Sacred Texts  Ancient Near East 

Asherah, public domain image

The Philistines

Their History and Civilization

by R.A.S. Macalister


Contents    Start Reading    Page Index    Text [Zipped]

This short monograph on the Philistines is one of the few on these mysterious people. The Philistines may have been emmigrants from Mycenean Greece, part of the 'Sea People' migrations of the 12th century BCE. The Philistines occupied an area on the Mediterranian coast approximately corresponding to the current Gaza strip. Note that the ancient Philistines have no connection with the modern Palestinians: the Philistines disappeared in the 5th century BCE.

We have no written texts in the original Philistine words except for a few Hebrew loan-words. There is evidence that Philistine was an Indo-European language. Later, they adopted Aramaic, a Semitic language.

The Philistines pop up in some of the most dramatic tales of the Bible. Who can forget Samson tearing down the Philistine temple with his bare hands? Or the ultimate long-odds battle: young David versus the Philistine Goliath.

Macalister covers in some detail Philistine religion. The Philistines fit into an ancient Near Eastern polytheistic religious complex. They worshipped Canaanite deities such as Baal-zebub ('Lord of the Flies'), the high Goddess Astarte, and Dagon, a merman fish-god who was also a culture hero. When the Philistines stole the Ark of the Covenant, they reputedly stashed it in the temple of Dagon at Ashod.

One of the more controversial parts of Macalister's thesis is that the mysterious Phaistos disk was of Philistine origin. The provenance of the disk has been established firmly in the basement of the Hagia Triada site in southern Crete. Although this would be a tough sell today, it is nice to have good line-reproductions of both sides of the disk, along with an attempt to make a simple concordance of each sign. Macalister does also include source texts for some of the classical mentions of the Philistines.

J.B. Hare, October 1st, 2009.

Title Page
Chapter I. The Origin of the Philistines

Chapter II. The History of the Philistines

I. The Adventures of Wen-Amon among them
II. Their Struggle with the Hebrews
III. Their Decline and Disappearance


Chapter III: The Land of the Philistines

Chapter IV. The Culture of the Philistines

I. Their Language
II. Their Organization
III. Their Religion
IV. Their Place in History and Civilization


Index of Scriptural References