Palestine Early History

According to Computer Do, Palestine is a region of the Near East limited to the West by the Mediterranean Sea and to the North by the southern buttresses of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, while the borders on the other sides are uncertain, in which it insensibly passes through the very arid areas of the Syrian desert to the East and Sinai to the South. Hardly definable as a natural region, it is rather a historical-anthropic region, and as such it has undergone variations in size over time due to the alternating phases of advance and regression of the settlement along the desert margins and the complex political events. of the territory.

Pre-Israelite period. In the 3rd millennium Semitic lineages were already present in Palestine When and how they got there is not known; it was probably a peaceful occupation, carried out more with infiltration than with violent conquest, similarly to what happened in the following millennium with another Semitic people, that of the Amorites, who settled in the northern part of the country. In the 2nd millennium the Palestine was under the jurisdiction of the pharaohs of Egypt, who ruled it through local lieutenants, as evidenced by the diplomatic correspondence of Tell el-Amarna (14th century BC). From the invasion of the “peoples of the sea” it originated in the 12th century. BC the settlement of the Philistines in the southern coastal area.

In the Israelitish period. According to tradition, the Israelites, led by Joshua and coming from Egypt, arrived in Palestine towards the 13th century. BC and gradually conquered the country dividing it among the 12 tribes. Thus divided, and reunited only occasionally under the command of judges (Deborah, Gideon and Samson remained famous), they fought for a long time against the neighboring Canaanites and Philistines. Historical criticism combines this traditional view of ancient Jewish history with the prospect of a progressive and peaceful infiltration, culminating in the establishment of a confederation of tribes around the common sanctuary of Silo. The establishment with Saul of the monarchy (around 1000), consolidated with David, gave the Jews the necessary strength to establish themselves definitively: the last Canaanite stronghold, Jerusalem, was conquered by David and made the capital of the new state. Solomon, reaping the fruit of his clever paternal politics, was able to devote himself to great works such as the construction of the temple and the royal palace in Jerusalem; at his death the kingdom split in two: the southern kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin; the northern kingdom of Israel, formed by the other tribes, with Samaria as its capital. The two states led autonomous lives for centuries, participating in the political game of Syria, allying themselves now to one another with the Aramaic (Soba, Damascus, Hamah) or Phoenician (Tire) states, often rivaling each other. The kingdom of Israel, troubled by dynastic conspiracies, despite its greater military strength, due to its geographical position first fell under the blows of the expanding Assyrian empire (722 BC). In 586 it was the turn of the kingdom of Judah, overwhelmed by the Babylonians who succeeded the Assyrians: Nebuchadnezzar II conquered Jerusalem, razed it to the ground and deported part of the population to Babylon. With the exile the ancient autonomous history of Palestine ended. However, a Jewish population continued to live in it: to the north there were the Samaritans, a mixed population of Israelites who remained in the country after the Assyrian deportation and other peoples imported from the Assyrians; to the south, after the conquest of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus (538 BC), which allowed the descendants of the exiles of 586 to return to Palestine, the Jewish community was reorganized in more rigid forms and the clergy of Jerusalem established themselves.

