: Eth. Γαζαῖος
), a very ancient and important city of Palestine Proper, first mentioned in the southern border of the Canaanites (Gens.
x.: 19), but originally inhabited by the Avims, who were dispossessed by the Caphtorims. (Deut.
It as included in the tribe of Judah (Josh.
15.47), but remained in possession of the Philistines (1 Sam.
6.17), whose capital it apparently was (Judges,
16.21). Josephus says that it was taken by Hezekiah. (Ant.
It is celebrated in secular, as in sacred history. Arrian, in his Expedition of Alexander
(2.27), describes it as a large city, distant 20 stadia from the sea, situated on a lofty mound, and fortified by a strong wall.
It was well provisioned, and garrisoned by a force of Arab mercenaries under the command of an eunuch named Batis (or, according to Josephus, Babemeses), and its high walls baffled the engineers of Alexander (B.C. 332), who declared themselves unable to invent engines powerful enough to batter such massive walls. Mounds were raised on the south side of the town, which was most assailable, and the engines were erected on this artificial foundation. They were fired by the besieged, in a spirited sally, and the rout of the Macedonians was checked by the king in person, who was severely wounded in the shoulder during the skirmish. During his slow recovery the engines that had been used at Tyre were sent for, and the mound was proceeded with until it reached the height of 250 feet, and the width of a quarter of a mile.
The besiegers were thrice repulsed from the wall; and when a breach had been effected, in the third assault, and the city carried by escalade, its brave garrison still fought with desperate resolution, until they were all killed.
The women and children were reduced to slavery.
The siege had apparently occupied three or four months; and the conqueror introduced a new population into the place from the neighboring towns, and used it as a fortress. (Arrian, 2.27, followed by Bp. Thirlwall, Greece,
vol. vi. pp. 354--357.) If this be true, the statement of Strabo, that it was destroyed by Alexander, and remained desert, must be taken with some qualification (p. 759). Indeed, the figure which it makes in the intermediate period discredits the assertion of Strabo in its literal sense. Only twenty years after its capture by Alexander, a great battle was fought in its neighbourhood, between Ptolemy and Demetrius, wherein the latter was defeated, with the loss of 5000 slain and 8000 prisoners. “Gaza, where he had left his baggage, while it opened its gates to his cavalry on his retreat, fell into the hands of the pursuing enemy.” (Thirlwall, vol. vii. p. 340.) Again, in the wars between Ptolemy Philopator and Antiochus the Great (B.C. 217), it was used as a depôt of military stores by the Egyptian king (Plb. 5.68
); and when the tide of fortune turned, it retained its fidelity to its old masters, and was destroyed by Antiochus (B.C. 198). And it is mentioned, to the credit of its inhabitants, by Polybius, that, although they in no way excelled in courage the other inhabitants of Coelosyria, yet they far surpassed them in liberality and fidelity and invincible hardihood, which had shown itself in two former instances, viz., in first resisting the Persian invaders, [p. 1.981]
and then in maintaining their allegiance to the Persians against Alexander (16.40).
It was evidently a strong place in the time of the Asmonean princes, for it stood a siege from Jonathan (1 Maccab.
11.61, 62; J. AJ 13.5.5
); and having taken by Simon, not without resistance, he cast out its idolatrous inhabitants, peopled it with Jews, “made. it stronger than it was before, and built at therein a dwelling-place for himself” (13.43--48). Only a little later, Alexander Jannaeus besieged it in vain for twelve months, when it was betrayed into his hands. Its importance at this period is attested by its senate of 500, whom the conqueror slew and utterly overthrew their city. (Josoph. Ant. 13.13.3.)
It did not long continue in ruins, for it was one. of the many cities rebuilt by the command of Gabinins (14.5.3).
It was given to Herod the Great by Augustus (B. J.
1.20.3), but not included in the dominions of his son Archelaus, as being a Grecian city (2.6.3).
These notices sufficiently expose the error of Strabo's statement above cited; nor does there seem to be any authority for the theory of the transference of the site, by which it has been attempted to reconcile his statement with these historical notices.
It is true that Strabo places the city 7 stadia from the harbour (p. 759); whereas Arrian (l.c.
) states it to be 20 stadia at the most; but this discrepancy concerning the site of a town of which neither of them could have any very accurate knowledge, cannot justify the conclusion that the ancient city had been deserted, and another city of the same name erected in its vicinity. Another and a decisive argument against this theory is, that while the modern city occupies an eminence corresponding with that described by Aprian, and is covered with ancient ruins, no vestiges have been discovered in the neighbourhood which could mark the site of an earlier city.
