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(fĭl`ĭstēnz, fĭlĭs`–), inhabitants of PhilistiaPhilistia
, region of SW ancient Palestine, comprising a coastal strip along the Mediterranean and a portion of S Canaan. The chief cities of Philistia were Gaza, Ashqelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath; strategically located on the great commercial route from Egypt to Syria, they
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, a non-Semitic people who came to Palestine from the Aegean (probably Crete), in the 12th cent. B.C. Their control of iron supplies and their tight political organization of cities made them a rival of the people of Israel for centuries. Philistine has come to mean an uncultured, materialistic person.


See studies by T. Dothan (1982) and B. F. Griffin (1983).



a people who in the 12th century B.C. settled in the southwestern part of Canaan, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. In the Bible, the land of the Philistines is called Pleshet, and eventually the entire land of Canaan became known as Palestine. According to biblical sources, the Philistines originally came from Caphtor (Crete). In Egyptian depictions on the Medinet Habu chariot, the ships and clothing of the Philistines are similar to those of the Aegean region. Philistine pottery of the 12th and 11th centuries B.C. resembles Mycenaean pottery of the 13th century B.C.

There is no reliable evidence regarding the language of the Philistines. In 1969, Philistine writing inscribed on seals was found during excavations at Ashdod, but it has not yet been deciphered.

The Philistines were one of the Peoples of the Sea, who invaded Asia Minor and northern Syria, destroyed the Hittite empire and Ugarit circa 1200 B.C., and conducted campaigns against Egypt. Repulsed by the Egyptians, the Philistines invaded the southern part of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, seized a number of fortified cities, and created the Pentapolis, an alliance of five city-states—Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. The alliance was headed by the ruler of Gath. The Philistines adopted the Canaanite language and religion. They introduced the use of iron into this region, becoming monopoly producers of iron chariots and weapons. Their military superiority enabled the Philistines to invade Canaan as far as Beth-shan, in the Jordan River valley, where they established hegemony. The advance of the Philistines was halted by King David in the early tenth century B.C, but the conflict continued until the seventh century. The wars between the Judeans and the Philistines are described in the historical sections of the Bible and in epic accounts of the feats of legendary heroes, such as the Israelites Samgar and Samson and the Philistine Goliath.

In the eighth century B.C, the Philistines were subjugated by the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III, in the late seventh century by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, and in the late sixth century by the Persians. During the Achaemenid period, Philistia—the region settled by the Philistines—became part of the fifth Persian satrapy. In the second and first centuries B.C, the Philistine cities were conquered by the Maccabees. The Hellenization of the Philistines began with the campaigns of Alexander the Great and the Diadochoi and was completed by the beginning of the Common Era.


Macalister, R. The Philistines: Their History and Civilization. Chicago, 1965.
Dothan, T. “Archaeological Reflections on the Philistine Problem.” Antiquity and Survival, 1957, vol. 2, no. 1.
Mitchell, T. C. “Philistia.” In Archaeology and Old Testament Study. Edited by D. W. Thomas. Oxford, 1969. Pages 404–27.



perennial rivals of Israel in Biblical times; looked upon as uncultured by Israelites. [Jewish Hist.: NCE, 2132]
References in classic literature ?
slowly and with upturned eyes ejaculated the trio, as, letting go their hold, the emancipated porker tumbled headlong among the Philistines, "El Emanu
Let us not question the motives of the Philistine," interrupted Abel-Phittim' "for to-day we profit for the first time by his avarice or by his generosity; but rather let us hurry to the ramparts, lest offerings should be wanting for that altar whose fire the rains of heaven can not extinguish, and whose pillars of smoke no tempest can turn aside.
She was so used to hearing Sellers lash the Philistine and hold forth on unappreciated merit that she could hardly believe the miracle when, in answer to a sympathetic bromide on the popular lack of taste in Art, Beverley replied that, as far as he was concerned, the public showed strong good sense.
With regard to giants," replied Don Quixote, "opinions differ as to whether there ever were any or not in the world; but the Holy Scripture, which cannot err by a jot from the truth, shows us that there were, when it gives us the history of that big Philistine, Goliath, who was seven cubits and a half in height, which is a huge size.
It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation.
David offered himself to Saul to fight with Goliath, the Philistine champion, and, to give him courage, Saul armed him with his own weapons; which David rejected as soon as he had them on his back, saying he could make no use of them, and that he wished to meet the enemy with his sling and his knife.
Watson talked all the time of things he did not care about, and while he looked upon Watson as a Philistine he could not help admiring him.
Casaubon's entirely new view of the Philistine god Dagon and other fish-deities, thinking that hereafter she should see this subject which touched him so nearly from the same high ground whence doubtless it had become so important to him.
It is their serious fidelity which gives them a value unique in literature, and which if it were carefully analyzed would afford a principle of the same quality in an author who was undoubtedly one of the finest of artists as well as the most Philistine of men.
His brother-in-law must have appeared to him, to use the language of shore people, a perfect philistine with a heart like a flint.
Bunny, you Philistine, why can't you admire the thing for its own sake?
This new volume is an addition to this ongoing development, providing researchers with plenty of raw data to conduct studies on the Philistines.