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Thingol
03-30-2004, 07:24 PM
This is probably just asking for trouble, but....

Someone at work said that the word "Palestine" comes from the Roman for "Philistine".

Sounded shaky to me, for a couple of reasons, so I decided to check it out. For etymologies, I usually require multiple sources and documentation -- I see false and folk etymologies all the time, even in normally reliable sources.

Trouble is, the etymology of the term is seemingly inextricable from the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the issue of whether an "ancient nation of Palestine" actually existed. In fact, the politicizing and name-calling so overwhelm the issue that I haven't been able to find anything I'd call definitive.

Does anyone know of some reliable sources on this? Emphasis on "reliable"!

EvilHamsterOnCrack
03-30-2004, 07:35 PM
Ok, well perhaps this isn't your definition of reliable, but this is what I can remember from history class, mixed in with my knowledge of the bible.
In the bible (hebrew) there are many stories of fights and more between the Jews and the Plishtim, (Palestine == Plishtim?). If I remember correctly, when the Romans took over the land of Israel, after the Jewish revolts, they named the land Palestine in order to spite the Jews. Again, this may just be a random, fake, memory, but it's what I remember from history.

bordelond
03-30-2004, 08:05 PM
I don't have the time to pretty rhis up, but the following links give the gist:

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=Palestine
Palestine originally denoted only the sea-coast of the land of Canaan inhabited by the
Philistines (Ex. 15:14; Isa. 14:29, 31; Joel 3:4), and in this sense
exclusively the Hebrew name Pelesheth (rendered "Philistia" in Ps. 60:8; 83:7;
87:4; 108:9) occurs in the Old Testament.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine
Egyptian writings refer to the region as R-t-n-u (for convenience pronounced Retenu). Several names for the region are found in the Bible: (Eretz) Yisrael "(land of) Israel", Eretz Ha-Ivrim "land of the Hebrews", "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Holy Land", and "land of the LORD". The portion of the land lying west of the Jordan was also called "land of Canaan" during the period in which it fell under the control of Egyptian vassals traditionally descended from Canaan the son of Ham. After the division of the Jewish kingdom into two the southern part was called "land of Judah" and the northern part was called "land of Israel.

The name "Palestine" is used in the Bible (Pleshet in Hebrew), to denote the coastal region inhabited by the Philistines. Usage of the term, usually in the form "Syria Palestina", to denote the inland areas as well was common among Greek writers as early as Herodotus. Josephus, however, apparently intended by the name only the land of the Phillistines. The Philistines (meaning "invaders" in Hebrew) were an invading people of obscure origin who were finally subjugated by David and later assimilated into the Jewish people. As noted above, the Romans changed the region's name from "Syria Judea" to "Syria Palestina" in the Second century.

http://www.ameu.org/page.asp?iid=126&aid=169&pg=11
Philistine, Filistin, Filistini. The Philistines are an ancient people who, in biblical times, were rivals of the Israelites. Filistin is pronounced the same way, but is the Arabic word for Palestine. Filistini (plural, Filistiniun) is the Arabic word for a Palestinian. Philistine is not a synonym for Filistini and should not be used in that way.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/S222.html
Semitic Roots
ENTRY: p-l-sh.
DEFINITION: To break through, pass through. Falasha, from Amharic fälasha, from fälash, migrant, active participle of fälläsä, to migrate.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/96/F0019600.html
Falasha

SYLLABICATION: Fa·la·sha
...
NOUN: Inflected forms: pl. Falasha or Fa·la·shas
Often Offensive An Ethiopian Jew.
ETYMOLOGY: Amharic fälasha, from fälash, migrant, active participle of fälläsä, to migrate. See p-l-sh in Appendix II.

Tamerlane
03-30-2004, 08:17 PM
This is probably just asking for trouble, but....

Someone at work said that the word "Palestine" comes from the Roman for "Philistine".

Greek, actually - supposedly Palaistina, itself supposedly a transliteration from the Hebrew for "Land of the Philistines" ( Pleshet - פלשתינה ).

Where the Romans came in is in formally naming the larger region the province of Syria Palaestina in 135 C.E. ( originally the term appears to have corresponded to smaller sub-region, but the Greeks appear to have used the term more generally ). This is certainly canonical Roman history and any map of Roman provinces from that period will show the region so-named ( until late in Roman history when it was further subdivided ). However whether the Philistine/Palestine etymology holds up is a different question.

Sounded shaky to me, for a couple of reasons, so I decided to check it out.

Based on an assumption of Latin or Greek?

Does anyone know of some reliable sources on this? Emphasis on "reliable"!

Well it was Herodotus who is usually referred to as having first used the term, so that should be easily confirmed ( I don't have an original in Greek handy, myself ;) ). But whether he did indeed get the word from the Hebrew for Philistine I have no idea. Perhaps Jomo Mojo can assist with something more definitive :).

- Tamerlane

Johanna
03-30-2004, 09:00 PM
Thanks, Tamerlane, ol' pal. I think the earliest reference to the name is in an Egyptian account of the Sea Peoples (http://www.courses.psu.edu/cams/cams400w_aek11/www/index.htm), marauders probably from the Aegean area who first attacked Egypt in 1220 BC, as recorded on the Stele of Merneptah. Thirty years later, in 1190 BC, an inscription of Ramses III listed several ethnonyms of Sea Peoples who attacked Syria, and one of them was PLST (which I suppose you could pronounce "Pelest" for convenience).

I doubt the name is of Semitic origin, and I would not put much faith in deriving any meaning from a Semitic root. The PLST were almost certainly not Semitic. They may have been Greek. They seem to have had some connection with either Crete or Cyprus. We don't know what their actual ethnic affiliation was.

