Wednesday 21 November 2012


The city of Gebal was, according to myth, founded by El himself.  The city is extremely old, and this will be its history.

Long ago, a small fishing village consisting of a few small huts was founded along the coast by the ancestors of the Canaanites.  It soon developed into a town and then a city, and by the time of the Canaanites it was named Gebal.  Before long, Gebal had developed into an important trading city, shipping timber and cedar wood to Egypt.  It was not long, however, before the Amorites emerged from the deserts in the east and attacked the cities of Canaan, burning Gebal to the ground.  The Amorites then settled in the land, and the city was rebuilt.

Gebal once again became wealthy through trade with the Egyptians.  Large temples were built for Resheph and for Baalat Gebal.  Gebal at this time was heavily influenced by the Egyptians, and the Egyptians held quite a lot of power over it and the Canaanites living there.  King Rib-Hadda of Gebal began writing letters to King Akhenaten of Egypt asking for military assistance against the conquering Habiru, and the Habiru rebels began sweeping across the land.  Also around this time, the Sea People began their invasion of Canaan, Egypt, and Anatolia.  An obelisk from Gebal mentions the Lukka, and one of them called Kukunnis.  The Lukka were one group of Sea People who were attacking the Egyptians along with the Alashiyaites from Kittim (Cyprus), before finally settling in Anatolia.  The scribes of Gebal began developing the first alphabet, which soon spread far and wide.

It was after this time that Egyptian influence in Gebal began to decline and wane.  The Egyptians began to become more interested in Sidon and Tyre, and began trading with them instead.  Gebal did continue to benefit from trade, however, and this continued for many years to come.

By the time of the Assyrians, King Sibittibaal of Gebal began offering tribute to Tiglath-Pileshar III of Ashur.  During the reign of King Urumilki, the Assyrians under Sinherib began conquering all of Canaan, and Gebal fell into their hands.  Under the Gebalite kings Milkiasaph and Yehawmilk, Gebal was under the control of the Assyrian kings Ashurhaddon and Ashurbanipal.  Despite the rule of the Assyrians, Gebal was still able to trade in the west and across the seas.

The conquests of the Babylonians under King Nebukadrezzar II left Gebal under Babylonian control.  The city had been besieged for 13 years under King Ethbaal, and the Babylonians took the city for themselves, still allowing trade with the west at Gebal.  Gebal still continued to grow prosperous under the Babylonians until Babylon was conquered by the Persians and their empire destroyed.

The Persian ruler Kurash II conquered most of northern Canaan, and allowed several Canaanite kingdoms to continue as vassal kingdoms under his rule.  These four were Arvad, Sidon, Tyre, and Gebal.  Athar was the dwelling of the kshatrapavan of the region.  Persian rule was free and tolerant, and a fortress was constructed outside of Gebal, as the city would be an important area for garrison.

King Alaksandar (Alexandros) III of Macedon swept eastward with an army of Greeks and defeated the Persians.  Gebal then fell under Greek control, with the Greek language becoming popular among the educated.  The temple of Resheph was rebuilt by the Greeks at this time, since it had fallen into ruin during an earlier period.  The Greeks called the city Byblos, and like in earlier times (when the scribes had produced the alphabet) writing and literature continued to be important to the people.  Following the Greeks, the Romans conquered Gebal, building temples and public baths.  The city was famed for its books and scribe schools.  Many texts were written in papyrus and stored in the city libraries.

By the time of the Byzantines, many buildings were made of poor quality stone.  Polytheism declined as Christianity replaced it, and a Bishop of Gebal was soon appointed.


Tuesday 20 November 2012


I haven't done posts about cities in a while.  I believe the last one I did was about Tyre.  This one will focus on Gaza, which through most of its history was one of the five Philistine cities (the other four being Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron) which formed a part of Pelesht, their land.

Gaza is situated in a region which is a narrow strip of land, surrounded by hills.  There is much sandstone in the area, and it is semi-arid.  Long ago, the Egyptians built a fortress in Canaanite territory in that region.  Canaanites in the region began to settle there and trade agricultural goods with Egypt.  However, the trade declined and the city did too.  It was rebuilt several times, most notably when the Canaanite Heka Khaswet occupied Egypt, where it served as a fortress.  When the Heka Khaswet were driven out of Egypt, the city fortress was destroyed.

