there any sense, then, in going to the
trouble of declaring Xerxes and Cambyses Nebuchadnezzar's commanders? As far as
Greek history proper is concerned, this substitution is totally irrelevant.
all this, I once spent considerable effort in order to shake up the Greek
chronology of the 7th-6th centuries BCE from the inside. I really had no other
choice, since, as we will see below, the Greek 5th century is virtually
invincible. On the other hand, the Greeks themselves were clearly aware of the
fact that their chronicles dealing with the 7th-6th centuries suffer from
chronological incongruities. By way of example, I will cite the following
passage from Plutarch's biography of Solon: "That Solon should discourse
with Croesus, some think not agreeable with chronology; but I cannot reject so
famous and well-attested a narrative, and, what is more, one so agreeable to
Solon's temper, and so worthy his wisdom and greatness of mind, because,
forsooth, it does not agree with some chronological canons, which thousands
have endeavored to regulate, and yet, to this day, could never bring their
differing opinions to any agreement." 
an objective scrutiny of the sources has yielded relatively unfavorable
results. Evidently our present reconstruction of Greek history is more accurate
than the Greek one, yet even in the most extreme case, it is a matter of a
chronological shift of about twenty years at the most. 
The tight linkage between the Greek history of the 6th century BCE and the
histories of Asia Minor and Egypt simply leave no room for any significant
revision. Even a powerful conspiracy between writers and counterfeiters could
not have produced (and for what conceivable reason?) the imaginary 150 years of
Greek history -- for today's archaeology would have unmasked such a forgery.
Then again, this is totally irrelevant to this study, for finding some 150
years in the 6th century alone (i.e. between Karkemish and 500 BCE) is even
logically impossible. Therefore Heifetz's attempt at historical reconstruction
was doomed to failure from the very start, even without any serious probing of
its Eastern components. The East of that period can no longer be separated from
the West, so its history must be examined against the history of the West we
know so well, ingenuous as it is, practically year by year.
will never equal 117. This in itself should be enough, wouldn't you say? 
along with Heifetz
let us forget for a moment the Eastern-Western synchronisms. Let us grant
Heifetz this small handicap. Let us assume that now he has not 52 but 95 years
at his disposal, and that the chronological discrepancy has shrunk
significantly. Let us give him a real chance to patch it up.
order to satisfy ourselves that the Jewish reconstruction, even in the diluted
form proposed by Heifetz, is plainly inconsistent with the facts, we will once
again follow the Greek way, 
leaving aside for the time being all of Heifetz's arguments concerning Jewish,
Persian and Mesopotamian histories. Let us forget for the moment about the
immense difficulties created by the aforementioned revolutionary theories -- in
all likelihood, Heifetz does not have the slightest idea what interesting and
surprising arguments can be offered against them. We will focus our attention
elsewhere: having established the absolute, and what equally important, the
relative dates for the Persian wars and Alexander's victory, Heifetz accurately
set the temporal boundaries (once again, both absolute and relative) of the
pivotal -- though shorter -- period in Greek history. This means that we can
safely forget about Persia and Babylon, in whose history Heifetz rummages with
such zeal. Let us leave the Ancient East alone for the meantime. We have at our
disposal an excellently researched body of historical material -- a specific
history, arranged by year and month -- that we do know very well. This is the history of
classical and early-Hellenistic Greece. Let us use its straightforward algebra
to test Heifetz's harmony. If Heifetz's reconstruction passes the Greek history
exam, we will have to admit that his Eastern inquiries merit at least some
consideration. If not, they will immediately lose any scientific and historical
significance, becoming a mere appendage to contemporary Jewish culture, and a
rather marginal one at that.
the results of the test quickly prove to be dismally poor. Despite the fact
that Heifetz opted not to delve too deeply into Greek history (even under the
far less stringent conditions we have adopted), he has still said enough about
it to compromise his theory. Yet even had he kept totally silent on the
subject, the result would have been the same.
keep my account short, I will resist the temptation to give it a melodramatic
feel. Instead, I will go straight to the far from complete outline of Greek
history for the period that Heifetz is concerned with (from the Persian wars to
Alexander's victories). To preclude any misunderstanding, I would like to
stress that this outline was set by Western historical science and does not
commit Hefetz a priori.
|490 BCE||Battle of Marathon.
|480-479 BCE||Xerxes' invasion of Greece, the Battles of Salamis
||Creation of the first Athenian Naval League.
