in breadth, bordering on the sea-coast, elevated from fifty to one hundred feet above the
sea-level, and consisting of a series of undulations without distinctive features, composed of
the richest alluvial deposit. Here were built and flourished Ekron, Jabneh (see page 162),
Migdol (see page 167), Ashdod (see page 165), Ascalon (see page 169), and Gaza (see page
175), cities well fortified and situated on eminences, and dedicated to the worship of the ancient
fish-gods. Between this undulating country and the mountains or hill country of Judah, is the
hilly country of Philistia, stretching from north to south, and about twelve to fifteen miles wide.
It consists of a series of hills and spurs from five hundred to eight hundred feet above the
sea-level, broken through by broad valleys, and is distinct from the hill country of Judah, where
the mountains rise to a height of two thousand to three thousand feet, and overhang Philistia.
In this district, as has already been stated, the productive soil has been washed away with the
terraces from the hillsides into the valleys, leaving vast extents of bare rock; but even yet the
country is not abandoned, and the fellahin, when not too closely ground down under Turkish rule,
carefully and successfully cultivate here and there the portions left uninjured (see page 160).
It is, in a great measure, due to the desolating rule of the nations which have held sway
in Palestine for so many centuries, that we are enabled at the present time to re so
many of the ancient sites mentioned in the books relating the conquest of the country by the
Israelites more than three thousand years ago.
Instead of being the "battle-field of nations," had this country existed for any lengthened
period under a settled form of government and been allowed to develop its resources and
prosper, it is probable that all records of the far-distant past would long ere this have been
swept away; but, owing to the state of poverty in which the country has continued, very slight
changes have taken place, with the exception of a general decay.
The descendants of the original inhabitants still linger about the ancient sites and ruins,
and preserve their ancient traditions, so that it is practicable at the present da)- to go through
the land, Bible in hand, and identify the places there mentioned. This is more especially
the case with regard to places of minor importance, such as the ancient second-rate towns in
Philistia, for very little has occurred to cause any change in their sites, while on the other
hand the chief towns, such as Gath (see page 161), Ascalon (see page 169), and Gaza (see page
175), have been subject to many sieges, and to the usual fortunes of war. In many instances
the stones of the ancient towns have been taken by the fellahin and burnt into lime (see page
184), or carried off to other sites, as in the case of Ascalon, whence many shiploads of cut and
carved stones were taken for the rebuilding of 'Akka (see page 76) and Saida (see page 45),
but, as a general rule, the remains of the cities are still to be found on the spot, covered with
rubbish or built into the walls of the peasants' houses.
At the foot of the mountain-wall of Judah, just beyond the north-eastern extremity of the
hills of Philistia, is still to be seen the site of Zorah, the birthplace of Samson, the son of
Manoah. This place is now called Sur'ah (see page 149); it is on the northern bank of the
Wady es Sur'ar, the head of the river called Nahr Rubin (see map).