Set on a sandy hill along Israel’s southern coastline, ancient Ashdod was a once a major city with a long and rich history. Today, crowned by the modern city of Ashdod, the ancient sit’s ruins are scarce, a vague reflection of its past legacy.
History of Ashdod
Ashdod was first settled by the Canaanite, and was inhabited in almost all subsequent periods, from Philistine to Ottoman times. Under the Philistines, Ashdod was a member of the Philistine pentapolis, a treaty of five main cities. After defeating the Israelites at “Even Ha’ezer“, the Philistines placed the Ark of the Covenant in Ashdod’s main temple. However, after causing the god’s sculpture to break and inflicting a plague, the ark was sent away to the city of Gat. Later, Ashdod was conquered several times, by Uziah (II Chr. 26:6), Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), Psamtik I of Egypt (Jeremiah 25:20), Nebbuchadnezzar, and the Maccabees (Ant. 12 8 6; 13 4 4). In the Persian period Nehemiah complained of mixed marriages, and certain Jews talking in an Ashdodian dialect (13:23-24).
The city was also inhabited in Roman and Byzantine times, and the Book of Acts records Philip the Evangelist appearing in Ashdod (Acts :40). A small Arab village continued to exist on the mound during the Ottoman and British Mandate period, but its residents fled when the Egyptian invading army retreated from southern Israel in 1948. Excavations at the site were carried out between 1962 and 1972, uncovering various remains. However, most the finds were later covered for their protection.
The modern city of Ashdod, established north of the mound, is today the 6th biggest city of Israel. Among others, it is also home of the Corinne Mamane Museum of Philistine Culture, the only museum in the world dedicated to this topic. In its southern-Western end is the medieval fort of Ashdod-Yam, built by the Umayyads against Byzantine Maritime attacks.
Touring Tel Ashdod
Tell Ashdod is behind an unappealing industrial zone in the southern end of modern Ashdod. It is fenced and closed to the public yet there are several places where one can view the site. See here a vlog from the site –