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LEONTOPOLIS, locality in the district of Heliopolis in Egypt, N.E. of *Memphis, 6 mi. (10 km.) N. of Cairo. A settlement of Jewish soldiers was established in Leontopolis under the leadership of the former high priest, *Onias, IV sometime after the outbreak of the Maccabean revolt, in the middle of the second century B.C.E., with the approval of Ptolemy Philometer and his wife Cleopatra (Jos., Ant., 13:62ff.). Its nucleus was made up of emigrants from Judea. The Jewish soldiers of the region subsequently played a role in the political life of Egypt and the area was also called "the land of Onias." Onias erected here a temple to the God of Israel by restoring a ruined Egyptian temple which stood on the site. This temple served the Jewish inhabitants of the region for more than 200 years until it was closed down by the Romans in 73 C.E. (Wars, 7:433–646). The present name of the locality, Tell al-Yahūdiyya, is a survival from this ancient Jewish settlement. In archaeological excavations, Jewish inscriptions were found there. Some wish to associate the "Camp of the Jews" mentioned by Josephus (Ant., 14:133), and also the Castra Judaeorum mentioned in the Byzantine era, with this region.


Tcherikover, Corpus, 1 (1957), 44–46; idem, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews (1959), 278–9; Delcor, in: RB, 75 (1968), 188–205; Rapaport, in: Revue de Philologie, 43 (1969), 80–81.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.