When the Egyptian Empire conquered Canaan, they rebuilt the city and it was named Azzati.  The Egyptian governor would dwell in Azzati, and it was their administrative capital in Canaan.  It would remain in the hands of the Egyptians until the coming of the Sea People from the Aegean.  The Philistines, one group of Sea People fleeing Kaphtor (Crete) arrived in southern Canaan and conquered five of the cities there.  These five cities- Azzati (now named Gaza), Ekron, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Gath- would be the lands of the Philistines for many years to come.  One of the groups of the Philistines occupying the area of Gaza were the Avvites.  A large temple of the god Dagon, national god of the Philistines, was erected in Gaza.  Also worshiped among the Philistines were Ashtart, Petiniyah (their old mother goddess), the Egyptian goddess Bast, and Hadad.

While Gaza is perhaps most famously known as a Philistine city, eventually the Philistines themselves would lose their independence and be conquered, becoming another province in a kingdom or empire.  The Israelites fought against them and took Gaza for themselves, and Gaza came under Israelite rule.  Israel continued to hold Gaza up until the reign of King Hoshea, the last King of Israel.  It was then that the Assyrians began their conquest.  Israel fell to the Assyrians at that time, under the leadership of the Assyrian kings Tiglath-Pileshar III and Shargon II.  The Assyrians now held Gaza for a brief amount of time, until the city was once again conquered by the Egyptians.  It remained with them until the Babylonians under King Nebukadrezzar II conquered Gaza and the other Philistine cities, destroying much in their path.

The coming of the Persians was mostly a time of peace for much of Canaan.  The Jews were returned home from Babylon, and were a nation supportive of the Persians amidst other nations who were more sympathetic to the Egyptians.  King Kurash II of Persia took most of the cities peacefully, as did his successor King Kambuzi (Kabujiya) I, but Gaza resisted and had to be taken by force.  After attacking the city, the Persians took Gaza as a part of their vast empire.  Under Persian rule, the Philistine city enjoyed a large amount of peace and freedom.   The Persians also used Gaza as the site of an important royal fortress, and it would be a useful stronghold.

During the time of the Persians, Gaza also began establishing trade with the Greeks in the west, and a Greek port was built at Gaza.

The Greeks eventually did take Gaza with the coming of King Alaksandar (Alexandros) III of Macedon.  He fought against the inhabitants of Gaza, who were led by a Persian eunuch governor named Bagamisa or Bagamithra.  He had many Arab mercenaries on his side, and the people of Gaza were prepared to fight to the death.  Alaksandar did indeed conquer the city, and he dragged Bagamithra around from the back of his chariot until he died.  Many of the people of the city were massacred or captured.  Following this, Arab Bedawin tribes began to settle in Gaza and repopulate the city.  The Greeks took control of Gaza, and it belonged to two Hellenistic kingdoms.  First it belonged to the Ptolemaic Empire, and then to the Seleukid Empire.

Control of Gaza eventually passed on to the Arab tribe called the Nabataeans, who used it as a port for their trading caravans.  The Hashmonayim, a Jewish kingdom in Judah, besieged the city.  The people of Gaza hoped for help from the Nabataean King Aritat II, but no help came, and the city fell to the Jews under King Jannai, called in Greek Alexander Jannaeus.  The Jews destroyed the city and killed the inhabitants.

It wasn't until the coming of the Romans that Gaza was rebuilt.  Under Roman rule, it became a prosperous city once more.  Trade routes were established with Egypt.  Gaza even formed a separate unit within King Herod's kingdom.  It became known for its schools of knowledge and learning, including in philosophy.  A stadium was built, and wrestling and boxing matches were introduced by the Romans to Gaza.  Christianity also began to take hold in Gaza during this time.  It was a city inhabited by a diverse number of people: Canaanites, Philistines, Egyptians, Jews, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs- all of them found their home in Gaza.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire and the time of the new Byzantine Empire, Christianity was struggling to take hold in Gaza.  Polytheism was still strong within the city, and the churches were often poor.  The churches were built outside of the city for fear that they would be attacked.  One year, St. Porphrios (Bishop of Gaza), came into the city.  This was followed by a drought, and the Gazaites blamed Porphyrios, claiming that he had brought bad luck into the city, and this had been revealed by the gods Dagon and Marna.  In response to this, Poprhyrios ordered the closing of the temples.  A decree was eventually passed, and eight temples were pulled down or burnt.  These were the temples of Ashtart, Shamash, Resheph, Kore, the local Gad, Hekate, a hero, and great Marna himself.  A large church was then built over the site of Marna's temple.  The soldiers then entered the houses of the people, destroying their idols and burning their sacred texts as books of witchcraft.