Staging of Aeschylus' tragedy The Persians.
revolt at Messenia.|
reforms in Athens.|
of Aeschylus' Oresteia and Eumenides.|
of the Athenian fleet in Egypt./td>|
of the law restricting Athenian citizenship.|
battle at Cypriot Salamin. |
of Kallias and the end of Greco-Persian wars.|
of the new constitution by the Beotean League.|
treaty between the Peloponnesian and Athenian League.|
|444 BCE ||Election
of Pericles as first strategist.|
of the Athenian Naval League.|
uprising against Athens.|
of Euripides' Alkestis.>|
between Kerkyra and Corinth.|
of the Peloponnesian war; staging of Euripides' Medea.|
of Euripides' Ippolitus. Death of Anaxagoras. Birth of Plato.|
of Sphacteria. |
of Aristophanes' The Knights.|
of Nicias. Staging of Aristophanes' Peace.|
Spartans' victory at Mantinea.|
of the Athenian's Sicilian campaign. Staging of Euripide's Women of Troy.
of Aristophane's Birds.|
of the Athenians in Sicily.|
of the Peloponnesian war.|
of Euripides' Helen and Andromache. |
of the Council of Four Hundred in Athens. Staging of Aristophane's Lysistrata.|
of the town of Rhodes. Staging of Sophocles' Philoctetes.|
of Euripides and Sophocles.|
of the Athenian fleet at Aegispotomai. Peace treaty between Syracuse and
Carthage. Staging of Aristophanes' Frogs.|
of the Thirty in Athens.|
of the March of the Ten Thousand.|
between Sparta and Persia.|
of the war between Syracuse and Carthage. |
battle at Cnidos.|
treaty between Syracuse and Carthage. Staging of Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae.|
sacked by the Gaels. |
of Aristophanes' Wealth. |
of Aristotle and Demosthenes. |
of Thebes by Sparta.|
of the second Athenian Naval League.|
recognition of the second Athenian Naval League.|
Peloponnesian campaign of Epaminondas.|
recognition of the Beotean League. Aristotle joins the Academy. Plato visits
destroy Orchomenosa. Epaminondas takes Byzantium away from the Athenians. |
of Mantineia. Death of Epaminondas.|
peace in Greece (except Sparta).|
in Egypt. Plato pays a second visit to Syracuse. |
of Philip II in Macedon.|
War", break up of the Athenian Naval League. |
War" declared on the Phocians. Publication of Isocrates' On the Peace
and Demosthenes' Against Leptines.|
of Mausolus, tyrant of Caria. Start of building of the Mausoleum. |
of Philip II in the "Holy War" against the Greek cities. Publication
of Demosthenes' For the Megalopolitans and Isocrates' On Restitution.|
first Phillipics (possibly 349 BCE).|
captures Olynthus. Restoration of alliance between Rome and Carthage.|
II recaptures Syracuse. Death of Plato.|
of Philocrates. Publication of Demosthenes' On the Peace and Isocrates' To
in Illyria. Timoleon liberates Syracuse from Dionysius II.|
between Megara and Athens. Aristotle becomes Alexander's mentor. Start of
Rome's First Samnite War.|
of Menadros and Epicurus.|
besieges Perinth and Byzantium. The Roman-Latin War.|
Corinth Congress; establishment of Macedon's hegemony over Greece. The Greek
Confederation, headed by Philip, declares war on Persia. |
of Philip II. Alexander becomes Greece's strategist.|
sacks Thebes and settles in Athens.|
of Issus. Birth of Zenon. |
of Alexandria. Battle of Gaugamela; demise of the Persian Empire. |
above outline is far from being an exhaustive account of reliable information
on the history of Greece and of early Hellenistic states. As a matter of fact,
we possess a far greater mass of data, so the outline could be significantly
expanded. Nevertheless, even this outline illustrates, more or less tangibly,
the vast amount of every sort of information on Greece and the Hellenistic
world that is available to us.
us focus on some of the items highlighted in the outline.
begin with, it is easy to see that Xerxes' invasion of Greece (the first
highlighted item) and the demise of the Persian Empire (the last highlighted
item), according to scientific chronology, are separated by 149 years. Since
both events are also present in Heifetz's reconstruction, we should make note
of the time-span of 92 years that separates the two according to Heifetz
(410-318=92). Thus, even by shifting many events in Persian history back to the
New-Babylonian period and stretching its framework from 52 to 95 years
(including Cambyses' adventures in Egypt, see above), Heifetz was still unable
to avoid the predictable clash with Greek history which is chock full of
meticulously recorded events -- events, moreover, that are not alien, Persian,
and in his opinion poorly documented, but those familiar to Greek historians from
their personal experience, and to modern scholars from several sources at once.
