It is important to understand that the geographical location of Gaza , between Egypt and Asia, makes of it as of Antiquity a major strategic pole and an economic crossroads. In fact, the city on several occasions was coveted and besieged.
It is probable that the town of Gaza was founded between 1500 av. J-C. and 1400 av. J-C.. It is indeed impossible to excavate the site of old Gaza ( Such Haruba ) which is located in lower part of the current modern city. But of the surveys carried out in 1992 revealed that the site was inhabited in the neighborhoods of -1500 the first historical reference to the town of Gaza goes up with the reign of Thoutmôsis III: Gaza is then the starting point of forwardings of the Pharaon to make sure control of the Palestine. The city is also quoted, under the name of Hazattu in the Lettres of Amarna. Its principal interest lies in its strategic position on the coastal road connecting the Egypt and the Pays of Canaan. It is thus an important shopping mall, which provide to Egypt oil and wine, and a paramount strategic station. It is in Gaza that resides the Egyptian civil servant charged by the king to supervise the Pays of Canaan.
In the Years -1190, the Philistine , one of the People of the sea originating in Crete, after having attacked Egypt, is installed on the southern part cananéenne (of Gaza to Jaffa). Known under the name of Philistines, they will give their name to the whole of the territory of the Roman Palestine. They found five principalities, each one directed by a sovereign, which are, in addition to Gaza, Eqrôn, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gath. The town of Philistine was built on a hill approximately 45 meters above the sea level, with approximately 2,4 kilometers of the Mediterranean. It was a walled city of approximately 80 hectares.
According to the Bible, the city belongs, with the territory which must return to the Tribu of Juda but they does not seem that they can seize some. It is in Gaza, according to the Livre of the Judges, that Samson dies while making crumble the temple of the god Dagon. According to the archaeological data, any Hebrew army forever fought the Philistines (see Given archaeological on the Philistines).
A Buffer state
In 734 av. J. - C., the sovereign Assyrie N Téglath-Phalasar III lance a military forwarding on the Philistine cities in order to prevent Egypt from intervening at the sides of the anti-Assyrian coalition assembled by the king of Syria. The town of Gaza east taken while its king Hanunu flees in Egypt. Hanunu ends up being subjected and becomes vassal Assyrie. Its obedience must be quite relative because in 720 av. J-C. the king Sargon of Assyrie captures it and takes it along captive to Assur after having beaten an Egyptian army come to its assistance. In 701 av. J. - C., the Çilli-Beautiful king of Gaza must pay an important tribute, in order to make forget its membership (under the constraint on behalf of the king of Juda, Ézéchias) of a new coalition against Assyrie. But after a voyage in Assyrie, it receives of compensation for the territories taken for the Royaume of Juda and appears thereafter faithful allied Assyrians until the reign of Assurbanipal. This situation illustrates well at the same time the difficulty of the geopolitical situation of Gaza, taken out of clipper between Egypt, the Hebrew and Assyrie, as well as the weak military weight of this kingdom.
In 604 av. J. - C., Gaza is again taken by the Babylonian S of Nabuchodonosor II then taken again by the Pharaon Néchao II in 601 av. J-C. after its victory of Magdolos. But in 598 av. J. - C., Nabuchodonosor takes again during a new forwarding the control of the Philistine coast, of which Gaza. The last king of the city is exiled and Gaza becomes garrison town for the Babylonians.
The seat of Alexandre Large the
To the catch of Babylon by Cyrus II, the countries under Babylonian domination pass under Persian suzerainty. It is the case of Gaza of which Cambyse II, towards 525 av. J-C., makes the head of bridge of all its campaigns towards Egypt. Under the empire of the Achéménides, the city finds a great prosperity because it is with the outlets of trade route coming from Arabia (trade of the Encens) and with the intersection of the trade between Asia and Egypt. Thus, Hérodote speaks about it like city equivalent to the size about Sardes, the capital of the minor Asia Persian. Its population is strongly cosmopolitan with, in addition to the descendants of the Philistins, a strong Arab population, a Persian administration and Greek merchants. The seat of the city, heroically defended by eunuque the Built, by Alexandre the Large one involves the massacre of the garrison and the sale of the population in slavery.
