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GAZA Israel.

An important city on the coast of Palestine from earliest times. It was a halt on the Via Mans, the main highway connecting Egypt with Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. In the earlier periods of its existence, Egypt and the N empires fought for control of it and it was only in the Persian period that the city enjoyed limited independence. After a siege of five months Gaza was taken by Alexander the Great (Arr. Anab. 2.26ff) and for more than a century Gaza was under Ptolemaic rule. After 200 B.C. it was conquered by the Seleucids.

Shortly after the conquest of Gaza by Alexander the Nabateans apparently began using its port as their main emporium for the export of spices and aromatics, brought by land caravans from Arabia. In 96 B.C. Alexander Jannaeus attacked Gaza (Joseph. AJ 13.357) and the city was taken by the Hasmonaean monarch (Joseph. AJ 13.360-64). As a result of this conquest the Nabateans had to abandon their system of caravan halts in the Negev for almost a century. After the conquest of Palestine by Pompey in 64 B.C., Gaza regained independence and was subsequently rebuilt by Gabinius (Joseph. AJ 13.75-76). Herod the Great acquired Gaza early in his reign (Joseph. AJ 15.217; BJ 1.196). It was then that it was detached from Judea, and formed a special district under Cosbaras, the governor of Idumaea (Joseph. AJ 15.254). After Herod's death Gaza was placed under the charge of the proconsul of Syria.

During the Roman period Gaza was prosperous, and the Roman emperors conferred many favors on it, helping to build temples and other public buildings. The chief temple of the city was dedicated to Marnas. There also were temples of Zeus Helios, Aphrodite, Apollo, Athena, and of the local Tyche. The pagan temples were destroyed after the Christianization of the inhabitants of Gaza by bishop Porphyrios (A.D. 396-420). In this period a famous school of rhetoricians flourished there, and one of the most famous of its scholars was Procopius, the historian of emperor Justinian. During the Byzantine period there was a large Jewish community, and remains of its synagogues are still to be seen embedded in the walls of modern mosques. Remains of a mosaic pavement of another synagogue were recently discovered close to the Mediterranean coast, where lay the port Maiumas Gaza. On this mosaic is depicted King David playing the lyre. There have been no systematic archaeological investigations.


F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine II (1938); G. Downey, Gaza in the Early Sixth Century (1963); M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land from the Persian to the Arab Conquests (536 B.C. to A.D. 640). A Geographical History (1966).


hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 13.357
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 13.360
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 13.75
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.217
    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 15.254
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