In other words, Heifetz must not only defend his highly dubious castling moves
(to be discussed below), but also force events -- that took place, according to
historical science, during 149 years of dense Greek history replete with
Persian, Egyptian, and Roman synchronisms -- into the span of the 92 years he
has managed to reclaim.
repeat: for Heifetz's reconstruction of Eastern history to be considered at
least worthy of rigorous debate, a debate that goes to the core of the issue,
he must above all squeeze the 150 years of Greek history between the Persian
wars and Alexander's campaigns into 92 years, and to do so with impunity.
then, does Heifetz do to achieve this objective?
enough, he does precious little.
chapter 10 of his work (pp.130-136), Heifetz raised the following interesting
(1.130) makes this brief statement:
the Medes repented of their submission, and revolted against Darius, but were
defeated in battle, and again reduced to subjection.
in his Greek History (1.2.19), also makes brief reference to a similar
ended the year in which the Medes seceded from Darius the King of Persia, and
afterwards submitted to him once again.
undoubtedly refers to the year 409 BCE (or the 23d year of the Peloponnesian
War). On the other hand, Herodotus' History deals with a manifestly
earlier period; what is more, Herodotus himself had passed away by then.
Therefore in this instance the two historians, provided they knew what they are
talking about, were making fairly similar mention of two different Median
revolts against two different Persian kings named Darius: Herodotus refers to
Darius I, while Xenophon refers to Darius II.
on this dubious coincidence of names, Heifetz immediately draws far-reaching
conclusions. First, he takes it for granted that the reference is to the same
revolt and the same king. Second, he is certain that Herodotus lived at a much
later time than commonly believed, and thus was quite capable of describing
events that took place during Xenophon's lifetime. Third, he is convinced that
the Greek notions of history were, to put it mildly, rather vague. Fourth, he
thinks those same Greeks, consciously or unconsciously, extended history.
Heifetz's patently groundless conclusions (which he later takes to absurd
lengths) are of no immediate concern to us at the moment. Of considerably more
interest are his subsequent arguments.
book eight of his History, Heifetz continues, Thucydides mentions a
Persian king named Darius, a contemporary and direct participant in the
Peloponnesian War. Beyond any doubt, this is the same Darius described by
Xenophon, who actually wrote the sequel to book eight.
"Identification of the
Darius mentioned by Thucydydes is of immense importance to Greek history and
chronology as such. At the same time, it creates considerable problems in
regard to the history of the Greek cities of Athens, Sparta and Thebes. Even
though these problems cannot impair the reconstruction of the history of Persia
and Media undertaken in this work, I will nevertheless indicate in brief how we
can resolve the specific problems of Greek history that pertain to the period
Part two of Greek History...
discusses... the Peace of Antalcidas and ends with the Mantinean War, the
greatest of all Greek wars, as it was described by Diodorus. There is reason to
believe that the Mantinean War, described in the final chapter of Xenophont's Greek
History -- a war that was joined, according to Diodorus, by the Spartan
king Agis, a figure unknown to modern scholars -- is the same Mantinean War ,
called "the greatest of Greek wars" by Thucydides, which was joined
by the Spartan king Agis, the brother of the great king Agesilaus of Sparta.
According to Thucydides' book, this war took place during the seventh or eighth
war of Darius' reign.  There is also a pronounced likeness between
the peace treaty of Antalcidas, made between the Spartan admiral and King
Artaxerxes... and the peace treaty of Chalcideus, made between the Spartan
admiral and King Darius and his sons. 
In both treaties, Sparta betrayed Greek interests by ceding Greek towns in Asia
Minor to Persia. There are also other points that can provide footholds in the
search for additional similarities.
My personal penchant to find
a correspondence between the two great Mantinean wars is primarily based on the
dating of the great Median revolt, as well as on other evidence that the Darius
mentioned by Thucydides is Darius the son of Hystaspes. This view is
strengthened in light of the following chronological fact. According to Jewish
historical tradition, the 7th-8th year of Darius' reign and the conquest of
Persia by Alexander in year 36 of Darius' reign were separated by 28-30 years.
