Palestine - Etymology

Etymology

Further information: Definitions of Palestine and History of the name Palestine

The term Peleset (transliterated from hieroglyphs as P-r-s-t) is found in numerous Egyptian documents referring to a neighboring people or land starting from c.1150 BCE during the Twentieth dynasty of Egypt. The first mention is thought to be in texts of the temple at Medinet Habu which record a people called the Peleset among the Sea Peoples who invaded Egypt in Ramesses III's reign. The Assyrians called the same region Palashtu or Pilistu, beginning with Adad-nirari III in the Nimrud Slab in c.800 BCE through to emperor Sargon II in his Annals approximately a century later. Neither the Egyptian or Assyrian sources provided clear regional boundaries for the term.

The first clear use of the term Palestine to refer to the entire area between Phoenicia and Egypt was in 5th century BC Ancient Greece. Herodotus wrote of a 'district of Syria, called Palaistinê" in The Histories, the first historical work clearly defining the region, which included the Judean mountains and the Jordan Rift Valley. Approximately a century later, Aristotle used a similar definition in Meteorology, writing "Again if, as is fabled, there is a lake in Palestine, such that if you bind a man or beast and throw it in it floats and does not sink, this would bear out what we have said. They say that this lake is so bitter and salt that no fish live in it and that if you soak clothes in it and shake them it cleans them," understood by scholars to be a reference to the Dead Sea. Later writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region. This usage was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus. Other writers, such as Strabo, a prominent Roman-era geographer (although he wrote in Greek), referred to the region as Coele-Syria around 10–20 CE. The term was first used to denote an official province in c.135 CE, when the Roman authorities, following the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, combined Iudaea Province with Galilee and other surrounding cities such as Ashkelon to form "Syria Palaestina" (Syria Palaestina), which some scholars state was in order to complete the dissociation with Judaea.

The Hebrew name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth) – usually translated as Philistia in English, is used in the Bible more than 250 times. The Greek word Palaistinē (Παλαιστίνη, "Palaistine") is generally accepted to be a translation of the Semitic name for Philistia; however another term – land of the Philistieim (γῆ τῶν Φυλιστιεἰμ, transliteration from Hebrew) – was used in the Septuagint, the second century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, to refer to Philistia. In the Torah / Pentateuch, the term Philistia is used 10 times and its boundaries are undefined. The later Historical books (see Deuteronomistic history) include most of the biblical references, almost 200 of which are in the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel, where the term is used to denote the southern coastal region to the west of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.

During the Byzantine period, the entire region (Syria Palestine, Samaria, and the Galilee) was named Palaestina, subdivided into provinces Palaestina I and II. The Byzantines also renamed an area of land including the Negev, Sinai, and the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula as Palaestina Salutaris, sometimes called Palaestina III. The Arabic word for Palestine is فلسطين (commonly transcribed in English as Filistin, Filastin, or Falastin). Moshe Sharon writes that when the Arabs took over Greater Syria in the 7th century, place names that were in use by the Byzantine administration before them, generally continued to be used. Hence, he traces the emergence of the Arabic form Filastin to this adoption, with Arabic inflection, of Roman and Hebrew (Semitic) names. Jacob Lassner and Selwyn Ilan Troen offer a different view, writing that Jund Filastin, the full name for the administrative province under the rule of the Arab caliphates, was traced by Muslim geographers back to the Philistines of the Bible. The use of the name "Palestine" in English became more common after the European renaissance. It was officially revived by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and applied to the territory that was placed under The Palestine Mandate.

Some other terms that have been used to refer to all or part of this land include Canaan, Greater Israel, Greater Syria, the Holy Land, Iudaea Province, Judea, Israel, "Israel HaShlema", Kingdom of Israel, Kingdom of Jerusalem, Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael or Ha'aretz), Zion, Retenu (Ancient Egyptian), Southern Syria, and Syria Palestina.

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