Ashkelon is a large, 150-acre tell on the coast on the Mediterranean, an import port city between Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria for much of its existence. During biblical times it was known as one of the 5 Philistine cities (known today as the Pentapolis [Gaza, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, Ashkelon]). It had a long history even prior to Philistine occupation. Its first mention is in early 2nd millennium execration texts from Egypt, and the Middle Bronze city shows impressive fortifications, but was destroyed mid 16th century. An important find from this period is the famous bronze bull with silver leaf with a ceramic shrine. A number of letters appear in the Amarna corpus from Late Bronze age Ashkelon, and is mentioned in the Merneptah stela as a city that rebelled, and Merneptah’s storming of the city is depicted on the walls of Karnak. The peleset are first mentioned on Ramesses III’s mortuary temple at Medinet Habu as part of the Sea Peoples, and by the early 11th century Ashkelon is listed as a Philistine city in the Onomasticon of Amenemope. The presence of Aegean-style pottery and material culture testifies to their Aegean origins and the presence of pig pones also differentiates them from Canaanite/Israelite sites. The city is mentioned in Judges (14:10-19) as a site of one of Samsons rampages and also a city that was struck with plagues after the capture of the Ark (1 Sam 6:4,17). Much of the city is abandoned in the 10th century for reasons unknown. Ashkelon was involved in the revolt that brought Sennacherib to Palestine after Ashkelon’s king Ṣidqa allied with Hezekiah. Although Ṣidqa was exiled and Ashkelon lost tributaries it may have benefited from freedom from Judahite hegemony after the campaign. Ashkelon became an important wine producer at this point and sold to Phoenician merchants. Self-ruled Philistine Ashkelon came to an end in 604 BCE with the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and its king, Aga, being exiled. The city itself continued to be an important city until it was destroyed and the tell abandoned in 1270 after it was destroyed by the Mamluks.

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