A succession of coins, struck at Gaza, some few prior to the emperors, but many more from Hadrian downwards, attest the importance of the city subsequently to the Christian aera, and present some peculiarities worthy of observation.
The cypher, or characteristic sign of the city, impressed on almost all the coins, has been variously explained, but by no one satisfactorily: but all that is intelligible clearly attests it to have been a pagan city, in accordance with the historical notices above cited The city itself is represented by a woman's head; and the Greek deities, Zeus, Artemis, Apollo, Hercules, which figure in the coins, with the absence of the local deity, Astarte, by far the most common in the coins of other maritime cities of Syria, prove the city to have been, as Josephus asserts (B. J.
7.13.4), a Grecian city, probably a colony, which may account for its inveterate adhesion to the exploded superstition in the reign of Constantine (Sozoman, H. E.
The h legends of the various coins serve no less to elucidate the history of the city.
The earliest (probably A. U. C. 693) proves the city to have been autonomous;
and as history bears witness to its senate (βολή
) of 500, so does this coin to its ΔΗΜΟΞ. ΙΕΠ. ΑΞΓ.
further prove it to have enjoyed the privileges of a sacred city and an asylum.
The, name ΕΙΩ
serves to connect this city with the mythic Io; and the name ΜΕΙΝΩ
applied to an armed warrior with a sceptre in his hand, connects it also with the Cretan hero Minos, and suggests the idea that it may have been colonised from that island; and this idea is confirmed by another inscription, MAPNA, the signification of. which is famished by early Christian writers, who tell us that the most magnificent temple in Gaza (afterwards converted into a Christian church) was dedicated to Mama, and thence called Marnion. This Mama, they add been was identical with the Cretan Jove. (Eckhel, vol. iii. pp. 448--454.) Many of the Jewish captives taken by Hadrian (A.D. 119) were sold at a fair instituted Gaza, which was called, from this fact, the fair of Hadrian for many centuries after. (Chrosn. Paschale in ann
The town is frequently noticed in Christian and Moslem annals.
It early became an episcopal see, and the names of its bishops are found in many councils. (Le Quien, Oriens Christ.,
vol. iii. pp. 603--622).
It was a frontier town of great importance in the middle ages; and the historical notices have been collected by Quatremère (Les Suttans Mamlouks de Mackrisi,
tom. 1.54.2. pp. 228--239).
The modern town, still called by its ancient name, ‘Azzah,
signifying “the strong,” “is situated on a low round hill of considerable extent, not elevated more than 50 or 60 feet above the plain around.
This hill may be regarded as the nucleus of the city, although only the southern half is now covered with houses.
But the greater part of the modern city has sprung up on the plain below: a sort of suburbs stretching far out on the eastern and northern sides.
The ancient city lay obviously chiefly on the hill.
The present town has no gates; yet the places of the former ones remain, and are pointed out around the hill.” (Robinson, Bib. Res.
vol. ii. pp. 374, 375.) “It contains, with the two villages or suburbs adjoining, about 10,000 inhabitants.
It is situated a short league from the coast, which is here an open beach, and the landing difficult excepting in very calm weather.
It is surrounded by gardens, which produce fruit in abundance.” (Alderson, Notes on Acre,
p. 7, note 6.)
The port of Gaza was called “Majuma Gazae;” the Arabic word “Majuma,” signifying portus
being applied alike to Ascalon, Jamnia Azotus, and Gaza. (Le Quien, Oriens Christ.
vol. iii. p. 622.)
It was situated, according to Strabo, only seven stadia from the city (l.c.
). Arrian, in agreement with Sozomen, makes the interva 20 stadia. (Sozomen, H. E.
2.5, p. 450, ed. Vales.
) All that we know of it we learn from the last-mentioned historian. Having been formerly strongly addicted to pagan superstition, it was converted to the faith of Christ in the reign of Constantine, who consequently honoured it with special privileges, and erected it into an independent civitas, and called it Constantia,
exempting it from its subjection to Gaza whose inhabitants still retained their attachment to the pagan superstition. (Sozomen, l.c.
) Under the emperor Julian the people of Gaza reasserted their supremacy, and the emperor decided in favour of their claim. Its new name was withdrawn. and it was comprehended again within the name and municipal jurisdiction of Gaza.
The ecclesiastical position of Gaza still continued distinct, with a bishop and usages of its own; and when an attempt was made by a bishop of Gaza
|COIN OF GAZA|
in the fifth century to unite the two churches, the provincial synod confirmed it in its former independence of that see. (Sozomen, H. E.
5.3, p. 597). Several of its bishops are mentioned in the ecclesiastical annals. (Le Quien, Oriens Christ. l.c.