At the same time, according to scientific historical data, the Mantinean War of
362-361 BCE described by Xenophon (the war that saw the death of the great
Theban hero Epaminondas) and the decisive battles fought by Alexander against
Darius in 332-331 BCE were separated by 29-30 years. Accepting the
correspondence of the two Mantinean wars establishes a high degree of
correspondence between two chronological systems -- the Jewish traditional
chronology and the one based on Greek historical records."
argument evidently contains the answer to a crucial question: does Heifetz
believe his own stories? The answer, alas, is no. The very fact that Heifetz
tries his best to avoid discussing Greek history -- which in this case (in
fact, in any case where the 5th-4th centuries BCE are concerned) is the
ultimate measure of all things -- this fact in itself, though quite
interesting, does not yet compromise his position. The monologue above is much
more incriminating. It clearly demonstrates that Heifetz is fully aware of the
contradictions in Greek history caused by the Jewish reconstruction. Evidently,
he can neither disregard them outright nor propose any kind of intelligible
theory (at least similar to the one he invented for Persian history) that would
reconcile them. What is worse, his words carry a laughable threat: I may be
leaving Greek history alone for the time being, but do not think for a minute
that I am powerless -- there are enough handholds to grab. I will grab them if
need be, I will blend everyone together, and then you will see that these Greek
heroes and playwrights never even existed, I might leave one out of five at
best. Truly, historical science with a twist.
permit myself such a bold attack for the sole reason that, as we are about to
see, Heifetz's tragicomic manipulations are absolutely premeditated. As a
consequence, he cannot hope for any clemency.
Heifetz, who thinks nothing of turning the history of the Ancient East upside
down, does not dare take on the history of Greece and Hellenistic states. Why?
Before I answer this question, I would like to take a closer look at Heifetz's
speculations on the Hellenic theme quoted above. They provide a fairly good
sample of the apologetic method he has employed.
first striking detail in this discussion is the blatant error in what is meant
to be his main argument in support of the claim that the two "great Median
revolts" are identical. As we have seen, Heifetz attempts, if not to prove
then at least to corroborate (with nothing solid to go on) the correspondence
of the Median revolts mentioned by Herodotus and Xenophon and described in the
Behistun inscription, as well as, strangely enough, in the book Yehudit.
However, the rather limited information that we do possess regarding these
revolts compels us to rule out this possibility completely.
as we have seen above, the revolt recorded by Xenophon is commonly dated to 409
BCE, or the 23d year of the Peloponnesian War, the 15th year in the reign of
Darius -- the very same Darius described by Thucydides. At the same time, the
Behistun inscription, which Heifetz wrongly believes to be his ally, indicates
that the series of revolts in numerous provinces of the Persian Empire began
(as Heifetz himself imprudently states below) immediately after the crowning of
Darius I (or rather, after he staged his coup d'etat). Simply speaking, with
Darius on the throne the empire fell apart, but the new king managed to restore
it. It is this outstanding feat of restoration that was carved into the
to the Behistun inscription, one of these revolts, probably second in
importance after the Babylonian one, was the Median uprising led by Phraortes.
It was certainly this uprising that Herodotus had in mind in book one of his History.
