ASCALON, now 'Asḳalan, one of the five chief cities of the Philistines, on the coast of the Mediterranean, 12 m. N. of Gaza. The place is mentioned several times in the Tell el-Amarna correspondence. It revolted from Egypt on two occasions, but was reconquered, and a sculpture at Thebes depicts the storming of the city. Ascalon was a well-fortified town, and the seat of the worship of the fish-goddess Derketo. Though situated in the nominal territory of the tribe of Judah, it was never for any length of time in the possession of the Israelites. The only incident in its history recorded in the Bible (the spoliation by Samson, Judg. xiv. 19) may possibly have actually occurred at another place of the same name, in the hill country of Judaea. Sennacherib took it in 701 B.C. The conquest of Alexander hellenized its civilization, and after his time it became tributary alternately to Syria and Egypt. Herod the Great was a native of the city, and added greatly to its beauty; but it suffered severely in the later wars of the Romans and Jews. In the 4th century it again rose to importance; and till the 7th century, when it was conquered by the Moslems, it was the seat of a bishopric and a centre of learning. During the first crusade a signal victory was gained by the Christians in the neighbouring plain on the 15th of August 1099; but the city remained in the hands of the caliphs till 1157, when it was taken by Baldwin III., king of Jerusalem, after a siege of five months. By Baldwin IV. it was given to his sister Sibylla, on her marriage with William of Montferrat in 1178. When Saladin (1187) had almost annihilated the Christian army in the plain of Tiberias, Ascalon offered but a feeble resistance to the victor. At first he repaired and strengthened its fortifications, but afterwards, alarmed at the capture of St Jean d'Acre (Acre) by Richard Cœur de Lion in 1191, he caused it to be dismantled. It was restored in the following year by the English king, but only to be again abandoned. From this time Ascalon lost much of its importance, and at length, in 1270, its fortifications were almost totally destroyed by Sultan Bibars, and its port was filled up with stones. The place is now a desolate heap of ruins, with remains of its walls and fragments of granite pillars. The surrounding country is well watered and very fertile.
See a paper by Guthe, "Die Ruinen Ascalons," in the Zeitschrift of the Deutsche Palastina-Verein, ii. 164 (translated in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, 1880, p. 182). See also C.R. Conder in the latter journal, 1875, p. 152.
(R. A. S. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)