The hellenistic period
The city is repopulated partly with périèques , i.e. probably of the Arab and Syrien S. It is in front of Gaza in 312 av. J-C. that Démétrios Ier Poliorcète is overcome by the troops of Ptolémée forcing his/her father to give his invasion of the Greece. The city belongs to the kingdom lagide until in 198 av. J-C. and joins again with prosperity (exports of slaves, textiles and especially of incense). Gaza is then annexed by Antiochos III in 198 av. J-C. but the fast decomposition of the kingdom séleucide constitutes an opportunity for the city which arrives quickly at the indépencance and has with the IIe front century J. - C. a statute of city-state allied to the kingdom of Egypt. The relations remain tended with the Juifs and in 160 av. J-C., Jonathan Stiff, one of the Hasmonéens become chief of its people and high priest, makes the head office of Gaza in vain. The city escapes the invasion but must deliver hostages who are sent to Jerusalem.
The city became one of these many deeply hellenized cities of the Mediterranean East. Flavius Josèphe indicates that the city is directed by a swell (council) of 500 members and has his own army directed by a Stratège. There is a temple of Apollon and the currencies represent Zeus and the Tyché (i.e. destiny of the city). During this period the port of the North-West of the city, whose Greek population does not have the same origin that of Gaza, also transforms him into city independent under the name of a city of Béotie, Anthédon.
Independence is of short duration. In 97 av. J-C., the king hasmonéen Alexandre Jannée, in conflict with Egypt, seizes and destroys the city while its territory is incorporated in the Jewish kingdom. The road of the incense passes from now on more to the south towards Rhinocoloura (El-Arish) then, with the development of the trade in Red Sea, gains Egypt directly.
The Roman period
The Roman intervention of Pumped, which puts an end to the kingdom séleucide and takes Jerusalem in 63 av. J-C., releases Gaza (mainly in ruin) and the other Syrian and Greek cities annexed to the kingdom hasmonéen. However, they do not find a total freedom but remain in the orbit of Rome. Gaza is thus gradually rebuilt but the Romain S have about it with the liking their political interests. It is thus incorporated briefly in the province of Syria, then with the kingdom of Hérode, that of Cléopâtre VII before turning over to the province of Syria after the defeat of the queen lagide and of Marc Antoine. It seems that prosperity returns at the first century of the Christian era and Gaza becomes again the terminus of the incense caravans of the Nabatéens. But at the beginning of the first Jewish revolt, towards 66, the city is again plundered by the revolted Jews.
It is under the reign of Hadrian that the city enters a new time of development. In 127, the city is visited by the emperor and adopts the Panégyries Hadriennes (musical and sporting competitions). Hostility of the city to the Jews, and its support for the Roman repression of the second Jewish revolt, make grant to the city the privilege to organize the sale like slaves of part of the captive Jews. Although it is difficult to draw up the plan with precision of it, the city not having been excavated, it seems that it is hardly distinguished from the other cities of the Roman East. The city is surrounded by a rampart and structure around two perpendicular streets, the cardo and the decumanus . It obviously has a hippodrome (apart from the enclosure) and a theater, undoubtedly of IIe century, but nothing makes it possible to locate their sites nowadays. The Christian Marc the Deacon counts, at the beginning of Ve century, eight temples dedicated to Hécate, Coré, the Tyché, Marnas (most important because compared to Zeus), with the Sun, Apollon, the Héros and Aphrodite.
