Enemies to the Kingdom of Israel
8th–5th centuries BC
Canaan (meaning the area covering roughly modern Israel, the Palestinian territories, and southern Lebanon) in the Late Bronze Age was a collection of city-states under the authority of the Egyptians. The cities were very small, really no more than towns, and were concentrated along the coast and in a few inland valleys. They were ethnically diverse, so far as can be judged, but they spoke languages of the West Semitic language family (probably mutually intelligible) and shared a common culture in many respects, including religion, diet, and economic and political organization.
This common Late Bronze culture collapsed at the end of the Late Bronze period. The collapse was gradual rather than sudden, extending over a century or so between 1250 and 1150 BC. Many, but not all, of the Canaanite cities were destroyed, international trade collapsed, and the Egyptians withdrew. At the end of this period a new landscape emerges: the northern Canaanite cities still existed, more or less intact, and became the Phoenicians; the highlands behind the coastal plains, previously largely uninhabited, were rapidly filling with villages, largely Canaanite in their basic culture but without the Bronze Age city-state structure; and along the southern coastal plain there are clear signs that a non-Canaanite people had taken over the former Canaanite cities while adopting almost all aspects of Canaanite culture.
It has been suggested that the Casluhite Philistines formed part of the "Sea Peoples" who repeatedly attacked Egypt during the later Nineteenth Dynasty. Though they were eventually repulsed by Ramses III, he finally resettled them, according to the theory, to rebuild the coastal towns in Canaan. Papyrus Harris I details the achievements of the reign of Ramses III. In the brief description of the outcome of the battles in Year 8 is the description of the fate of the Sea Peoples. Ramses tells us that, having brought the imprisoned Sea Peoples to Egypt, he "settled them in strongholds, bound in my name. Numerous were their classes like hundred-thousands. I taxed them all, in clothing and grain from the storehouses and granaries each year." Some scholars suggest it is likely that these "strongholds" were fortified towns in southern Canaan, which would eventually become the five cities (the Pentapolis) of the Philistines. Israel Finkelstein has suggested that there may be a period of 25–50 years after the sacking of these cities and their reoccupation by the Philistines. It is quite possible that for the initial period of time, the Philistines were housed in Egypt, only subsequently late in the troubled end of the reign of Ramses III would they have been allowed to settle Philistia.
The connection between Mycenaean culture and Philistine culture was made clearer by finds at the excavation of Ashdod, Ekron, Ashkelon, and more recently Gath, four of the five Philistine cities in Canaan. The fifth city is Gaza. Especially notable is the early Philistine pottery, a locally made version of the Aegean Mycenaean Late Helladic IIIC pottery, which is decorated in shades of brown and black. This later developed into the distinctive Philistine pottery of the Iron Age I, with black and red decorations on white slip known as Philistine Bichrome ware. Also of particular interest is a large, well-constructed building covering 240 square metres (2,600 sq ft), discovered at Ekron. Its walls are broad, designed to support a second story, and its wide, elaborate entrance leads to a large hall, partly covered with a roof supported on a row of columns. In the floor of the hall is a circular hearth paved with pebbles, as is typical in Mycenaean megaron hall buildings; other unusual architectural features are paved benches and podiums. Among the finds are three small bronze wheels with eight spokes. Such wheels are known to have been used for portable cultic stands in the Aegean region during this period, and it is therefore assumed that this building served cultic functions. Further evidence concerns an inscription in Ekron to PYGN or PYTN, which some have suggested refers to "Potnia", the title given to an ancient Mycenaean goddess. Excavations in Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath reveal dog and pig bones which show signs of having been butchered, implying that these animals were part of the residents' diet. Among other findings there are wineries where fermented wine was produced, as well as loom weights resembling those of Mycenaean sites in Greece.
It has been theorized that the latter Philistines originated among the "sea peoples". Modern archaeology has also suggested early cultural links with the Mycenaean world in Greece. Though the Philistines adopted local Canaanite culture and language before leaving any written texts (and later adopted the Aramaic language), an Indo-European origin has been suggested for a handful of known Philistine words that survived as loanwords in Hebrew.
Inscriptions written by the Philistines have not yet been found or conclusively identified; however, their early history is known to scholars from inscriptions in other ancient documents, such as Ancient Egyptian texts. The Philistines appear in four different texts from the time of the New Kingdom under the name Peleshet. Two of these, the inscriptions at Medinet Habu and the Rhetorical Stela at Deir al-Medinah, are dated to the time of the reign of Ramses III (1186–1155 BC). Another was composed in the period immediately following the death of Ramses III (Papyrus Harris I). The fourth, the Onomasticon of Amenope, is dated to some time between the end of the 12th or early 11th century BCE.
