97. Azotus Paralus - (Ashdod, al-Minah)
In the Byzantine period, the Madaba Map distinguished between inland "Ashdod of the Horsemen" and the bigger coastal town "Ashdod-on-the-Sea."
The fragmentaty representation of this very important harbour city is difficult to interpret. Ashdod possessed an ancient port which was called Ashdod Yam ("Ashdod-on-the-Sea").
In the Byzantine period, the Madaba Map distinguished between inland "Ashdod of the Horsemen" and the bigger coastal town "Ashdod-on-the-Sea." The discovery of a chancel screen of a synagogue at Ashdod-on-the-Sea (Minat al-Qal'a) with a Greco-Jewish inscription gives evidence of a Jewish community there in the sixth century C.E.
Michael Avi-Yonah/Moshe Dothan, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Ashdod"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 64)
We note a colonnaded street, a church with steps from the shore, another ecclesiastical red-roofed building and a third one with a yellowesh triangular pediment, directly at the shore. Several clustered houses in between. This is the ancient harbour of Ashdod, identical with Minat Asdud also called Minat al-Qal'a (named after the Castellum Beroardi of the Crusaders).The fragmentary representation is difficult to interpret; the buildings cannot be identified, due to lack of literary information.
Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 70)
In the city we notice a colonnaded portico parallel to the shore, and in front of it semicircular steps enclosing other semicircles marked in blue and white. On the analogy of Neapolis this seems to be a nymphaeum or pool in the centre of the city. The existence of a maritime Ashdod in the Byzantine period is attested by both Hierocles (718) and Georgius Cyprius (ed. Teubner, 1020); it is identified with Minet el Qal'a, whereas the ancient name Isdud has clung to the inland city.
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.
A terracotta ampulla from St. Menas' shrine in Egypt was found in the dunes of Ashdod Yam; it was used to carry miraculous water as a blessing. It bears the usual representations of the soldier-saint standing in prayer, flanked by two camels kneeling in front (Rahmani, IEJ 16 , p. 74). As is well known, pilgrimages to the saint's tomb were frequent during the Byzantine period. Hence it can be presumed that the ampulla belonged to some pilgrim or devotee of Ashdod. With the Arab occupation of 638, the city decayed and remained of no importance to our own day.
In 1884, as Br. Liévin notes (II, p. 235), two German Catholics built a steam-powered mill there to promote the development of the village; but because the inhabitants continued to use hand-operated ones, in 1895 the Germans had to close down their mill.
The excavations carried out at Ashdod Yam (Biran, Christian News from Israel 18, 1-2 , p. 42) uncovered the ruins of a Crusader castle built to protect the village from attacks from the sea. Trenches were dug there to check the ancient occupation layers.
Addition by Leah Di Segni (Jerusalem):
An Islamic guard-tower built for the same purpose in the 9th century was recently excavated (ESI 10 , pp.40-42).
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Azotos Paralios", 72.
Map Section 7 Place Sources