96. Ashdod, which is also Azotus - (Isdud)
City in the southern coastal plain of Erez Israel; the ancient city was 3 mi. (4 1/2 km.) from the sea, the modern city is on the seashore.
In the Late Canaanite period, it served as an important harbor city as is shown by archaeological finds and references to its maritime trade in the archives of Ugarit. According to biblical tradition, it was a town of the ancient Anakim (lit. "giants"; Josh. 11:22). After its conquest by the Philistines, it became one of their five chief cities and they erected a temple dedicated to the god Dagon at Ashdod (Josh. 13:3; 15:46; I Sam. 5:1-7; Amos 1:8). Uzziah, king of Judah, breached the fortifications of the town and built in the area (II Chron. 26:6). In 734 B.C.E. the city capitulated to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria and in 712 B.C.E. Sargon crushed a rebellion led by Ashdod which then became the capital of an Assyrian province (cf. Isa. 20:1). Although the city was situated on the via maris, the trade route near the sea, it was not directly on the coast but possessed an ancient port which was called Ashdod Yam ("Ashdod-on-the-Sea"). With the decline of Assyrian power, the Egyptian pharaoh Psammetichus I conquered the city after a siege of 29 years (according to Herodotus, 2:157). Ashdod was the Philistine capital in the post-Exilic period, so that in the days of Nehemiah, an "Ashdodite" was synonymous with a "Philistine" (Neh. 4:1; 13:24). Nehemiah fought against Ashdod's influence which extended as far as Jerusalem.
The town continued to be a district capital in the Hellenistic period when it was known as Azotus and it served as a Greek stronghold down to the days of the Hasmoneans (I Macc. 5:68). Its suburbs were burnt by Jonathan (I Macc. 10:84; 11:4) and the city was captured by John Hyrcanus (c. 165 B.C.E.; Jos., Ant. 13:324). Ashdod then remained in Hasmonean hands until its conquest by Pompey (63 B.C.E.). It was rebuilt by Gabinius (55 B.C.E.) and later changed hands several times, eventually becoming the property of Herod, who gave it to his sister Salome; she bequeathed it to Livia, the wife of Augustus Caesar, from whom it was inherited by the emperor Tiberius (ibid., 14:75, 88; 17:189; 18:31). From the time of the Hasmoneans until the second century C.E., Ashdod appears to have been a Jewish town. It declined after Vespasian's conquest. In the Byzantine period, the Madaba Map distinguished between inland "Ashdod of the Horsemen" and the bigger coastal town "Ashdod-on-the-Sea."
Michael Avi-Yonah/Moshe Dothan, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Ashdod"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 64)
The site is identical with Ashdud The inland Ashdod, one of the Philistine city territories, was obviously less important and smaller than the harbour of Ashdod was in Byzantine times.
Editors' note: We would like to draw attention to the presence of few black tesserae above the Ashdod legend, and to the rigth of it (see the enlarged detail). In fact it might be part of an until now undeciphered inscription. Unfortunately the mosaic was damaged and later roughly restored with tesserae of larger size and mostly white color. The inscription, running possibly on two lines, may have referred to the Byzantine town of Agla (biblical Eglon and Tell el-Hesi of today) which, according to the Onomasticon (48:19), was situated on the road linking Eleutheropolis with Gaza.
Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press)
Ashdod, Azotus: Minet el-Qal'a, Ashdod Yam
Once famous for the temple of Dagon, the city was evangelized by Philip the Deacon, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles (8, 40). The bishopric was already in existence at the beginning of the fourth century, since Silvanus subscribed to the Council of Nicaea in 325. Bishop Charisius intervened at the one held in Seleucia in 359, Heraclius was at the second Council of Ephesus (449) and at Chalcedon (451), and Lazarus attended the Council of Jerusalem in 536. Seemingly the episcopal see centered not in the inland city, biblical Ashdod which has been excavated at Tel Ashdod, but in the city harbor, called in Greek Azotos Paralios,"Ashdod by the sea", located at Minet el Qal'a. In the Byzantine period the port had become more important than the mother city, as is reflected in the Madaba map. However, the two centers remained one administrative unit, unlike the harbors of Ascalon and Gaza which became sepatate bishoprics.
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Azotos Hippenos", 72.
Map Section 7 Place Sources