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ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN ISRAEL
 

ASHKELON

 Ancient harbor, Philistine capital, Hellenistic polis, fortified Crusader city.

Identification

The only ancient city located on the sea coast in the Southern Coastal plain. The name is of Western-Semitic origin, from the word "Shekel" - maybe an allusion to one of the Philistine tribes.

Chronology

Neolitihic Period - beginning of settlement.

Second Millennium BCE -  Under Egyptian rule. Mentioned in the El Amarna letters, 19th century BCE.

!3th Century BCE- Conquered by Ramses II after rebelling against Egypt. Mentioned in the Israel Astelae, as a city conquered by Merneptah, together with Gezer and Yinoam.

Israelite Period - Conquered by the tribe of Judah (Judges 1:18). According to the Septuagint Ashkelon was not captured.

12th Century BCE - The Phiistines conquer southern coast of the Land of Israel. Ashkelon becomes one of the five main Philistine cities (Seren, Joshua 13:3). Samson kills 80 Philistines from Ashkelon (Judges 14:19). David mentions Philistine Ashkelon in his lament over Saul and Jonathan (II Samuel 1:20).

734 BCE - Ashkelon rebels against Assyria, together with Aram and Israel. Her king is deposed.

701 BCE - Base for the Assyrian armies on their campaign to conquer Egypt.

Babylonian Period - Ashkelon rebels against Babylonian. Her nobles are exiled (Zafaniyah 2:4, Jeremiah 47:5).

Persian Period - Port city under the rule of Tyre.

Hellenistic Period - Independent polis, Hellenistic culture with Egyptian characteristics.

200 BCE - Conquered by Seleucids.

2nd Century BCE - Ashkelon is not involved in battles with Hasmoneans. With the decline of the Seleucids becomes independent.

104 BCE - Beginning of "year count" for independent Ashkelon.

Roman Period - City remains independent, except for short period during the reign of Cleopatra. Is not part of Herod's kingdom but he takes the city under his patronage and erects palaces and edifices in the city.

66-70 - Battles between Jews and Pagans in the city. Jewish community continues to flourish in the city after rebellion of jews against the Romans.

Late Roman Period - Independent colony allied with Rome.

Byzantine Period - Important commercial center. Surrounded by a wall. Appears on the Madeba map. Pagan city not included in the Talmudic  "Borders of the Babylonian Return".

Moslem Period - Remains important center after Arab conquest. Jewish, Samaritan, Karaite, Christian and Moslem communites live in the city - often fighting each other. According to Cairo Genizah Jewish community had strong ties with Jews of Egypt.

Crusader Period - Fatamid outpost. Conquered only in 1153 by Baldwin III. Crusaders built a castle in the city. Remains are still visible today.

1187 - Saladin conquers city and destroys its walls.

1190 - Richard Lion-Heart conquers Ashkelon.

1240 - Richard of Cornwall, King of England, fortifies city.

1270 - Baybars destroys the city. Site is abandoned.

18th Century - Antiquities of Ashkelon used as building material for Jaffa and Acre.

19th Century - East of remains of ancient city Arab town of Migdal is established. A number of villages are formed around the city. Inhabitants of town and villages are immigrants from Egypt.

British Mandate - British erect fortified police station in the city and a marine police station on the beach to stop illegal Jewish immigration.

War of Independence - Ashkelon becomes forward position of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force based in Gaza.

5 November 1948 - Israel's Givati Brigade conquers Magdal. Arab population flees city and surrounding villages to Gaza together with retreating Egyptian Army.

1950 - Jewish Ashkelon is created. Settled by new immigrants. City numbers today 60,000 inhabitants.

Excavations

1815 - Lady Hester Stanhope.
1920-21 - Garstang and Adams.
1955 - Perot
1967 - Vasilios Zafirris
1972 - Two marble sarcophagi uncovered.
1985 - American Expedition. Still excavating.

 


 

The Philistines
Following profound upheavals in the Aegean and Anatolian regions toward the end of the 13th century BCE a broad process of migrations is started. The migrating peoples  were known in the Eastern Mediterranean as the Sea Peoples. One of these peoples were the Philistines.
The invasions of the Sea Peoples is depicted in monumental reliefs and inscriptions on the walls of the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Thebes. These sources tell of an impressive Egyptian land and naval victory over the sea peoples including the Plst (Philistines) and Shkl - maybe the source for the name of Ashkelon.
In spite of Ramses' claims of victory it seems that the Sea Peoples managed to not only to settle in areas controlled by Egypt, but eventually end Egyptian rule in Canaan.
During the 13th century BCE the Philistines established five major city-states: Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Gath and Ekron. At the head of each city stood a "seren" a term probably related to the Greek "tyrant".
the Bible relates the conflict between the Philistines and the Israelites, with the Philistines trying to penetrate the hill country and prevent the creation of an Israelite Kingdom. Many of the biblical stories relating to this struggle, Samson, David and Goliath, have a distinct Greek-Hero aura about them.
The Philistines occupied the central and southern Coastal Plain and the northern Negev an area known as Philistia.
The Philistine city-states retained their independence throughout the period of the Israelite monarchy - even though border changes, destruction of cities,  expansions and contractions of the area of Philistia took place constantly - due to the ongoing struggle for control of the coast between the Philistines and the Israelites.
With the arrival of the Assyrian armies in Philistia in the eighth century BCE Philistine rule began to collapse. The Assyrian king Tiglath Pileser III reached Gaza in 734 BCE and subjected the city. The Philistines rebelled a number of times in the following years bringing on them the wrath of Kings Sargon II and Sennacherib, who subjected Gaza, Ashdod and Ekron towards the end of the eighth century.
Following the fall of  the Assyrian Empire the Philistines found themselves in the midst of the power struggle between Egypt and Babylonia - the inheritors of the Assyrian Empire.
The final destruction of the Philistine cities  and disappearance of the Philistine culture came in approximately 600 BCE when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia destroys and exiles the cities and peoples of Philistia, during his military campaigns against Egypt.
Many Philistine cities and settlements have been excavated revealing a distinct material culture.


ERETZ Magazine 2010