Yet Thucydides and Xenophon, even if we disregard the chronology, referred to
another event -- for the uprising they mentioned took place not in the first or
second year, but in the 15th year of Darius' reign. And as soon as
the correspondence of the revolts disappears, the supposed correspondence of
the kings, for the sake of which Heifetz puts on the entire show, evaporates as
well. Any objective researcher would have led the argument in the reverse
direction: since Thucydides and Xenophon described a different period than did
Herodotus, the multiplicity of revolts is as predictable as the multiplicity of
kings, so it is no wonder that evidence is found for this multiplicity. Note
this: even Xenophon's passing reference to the Median revolt contains
convincing proof of its "non-Behistunness". This is the way --
directly based on the material that fits his needs -- that Heifetz builds his
the history of the Persian Empire is a record of constant revolts and their
more or less successful suppression. It is well-known fact that the Persian
kings never managed to transform their huge empire from a wobbly political
entity into an efficiently functioning unit. Egypt, to take one example, won
its independence for all of 60 years, returning to the bosom of the Persian
Empire only a short time before the Macedonian conquest. The contradictions
between the empire's provinces remained irreconcilable. What is more, these
contradictions were so deeply entrenched that even the Hellenistic conquerors
failed to resolve them. It was largely for this reason that Alexander's
successors found it easier to agree on dividing the empire that on perpetuating
it. The unprecedented fact that Seleuk sold the priceless Indian part of his
state relatively cheaply suggests that he realized he would not be able to
retain it. The first stable political entity to unify Europe, Asia and Africa
was the Roman Empire, truly a new kind of state, yet the Romans, too, had their
hands full putting down endless revolts. Thus Heifetz's claim regarding the
unlikelihood of two Median uprisings in only forty years appears rather
strange. I am afraid such uprisings were considerably more than two. I think
that searching for traces of these uprisings would have been rather
interesting, but there is no need for that, since Xenophon has already done it
next striking detail is the hollow nature of Heifetz's "interesting
chronological factor" -- which is the "duality" of the Mantinean
battle. Heifetz's reasoning unfolds as follows (I am keeping to his text). The
final battle of Epaminondas (the battle of Mantinea) took place 29-30 years
before Alexander's decisive victory over Persia. On the other hand, Darius --
the last Persian king -- reigned, according to Jewish tradition, for 36 years.
Counting back 28-30 years from his death, we find ourselves in the 7th-8th
year of Darius' reign. Yet it was precisely during these "Darius"
years (true, we do not even know if this is the same Darius, but Heifetz will
not be put off by such trivial considerations) that the first Mantinean War
between Sparta and the Argive cities took place! Thus a single hypothesis of
correspondence -- in this case the correspondence between two Mantinean wars --
rearranges the Greek chronology to fit the spirit of the Jewish reconstruction.
A tempting hypothesis indeed!
entire argument does not have a single viable word. First of all, note the fact
that it is totally devoid of any accurately performed mathematical calculation,
regardless of whether this accuracy is essential to the matter in hand. All of
the "spans" introduced by Heifetz -- 28-30, 29-30 and so on -- are
actually superfluous in the context of the sources he uses. It is common
knowledge (Heifetz does not even question the relative dating) that the Battle
of Gaugamela, which marked the end of the Persian Empire, occurred in the fall
of 331 BCE, while Emapinondas' Battle of Mantinea took place in the summer
(during the wheat harvest) of 362 BCE. Therefore these events are separated by
31 years less several months.
the first Mantinean battle took place in the late fall of 418 BCE, during the
sixth rather than the seventh-eighth year in the reign of Darius II. If we
assume, following Heifetz, that this king remained in power for 36 years
(which, alas, is not the case, but let us go on for the sake of argument), his
reign was to last for slightly under 30 years from the battle. Why does Heifetz
deliberately garble his narrative? Apparently he does so in order to give it a
veneer of science.
 Then again, we should give due credit to those who
earnestly believe that they know Jewish history inside out, and that it poses
no real problems. These people's minds are made up, and I have no hopes of
changing them -- the leopard, as we know, cannot change his spots.
 Although not
 Another few words concerning nostalgia. Together with
Heifetz's article and Aaronson's essay, the web tossed ashore a short
commentary by Mitchell First. In 1997 First published an enchanting book (Mitchell
First, Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy Between
Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology), summing up his MA thesis and mostly
devoted to a review of Jewish rabbinical sources that deal with the issue at
hand. His own view on this subject is rather unconventional: religious
orthodoxy does not in any way prevent First from adhering to the orthodox
scientific point of view. In one of the appendixes at the end of his book he
explains the motivating factors behind his preference for "external"
scientific theory over the traditional Jewish one. Unfortunately, he was unable
to find the crucial arguments in favor of his preference, i.e. in favor of
scientific chronology. I should note that First's commentaries which appear on
the net (http://www.starways.net/lisa/essays/heifetzfix.html)
are virtually identical to the arguments he cites later in his book, in which
he totally ignores Heifetz's theory due to its wildly far-fetched assertions.
 I am bound to add that the seventh century BCE
produced yet another magnificent synchronism -- the conquest of Egypt by the
Assyrian king Asarhaddon in 671 BCE -- which could have also been of help to
us. This time, however, there is simply no need for it.
