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ak'-o (`akko; [`Akcho]; Ake Ptolemais; Modern Arabic `Akka, English Acre; the King James Version Accho):
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 (Joshua 19:24-31; Judges 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; Acts 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.