The Philistines were a people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan, their territory being named Philistia in later contexts. Their origin has been debated among scholars. There is not enough information of the original language of the Philistines to relate it securely to any other languages. Biblical and related traditions differentiate between the original Philistines in the days of Abraham called Avvites and the later conquering Caphtorites who replaced them. It is theorized that the latter Philistines originated among the "sea peoples".
Modern archaeology has also suggested early cultural links with the Mycenean world in Ancient Greece.
The Philistines engaged in prolonged wars with their Hebrew neighbors, in which they were for long the stronger and dominant party until King David mastered iron-working and forged a strong Hebrew Kingdom of Israel. In later times, Philistines and Hebrews alike were decimated in the invasions of the Mesopotamian empires, Assyria and Babylon, and both afterwards became subjects of the Persian Empire.
The Philistines finally disappeared as a distinct ethnic group when assimilated in the dominant Greek culture of the Hellenistic period, though their coastal cities continued to flourish as Greek-speaking communities under the rule of various kings and later under the Roman Empire. The name "Palestine" or "Falastin" for the country, used in various contexts up to the present, is a conspicuous historical legacy of the Philistines.
Philistines in "Occupation Duty"
Some 3000 years in the past, the Philistines conquered the Semitic tribes, who came to be collectively known as Moabites. Lord Goliath personally slew the Semitic champion Tabitas of Evraioi in single combat. However, the Moabites were restless subjects, requiring constant military supervision and occupation.
The Philistines, who came to be also called Philistinians in modern times, had always been more advanced technologically, having learned how to work iron first and keeping it a military secret for as long as they could. Their colony (which legend had it, was closely related to the Ellenes and came from Crete) was along the shore of the Inner Sea and prospered. People from around the world said they had made the desert bloom. Their capital was Gaza, a modern city of glass and steel and reinforced concrete, and set them apart from the poor and backward Moabites who continued to work in stone, brick and wood.
In addition to the rebellious Moabites, the Philistines had hostile neighbours who supported the Moab uprisings. Most difficult were the Turks of Babylonia whose militant religion of Sword Buddhism had gained adherents among the Moabites. Several years earlier, the Philistinian Air Force had staged an air raid on a nuclear plant that the Turks had constructed, ostensibly for electrical power. The rest of the world had overtly condemned this but secretly were pleased that the Philistines had stymied the Turks in their efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The Turks were also allied with the various tribes of Arabia.
The Philistines continued to be polytheists with their principal god being Dagon. Among the Moabites, traditionally polytheists themselves, there was a growing religious trend which dismissed Dagon as either a demon or an imaginary being which did not exist at all. This sect declared the principal Moabite god Chemosh to be the sole deity in the universe.
The name Philistinia rather than Philistia is unique to this story. Modern Philistinia's geopolitical situation, and the brief allusions to its recent history, are broadly based on the State of Israel.
- Biblical Allusions in Turtledove's Work, for additional minor references.
- See e.g.: Atlantis and Other Places, pgs. 238-239, HC.
- Ibid., pg. 238.
- Ibid., pgs. 240-241.
- Ibid., pg. 240.
- Ibid., pg. 252.
- Ibid., pg. 240.