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The Philistines are the best known of the marauding maritime groups who cause havoc in the 13th century BC and who are referred to collectively as the Sea Peoples. The Philistines, who come from the Aegean, first make an unsuccessful invasion against Egypt. They then seize territory on the eastern Mediterranean coast, in the area known at the time as Canaan.

From the 11th century they are in constant warfare with the Israelites over this valuable territory. The giant Goliath, the best-known Philistine, vividly suggests the awe in which the Israelites hold these adversaries - partly for the good reason that the Philistines have iron weapons at a time when the Israelites are relying on copper and bronze.

David brings the Philistine cities of the coast (of which Gaza is one) within his kingdom, but they retain their Philistine identity. Like Israel, these cities come later under Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman control. The memory of the Philistines survives in the name of the region. The Greek Philistia becomes the Roman province of Syria Palaestina, later known to history as Palestine.

It is nowadays widely assumed that the Philistines lacked, to an unusual degree, any appreciation of art or culture. But, as a term of abuse, 'Philistine' is an invention of the 19th century with no specific basis in history.

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