Jaime Kardontchik

Where is Palestine?

In years 132-136 CE, the Jews revolted against the Roman Empire. The rebellion, known as the Bar Kokhba Revolt, for the name of their leader, ended up with 985 villages in Judea destroyed, and around 580,000 Jews killed, either by war or famine.[1]

After the Jewish rebellion in Judea was crushed, the Romans barred the remaining Jews from living in Jerusalem, and merged the Roman provinces of Syria and Judea, under one unified province, renamed “Syria Palaestina”. Having just eliminated the Jews of Judea physically, it seems that the Romans decided to eliminate also the name Judea from the maps. However, since then, the name “Palestine” stuck in all the Western literature as the land (or former land) of the Jews.

Everyone knows, more or less, where “Syria” was, but where was ”Palaestina” located, if there was such a place in ancient times?

I began searching for reliable sources of that ancient era, and who can be more reliable than Herodotus? Herodotus (484-425 BC) was a Greek historian and geographer and is considered as “the Father of History”. He wrote a book titled “History”, a comprehensive book about the lives of the people living in the then Persian Empire.

And indeed, browsing through his “History” I found the name “Palestine” several times, usually in conjunction with Syria. For example, he writes:

“Thence they went on to invade Egypt, and when they were in Syria which is called Palestine, Psammetichos king of Egypt met them; and by gifts and entreaties he turned them from their purpose: and as they retreated, when they came to the city of Ascalon in Syria, …

(Note: “Ascalon”, is also known as “Ashkelon”, a city in southern Israel, at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Ashkelon is known in the Bible as the place where Delilah, a lady from Philistine, cut Samson’s hair, draining thus the source of his strength)

However, in another place in his book, Herodotus is more precise, differentiating Palestine from Syria, and identifying Palestine along the coast of the Mediterranean, and in the path between Syria and Egypt. He writes:

“These Phoenicians dwelt in ancient time, as they themselves report, upon the Erythraian Sea, and thence they passed over and dwell in the country along the sea coast of Syria; and this part of Syria and all as far as Egypt is called Palestine.”

(Note: The “Erythraian Sea” is known today as the “Red Sea”)

This places “Palestine” at the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in the biblical place where the “Philistines” lived (and defines the Philistines, as Phoenicians left behind in the southern strip by the Mediterranean Sea, in their wandering from the Red Sea to Lebanon, where they finally settled.)

So, we now know where Palestine was: it was the land of the Philistines, who – the Bible tells us – where then often at odd with the Jews.

The location of Palestine according to Herodotus (courtesy of the author)


[1] These numerical figures were provided by the Roman historian Cassius Dio (born 150, died 235 CE), in his History of Rome, 69.14.1-2, cited in:

[2] Herodotus, “History”, translated from Greek by G. C. Macaulay (New York, 1890)

The book can be read for free at the “”:

(n237 is the place where you can find the second citation I took from his book)

About the Author
Jaime Kardontchik has a PhD in Physics from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. He lives in the Silicon Valley, California.
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