Past Cities

Ashqelon, Southern, Israel

Ashkelon, also known as Ashqelon, is a vibrant coastal city located in Southern Israel. With a rich and diverse history that spans thousands of years, the city has witnessed numerous political changes, invasions, and cultural influences. Its strategic location along the Mediterranean Sea and proximity to major trade routes have shaped its destiny and attracted various civilizations throughout time.

The earliest evidence of human habitation in the Ashkelon region dates back to the Neolithic period, around 5,000 BCE. Over time, the city became an important center for trade and commerce due to its coastal position, enabling maritime connections with neighboring regions. Its geography, characterized by fertile soil and abundant water sources, also contributed to its growth and prosperity.

During the Bronze Age, Ashkelon was inhabited by the Canaanites, who established a flourishing city-state. The Canaanite city of Ashkelon was known for its impressive fortifications, which consisted of massive mudbrick walls and a sophisticated system of gates. The Canaanites engaged in extensive trade with Egypt, Cyprus, and other nearby regions, importing luxury goods and exporting agricultural products, such as wheat and olives.

In the 12th century BCE, the city of Ashkelon was conquered by the Philistines, a seafaring people who migrated from the Aegean region. The Philistines transformed Ashkelon into one of their five major cities, known as the Philistine Pentapolis. Under their rule, Ashkelon flourished as a significant maritime and trade center. The city's economy thrived, thanks to its strong commercial links with Egypt, the Levant, and the wider Mediterranean world.

Ashkelon's political landscape experienced significant changes during the Iron Age. The Neo-Assyrians, under the rule of King Tiglath-Pileser III, conquered the city in the 8th century BCE. This marked the beginning of a series of foreign invasions and occupations, as various empires sought control over the strategic coastal region. The Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all had their turn ruling over Ashkelon, each leaving their mark on the city's culture and architecture.

During the Byzantine period, Ashkelon witnessed a period of Christianization and became an important center of pilgrimage. The city's population grew, and magnificent churches were built, such as the Basilica of Ashkelon. However, in the 7th century CE, the city fell to the Islamic conquest and became part of the Islamic Caliphate. The following centuries saw alternating periods of Arab, Crusader, and Mamluk control, as different powers vied for dominance in the region.

In the late 19th century, Ashkelon, like much of Palestine, came under the control of the Ottoman Empire. During this time, the city's economy relied heavily on agriculture, particularly the cultivation of citrus fruits and the production of olive oil. Ashkelon remained a relatively small and predominantly Arab town until the early 20th century.

The establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine following World War I brought significant changes to Ashkelon. The city experienced an influx of Jewish immigrants, particularly during the years leading up to Israeli independence in 1948. The population increased, and new neighborhoods and infrastructure were developed to accommodate the growing community.

Ashkelon's history took a dramatic turn during the Israeli War of Independence. The city became a battleground between Israeli and Egyptian forces, leading to extensive damage and displacement. In the aftermath of the war, Ashkelon became part of the State of Israel and was rebuilt as a modern city. Its strategic location close to the border with Gaza, coupled with ongoing conflicts in the region, have presented unique challenges to its development and security.