 In the Second Book of Kings 23:29), it is written:
"In his (Josiah's) days, Pharaoh Nechoh king of Egypt went up against the
king of Assyria to the river Euphrates", while the Book of Jeremiah
(46:1-2) says: "The word of the Lord which came to Jeremiah the prophet
against the Gentiles: Against Egypt, against the army of Pharaoh Necho king of
Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar
king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of
Judah." Thus one of the ribs of synchronism is present: Necho is a
contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar on the one hand, and of kings of Judea Josiah
and Jehoiakim on the other.
 In the second volume of
his History (2, 158-160), Herodotus writes: "The son of
Psammetichos was Necos, and he became king of Egypt... Necos betook himself to
waging wars, and triremes were built by him, some for the Northern Sea and
others in the Arabian gulf for the Erythraian Sea...These ships he used when he
needed them; and also on land Necos engaged battle at Magdolos with the
Syrians, and conquered them... After this, having reigned in all sixteen years, he brought his life to an end, and handed on
the kingdom to Psammis his son. While this Psammis was king of Egypt, there
came to him men sent by the Eleians, who boasted that they ordered the contest
at Olympia in the most just and honourable manner possible..." This is the
other -- Greco-Egyptian -- rib of synchronism.
is a carbon copy of the view propounded by Heifetz' himself, who held the
accounts of Jewish authorities in far greater esteem than any empirical or even
actual dates of Solon's reforms and the beginning of Pisistratus's tyranny can
probably be slightly moved. The traditional view that points at the kinship and
close friendship between Solon and Pisistratus is hardly compatible with the
accepted Greek chronology of the first half of the 6th century BCE. Hence the
alleged difficulty with an encounter between Solon and Croesus, which had
already created problems for ancient historians. However, Greek chronological
inconsistencies are immeasurably fewer than the aforementioned Jewish
discrepancy; what is more, they do not continue into the 5th century BCE.
 However, this is far from essential. I undertake to
come up with another dozen serious arguments proving the accuracy of the
scientific chronological system. All of them will be well founded and even
convincing, but the degree of their explicitness will vary greatly.
 Once again,
not because it is the only way, but because it is the most explicit one. I do
have plenty to say about Heifetz's Eastern reconstructions; I will touch upon
some of them in the appendix. However, our knowledge of ancient Greek history
is infinitely better than that of any other contemporary history -- and for
that reason, it should take the brunt of our scrutiny.
 Heifetz refers to the two campaigns described by
Thucydides and Xenophon as "Mantinean wars" (Milchamot Mantini).
In fact, the two events can be merely Mantinean battles. At the same time, the
war between Sparta and the Argolian cities is indeed occasionally called a
Mantinean war, while the last invasion of Peloponnesos by Epaminondas cannot be
called that by any stretch of imagination.
 Unfortunately, Heifetz immediately proves himself to
be a rather imprecise chronicler. According to Thucydides, the war between
Peloponnesian cities mentioned by Heifetz took place during the 13th-14th years
of the Peloponnesian War, i.e. in 419-418 BCE. The next footnote explains that
the 13th year of the reign of Darius II falls on 411 BCE. Thus the battle near
Mantinea, which was indeed described by Thucydides as "the greatest battle
between the most important Hellenistic cities" took place in the sixth
year in the reign of Darius II, while the corresponding war began in the fifth
year of his reign. See History, vol. 5, pp. 47, 80.
 Here Heifetz is guilty of yet another inaccuracy.
Thucydides, whom Heifetz misquotes, recounts that within a very short time (two
or three years) the Spartans made not one but three peace treaties with King
Darius of Persia, every time through the mediation of the Persian satrap
Tissaphernes. Only one of these treaties (the first one) was made with the
participation of the Spartan commander Chalcideus; only one of them (the second one) contained the formula that
interested Heifetz ("friendship and alliance with the king, the sons of
the king, and Tissaphernes"). As for the third treaty, it was markedly
different from the other two, containing an important synchronism: mentioned in
it was the fact that it was signed in the 13th year of Darius' reign. Since the
reign of Darius II, judging by a variety of indications, began in 424/423 BCE,
the treaty should be dated to 411 BCE. This synchronism enables us to verify
the dating of many events related to the Peloponnesian War. The dating, as
expected, proves to be impeccable. Thucydides states that the third treaty was
made in the winter of the 20th year of the war, i.e. 411 BCE -- which provide
the needed proof. See History, vol. 8, pp. 18, 37, 58, 60.