Bickerman, Elias J. 1988. The Jews in the Greek Age. Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press.
Fictional kinship is also used for a political purpose in another early Hellenistic tale. We learn from II Maccabees that in 170 BCE both the Jews and the Spartans believed that they were related by blood. Nothing was more common in the Hellenistic age than the invention of a tie of kinship between a famous Greek city and some barbarian tribe, for whom such a relationship was a ticket of admission to the Hellenic club.
Although scholars vainly tried to find a rationale for the choice of the Spartans as kinsmen of Abraham’s race, there seems to have been none; neither in Greek mythology nor in the political history of the third century BCE was there any reason to connect Jerusalem and Sparta. But it is not necessary to suppose that the idea of this kinship evolved in either Jerusalem or Sparta. The Samnites were promoted to kinship with Sparta not for the sake of the Lacedaemonians, but for the same of Tarentum, a Spartan colony and a neighbor of the Samnites. We may guess that, in similar fashion, the Spartan relationship to the Jews was thought out at Cyrene, another Spartan colony, in order to improve the status of Jewish settlers there. It is a pity that we do not know what would be the most historically important feature of this genealogical fiction: Was some ancestor of the Chosen People identified with a Greek hero, or did the Spartans as a whole become associated with the descendants of Abraham? The Maccabees chose the latter interpretation, but their choice may have been a deliberate innovation. Generally, it was an ancestor of the barbarian group who became attached in some way to Greek mythology. In fact, the men and women of pre-Maccabean Jerusalem were not interested in what was happening beyond the sea, on the Spartan shore; they were too busy quarreling with their immediate neighbors.