Hellenistic-Roman period. The life of Palestine in the epochs of Alexander the Great, the Diadochi and the Ptolemies is little known; the Jewish community, all gathered around Jerusalem, devoted itself to an arrangement of the religious tradition and a deepening of its spiritual values. With the battle of Panion (ca. 200 BC) the Palestine passed under the rule of the Seleucids, who, contrary to the policy of non-intervention in internal matters implemented by the Ptolemies, wanted to introduce the Hellenistic culture, causing the armed rebellion of the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, followed by the recognition of religious freedom for the Israelites (168-135 BC). Later some descendants of the Maccabees, the Hasmoneans, created a royal dynasty that recognized only nominally the sovereignty of the Seleucids, fortified the country and opened it to Hellenistic influence, which became a maxim with Herod the Great (74-73 BC). Herod spread the Roman civilization in Palestine, built the city of Caesarea and rebuilt Samaria, which he called Sebaste in honor of Augustus; Jerusalem also acquired a new physiognomy with the theater, the palace and the new temple, in Roman style. The Romanization process, continued by the sons of Herod, developed further with the passage of the Palestine directly under the Roman dominion. The rebellion of 66 AD, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem (70) and the deportation of the Jews, nullified any semblance of independence, and the Palestine became a Roman province, with the name of Iudaea. In 132 a new rebellion, led by Bar Kokebah and which lasted until 135, made the transformation of the country even more radical: the name was suppressed and the Palestine was called Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem Aelia Capitolina. In the 4th century. AD, with Constantine’s adhesion to Christianity, Palestine experienced a spiritual revaluation, as the cradle of that religion, and became a destination for pilgrimages: basilicas and monasteries were built there; nor did Christian activities cease after Julian the Apostate’s ephemeral attempt to rebuild the Jewish temple. Divided the Roman Empire in two, the Palestine passed under the sovereignty of Constantinople and for a few centuries enjoyed great prosperity, while monasticism was developing. In 614, the Persians of Chosroes II devastated the region and the city of Jerusalem, but in 628-629 they were rejected by the emperor Heraclius. The Arab conquest followed: in 637 the caliph ‛Omar entered Jerusalem putting an end to the Byzantine rule.

Islamic period. The Arabs divided the Palestine into two military provinces: Filastin (Judea and Samaria) and al-Urdunn (the Jordan); Jerusalem, also considered sacred by Muslims, depended directly on the caliph. Under the Arab rule (up to the 10th century) the Palestine enjoyed prosperity; the different dynasties of caliphs (Umayyads, Abbasids) showed themselves tolerant towards Jews and Christians and continued the pilgrimages to the Holy Places; the sanctuaries were restored and Jerusalem was enriched with monuments. The Arabization of Palestine dates back to this period, especially after the sacking of Mecca by the Carmates (929); however, there were also many conversions of Christians and Jews to Islam. In the 10th century. a long period of wars and upheavals began for the Palestine despite the intervention of the emperor Giovanni Zimisce (975). The Fatimids were on the whole tolerant towards Christians; only the caliph al-Hakim carried out a ferocious persecution which led to the destruction of the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem (1009). The Seljuk Turks, on the other hand, were very intolerant, and in 1076 they took over the country permanently. The violence they perpetrated caused great indignation in Europe and were not least the cause of the Crusades, which had Palestine as the main field of action. Following the victorious conclusion of the first crusade (1099: conquest of Jerusalem), the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem was established which re-proposed in Palestine the western schemes of the feudal organization. In 1174 Saladin proclaimed himself independent sultan of Egypt and declared holy war on Christians: the Latin kingdom was progressively reduced in size and, after the reconquest of Jerusalem (1189), the last stronghold, St. John of Acre, fell (1291). The Palestine remained under the dominion of the Mamluk sultans of Egypt until the Turkish conquest of 1517; after that, while in Egypt the Mamluks, although subjected to the sovereignty of Istanbul, maintained a considerable degree of autonomy, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine were fully integrated into the Ottoman administration. This showed tolerance towards the numerous religious minorities present in the Syrian-Palestinian area: Jews, Christians of different confessions, Druze and non-Sunni Muslims enjoyed a wide freedom of worship overall. Starting from the 18th century, the economic stagnation, the excessive tax burden, the administrative and military dysfunctions caused a decline of imperial power, which first resulted in greater independence of the local governors, then in a growing interference of the European powers. After the conquest of Palestine and Syria by Muhammad ‛Ali (1831), it was the intervention of the latter that re-established the sultan’s authority in 1840; in the following decades the ever wider European penetration, on the economic, political and cultural level, accentuated the internal contradictions of the empire, helping to lay the foundations for its disintegration.

Palestine Early History