In IIe century, Gaza is a flourishing city with, in addition to its traditional incense trade, the development of the vine growing. The wine of Gaza becomes an luxury item, famous for its medicinal virtues, required in the Roman Empire. If the port of Anthédon, destroyed with Gaza in 66, does not find its gloss of antan, a new port Maïuma is built with approximately 4 kilometers in the south of the city and is used for exports of wine and undoubtedly of other products. One finds the amphoras gaziotes, at round bottom, in everyone Mediterranean, especially for the period known as of the late Antiquité. To Alexandria, the proportion of amphoras of Gaza passes from 15% at the beginning of the empire with 45% towards IVe century. Many Egyptians settle in Gaza, particularly Chrétiens, for the trade of the wine.
Christian and Byzantine Gaza
Under the reign of Constantin Ier, a scission intervenes between Maïuma and Gaza. In Maïuma, the Christians are majority whereas the worship of Marnas remains strongly anchored to Gaza. The traders of Maïuma obtain from the emperor the authorization to constitute themselves in independent city, which takes the name of Constantia. The two cities seem to live in good intelligence in IVe century, would be this only for economic reasons, but the competition is exacerbated in the sporting events of the hippodrome where each race takes the direction of a competition between the Christ and Marnas. The emperor Julien (361 - 363) joins together the two cities again but the persistence of the worship of Marnas remains strong at Gaziotes, in spite of the edicts of the emperor Théodose Ier. This worship still exists at the beginning of the 5th century and one needs a personal decision of the emperor Arcadius convinced by Porphyre saint of Gaza and the intervention of troops (in 402) to put an end and destroy to it the temple of Zeus-Marnas (Marneion). This event has a considerable repercussion in the empire and is put by Saint Jerome on the same plan as the destruction of the temple of Sérapis at Alexandria.
We lay out, in the absence of many archaeological sources, of an abundant literary production on Gaza between Ve and the 7th century because of its important school of rhetoric. Moreover, the chart of Madaba , a mosaic of the Life century representing the Palestine put at the day in Jordan, informs us about the evolution of the urban landscape of this period. We know that the original urban core, located on a height, is surrounded by a wall, which is restored in 530. The city is crossed streets with colonnades. The majority of the houses are out of raw bricks and comprise platform roofs the Agora, as with Antioche, is decorated of a clock monumental and bordered of public edifices. In addition to the theater, the city comprises also thermal baths. Starting from Ve and VIe centuries, the first churches are built. In 536, under the reign of the emperor Justinien Ier, the Saint-Serge church is inaugurated in the presence of Stéphanos, citizen of the city and governor of the province which financed work partly. It is of an obviously important size, without fuller precise details being had, because it announces by far the presence of the city to the travellers. If the christianization of Ve century is achieved, the influence of the hellenism remains still strong. Thus the clock of the agora, described by Procope de Césarée, represents the Twelve work of Hercules. Many plays, opened at all including women and children (except at the students of the school of rhetoric which can go there only over their days off), preserve an intrigue inspired of mythology according to the groundworks of the traditional Greek theater. Certain profane festivals, heritages of paganism, come to supplement the festivals of the Christian liturgy. Thus it is festival of Brusmalia (in winter). The cultural life seems intense. The emblematic figure is that of the bishop Marcien, wire of good family of Gaza, whose brother is bishop of the city close to Éleuthéropolis, and who receives a double formation, Christian woman and traditional. It does not seem with the eyes of this large builder that there is contradiction between Christianity and rhetoric however heiress of the cultural traditions of paganism.
Gaza remains the traditional door of the caravan roads coming from Arabia and of the ports of the Red Sea. The episode, reported by Timothée of Gaza, of the two giraffes sent by the king of Axoum to the emperor Anastase Ier in 496 and which forward by Aila (Eilat) then Gaza illustrates this role well. But at the beginning of VIIe century, the difficulties are amoncellent. The city is taken and occupied by the Perse S between 618 and 629. Begun again by the troops of Héraclius Ier, it falls to the hands from the Moslems in 637. It thus leaves gradually the Greek and Christian influence to fall into the orbit from the world arabo-Moslem.
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