April 19, 1999
Contact: Marianne Kunnen-Jones


Cincinnati -- When it comes to the biblically predicted "battle to end all battles," modern dooms-dayers are often obsessed with the question of when it will take place. Some believe it could happen as soon as the end of this December.

But University of Cincinnati adjunct assistant professor of classics Eric Cline is more preoccupied with where the Bible says that it will happen: Armageddon.

The UC Semple Post-Doctoral Research Fellow is writing a book on this fated site in Israel's Jezreel Valley, which, his research shows so far, has been the site of at least 23 historical or biblically recounted battles. His upcoming book, "The Battles of Armageddon," is under contract for a December 2000 release through University of Michigan Press. The TV option rights have already been purchased by a company interested in making the book into a documentary series.

"Twenty-three battles in 3,500 years it's no wonder the writers of the New Testament concluded that the final battle between good and evil would take place there," said Cline, who serves as senior staff archaeologist for an excavation project that Tel Aviv and Pennsylvania State universities have operated at Armageddon every other summer since 1994.

Conflicts at Armageddon have been waged by some of history's most recognizable warriors: Napoleon Bonaparte claimed victory over the Ottomans there in 1799, Saladin engaged in a stand-off with the Crusaders there in 1182-83, and Amenhotep II took the valley in 1430 B.C. "Alexander the Great would have done battle there, too, but didn't need to because his opponents surrendered," Cline pointed out.

Don't expect to look at a map of Israel to find "Armageddon." You will find "Megiddo." The word, "Armageddon," is a corruption of the Hebrew "Har Megiddo," with Har meaning "hill" or "mount," Cline said.

Dominating the Plain of Esdraelon, a green, fertile valley of about 15 by 5 miles, the ancient city of Megiddo existed as early as the fourth millennium B.C.

Today, Armageddon lies about 18 miles southeast of Haifa in northern Israel, but historically its location held strategic importance, lying at the crossroads of two military and trade routes. One of these byways was the Via Maris, which Cline describes as one of the most important roads in the ancient world. "It ran between Egypt in the south and Syria, Phoenicia, Anatolia and Mesopotamia in the north and east. Megiddo had great strategic significance for whoever controlled the city. Whoever maintained an army there would dominate this vital international route. That's part of the reason this city has been witness to so many military engagements," he said.

"The ancient city of Megiddo is easily the richest archaeological site in Israel, and it is widely regarded as one of the most important sites in the entire Near East," Cline attested.

In more recent times up to the 19th century, when its ruins were identified as Megiddo, the city was known by another name: Tell el-Mutesellim. Other names that have been attached to this city over recorded history include Ma-qad-du (Akkadian, about 1760 B.C.); Magidda or Makidda (Amarna texts dating to the Egyptian Eighteenth Dynasty); and Ma-gi-du (Assyrian, first millennium B.C.). Today it is a popular tourist stop and home to a modern kibbutz with a bed-and-breakfast.

The biblical writers who wrote about its final destiny in the Book of Revelations probably would have been familiar with Megiddo's voluminous war history. Cline has identified 13 battles that happened or were said to have happened in the vicinity of Megiddo up to the time when the Revelation author was writing (first century A.D.).

Tracing the facts behind the 23 reported battles is a task that has already kept Cline busy for more than two years. "It's like trying to find 23 needles in 23 haystacks, he acknowledged. And although there is little external corroborating evidence, I am dealing with biblical battles in the same manner as non-biblical battles."


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