The inscriptions at Medinet Habu consist of images depicting a coalition of Sea Peoples, among them the Philistines, who are said in the accompanying text to have been defeated by Ramses III during his Year 8 campaign. Scholars have been unable to conclusively determine which images match what peoples described in the reliefs depicting two major battle scenes. A separate relief on one of the bases of the Osirid pillars with an accompanying hieroglyphic text clearly identifying the person depicted as a captive Peleset chief is of a bearded man without headdress.
The Rhetorical Stela are less discussed, but are noteworthy in that they mention the Peleset together with a people called the Teresh, who sailed "in the midst of the sea". The Teresh are thought to have originated from the Anatolian coast and their association with the Peleshet in this inscription is seen as providing some information on the possible origin and identity of the Philistines.
The Harris Papyrus which was found in a tomb at Medinet Habu also recalls Ramses III's battles with the Sea Peoples, declaring that the Peleset were "reduced to ashes." Egyptian strongholds in Canaan are also mentioned, including a temple dedicated to Amun, which some scholars place in Gaza; however, the lack of detail indicating the precise location of these strongholds means that it is unknown what impact these had, if any, on Philistine settlement along the coast.
The first mention in an Egyptian source of the Philistines in conjunction with three of the five cities that are said in the Hebrew Bible to have made up their pentapolis comes in the Onomasticon of Amenope. The sequence in question read: "Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gaza, Assyria, Shubaru [...] Sherden, Tjekker, Peleset, Khurma [...]" Scholars have advanced the possibility that the other Sea Peoples mentioned were connected to these cities in some way as well.
Also, even if they were from the late bronze age, archeological finds have determined that the Philistines had already mastered Iron in some level in their weapons and armor.
The battle starts with the Philistine walking in a open field, looking around for his opponent. The Saxon is walking up over a hill, his shield and Dane ax slung over his shoulder. Seeing the Saxon the Philistine yells throwing one of his javelins at him, it missing the Saxon but sticking into the ground near his foot, looking up in surprise he see the Philistine throwing his second javelin. Turning his back to put his shield between him and the missile. His shield catches it, hunched over the Saxon pulls out his hand axe. The Philistine sneers at his failed attempts to take down his opponent, taking his last javelin he get's ready to throw it, but while he steps into the throw and axe whistle by his head making him fall in surprise. Rolling over to pick up his javelin he hears fast falling foot steps, looking up he see's the Saxon running at him yelling with his Dane axe raised for a strike. Taking up his shield and picking up his spear, he rolls away from the strike, and try's to stab the larger man but his weapon fails to pierce the Saxons mail. Pushing the Philistine away with the shaft of his axe he raises if for another strike but before he can the Philistine stabs him in the thigh with his spear, drawing first blood. Yelling in pain he strikes the spear instead, breaking the shaft. Dropping the now useless piece of wood, the Philistine runs off to try and use his lighter equipment to his advantage. Seeing his enemy gone, the Saxon draws his sword and pulling out his shield he goes in the last direction he saw the Philistine.
The Philistine runs into a thicket of trees and finds a large tree and hides behind it drawing his sword. The Saxon limped into the thicket looking around for his opponent and starts yelling in frustration. The Philistine hears opponent and seeing him trudging in his direction, seeing the Saxon turning around looking for him he takes the opportunity, he shouts as he charges forwards and hit the Saxon on the crown of the head with his sword, sending him stumbling away. However his steel helmet stopped the worst of it. Striking again on the Saxons back, again failing to do any real damage. Going in for another strike, this time the Saxon catches the Sword in his shield. Tossing his shield to the ground, taking the Philistines sword with it. Swinging his own sword, the Philistine copy's the Saxons move, he catches the Saxons sword in his lighter shield. THe Saxon nearly cleaved the lighter shield in half but seeing it's done it's job the Philistine moves the shield aside and kicks the Saxon in the abdomen, knocking the wind out of him, forcing him to drop his sword.
Seeing his opponent vulnerable he takes out his bronze ax to go in for the kill. Seeing the attack coming the Saxon tackles the Philistine to the ground. After hitting the ground the Saxon is the first to get up, taking out his seax he get's ready to finish the fight. The Philistine get's up and grabs his axe and charges the Saxon. Swinging the axe once the Saxon steps back to keep out of reach. The Philistine ,using his longer reach to his advantage keeps pushing the Saxon back until the Saxon is backed up against tree. Seeing that he has his opponent cornered he raises his axe high for final strike. Seeing his last chance, the Saxon rushes forward grabbing the Philistines arms as there over his head and stabs his seax up thru his the Philistines bottom jaw and into his brain. Staring into his eye's the Saxon sneers as the Philistine stares back at the Saxon, spitting up blood as the Saxon pulls his seax out and kicks his opponent to the ground, looking at the dead Philistine, he raises his seax into the air shouting in victory.
The Saxon won becasue he was better equipped in both weapons and armor. This combined with the warrior life style and greater physical size gave his victory over his Philistine opponent.