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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 a region in the Mediterranean in the 12th cent. B.C. Genetic studies in the 21st cent. indicate an origin in S Europe; traditionally the place of their origin, called CaphtorCaphtor
, in the Bible, home of the Philistines before they migrated to Canaan. Its inhabitants are called Caphtorim. Caphtor has been identified with both Crete and Cyprus.
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 in the Bible, has been identified with Crete or Cyprus, but other Mediterranean locations have been suggested. Some scholars consider them one of the Sea PeoplesSea Peoples,
modern term for any of the groups of people who attacked Egypt and the E Mediterranean by sea and sometimes by land c.1200 B.C. They are recorded as having fought in battles with Egypt during the dynasties of Ramses II, when some also served as mercenaries in his
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. Their control of iron supplies and their tight political organization of cities made them a rival of the people of Israel for centuries. Their cities were conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians in 604 B.C. Philistine has come to mean an uncultured, materialistic person.


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

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


perennial rivals of Israel in Biblical times; looked upon as uncultured by Israelites. [Jewish Hist.: NCE, 2132]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Possibly Herodotus initiated this usage, hellenizing the Hebrew Plishtim, meaning the Philistines.