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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 periodicals archive ?
At the risk of sounding like a complete Phillistine, I tend to think it's rarely any better than a tin of Heinz cream of tomato and I grudge forking out a fiver for something I could heat up in two minutes at home.
I am obviously a complete Phillistine in my lack of appreciation of art as I cannot for the life of me imagine how such objects can be transformed into works of art.
Then, at a great Phillistine feast, Samson was brought out to be derided before the thousands present.
The Hand of God famously smote the Phillistines, the children of Canaan and Sihon, King of the Amorites, as well as destroying the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
There is of course the new Phillistines album which is due for release on October 4 and which will be promoted with a short nationwide tour.
WHO says the Welsh are a bunch of Phillistines who wouldn't know romance or culture if it came up and belched in their face?
There is a book somewhere in the Old Testament that outlines the numbers of Phillistines God told the Israelis to kill.