A couple hundred years earlier, during the 18th Dynasty, Egyptian power was at its all-time height and the Egyptians ruled Syria (including what would later be called Israel/Palestine). During the 19th Dynasty Egyptian power declined to the point where the Hittite Empire contested rule over Syria, with the result that Syria was divided between Egypt and the Hitties. The attack of the Sea Peoples on Egyptian-ruled Syria in the early 12th century BC wreaked havoc in the Levant, but Egypt managed to more or less defend its northern territories at that time. They got some of the defeated Sea Peoples to settle and become mercenaries in the Egyptian armed forces. The Hittite Empire, however, was ruined by the marauders.

The Philistine presence on the Levant coast dates from approximately 1200 BC. This is also, very roughly, the period when the "Israelites" under "Moses" are supposed to have occupied Canaan. (From a strictly historical standpoint, we can't tell how much of the Book of Exodus actually happened as told, and how much is mythology — let alone establish definite dates for the rise of Israelite power in the Levant.) Tamerlane could fill us in better on this.

We don't know what the Philistines' original language was; we don't even know if Pelest was their own name for themselves. We don't know what language this name came from, so we can't give it a complete etymology. Sorry. At least we know it was first recorded in the temple inscription of Ramses III in 1190 BC.

Dogface
03-30-2004, 10:20 PM
As has been noted, the Philistines were probably Aegean in origin, not Arab at all. So the Philistines are not Palestinians.

Lemur866
03-31-2004, 11:57 AM
I'd agree Dogface, with the caveat that if you could look into the ancestry of anyone in the Mediterranean basin you'd find all kinds of people from all kinds of places. People who today think of themselves as "Arabs" or "Greeks" or "Turks" or "Jews" or what have you are almost certainly are not pure lineal descendents of people from the Arabian peninsula, or the ancient greeks, or Turkish central asia, or the ancient Hebrews. Someone is an Arab if they speak Arabic as their first language. I would guess that the vast majority of Arabs in North Africa and the Levant have more ancestors who arrived there during Roman or Hellenic or earlier times, rather than during the spread of Islam. And just because cultures and empires and languages vanish that doesn't neccesarily mean that the people vanish too. They just change identities.

Sir Prize
03-31-2004, 02:51 PM
People who today think of themselves as "Arabs" or "Greeks" or "Turks" or "Jews" or what have you are almost certainly are not pure lineal descendents of people from the Arabian peninsula, or the ancient greeks, or Turkish central asia, or the ancient Hebrews.

There probably isn't a person in the world that does not have ancestors from all of those groups.

When did the Philistines disappear as a distinctive group?

What area and population were under Philistine control when the Romans began calling the area Syria Palestinia?

What do Roman and Greek sources say about the Philistines?

clairobscur
03-31-2004, 03:03 PM
As has been noted, the Philistines were probably Aegean in origin, not Arab at all. So the Philistines are not Palestinians.



Palestinians are arabs because they belong to the arabic culture, not because their ancestors are actually arabs.


Try to figure out the number of people who could have been living in the desertic arabia at the time of the rise of Islam and the number of people who were living in all the bloomings areas situated along the south and east coast of the mediterranean sea. Then compare, and decide whether it's likely or not that the majotirity of the ancestors of a random "arab" man were actually arabs (you should avoid saying so to an arab, though. Some take pride in their supposed lineages and could be pissed at you)


The current palestinians are descended from whoever has ever lived in this area, and their ancestry certainly includes arabs, greeks, hebrews, egyptians, turks, romans, phenicians, etc... etc..etc,ad nauseam...and philistines...


Apart from that, philistines, indeed aren't palestinians. We're talking about totaly different ages, people, cultures. It's even more pointless to say so than to state "british people aren't romans".


The important point I wanted to made is that Palestinians aren't a specific arab people which came at a precise moment in history to settle in Palestine. And whether or not they could be descended from the philistines is irrelevant re the current situation there, anyway.

Acsenray
03-31-2004, 03:07 PM
Do any of these words have anything to do with "Phoenician"?

Tamerlane
03-31-2004, 03:48 PM
When did the Philistines disappear as a distinctive group?

Sometime after the Assyrian conquest of the region in the 8th century B.C.E..

What area and population were under Philistine control when the Romans began calling the area Syria Palestinia?

Nothing. They had long since ceased to exist as a people - only the place name survived. However the original Philistines occupied the coastal strip very roughly corresponding to modern Gaza.

What do Roman and Greek sources say about the Philistines?

Romans - zip. They came too late and the Philistines had long since disappeared.

Greeks - not much, if anything. The Assyrian and Hebrew traditions appear to be the main historical sources.

Do any of these words have anything to do with "Phoenician"?

I think only insomuch as it is another Greek word, in this case referring to the Semitic-speaking Canaanites of the Syrian/Lebanese coast and possibly refers to their monopoly as producers and traders of purple ( Greek phoinos ) dye.

- Tamerlane

Dogface
03-31-2004, 04:11 PM
Apart from that, philistines, indeed aren't palestinians. We're talking about totaly different ages, people, cultures. It's even more pointless to say so than to state "british people aren't romans".

The important point I wanted to made is that Palestinians aren't a specific arab people which came at a precise moment in history to settle in Palestine. And whether or not they could be descended from the philistines is irrelevant re the current situation there, anyway.


Alas, if only what you claim were true regarding pointlessness and relevance. In the present day, there are Palestinians who are laying claim to all of the former British Mandate of Transjordan (sometimes called Palestine) specifically on the basis (or so they pretend) that they are Philistines and "Palestine" just means "land of the Philistines". So, laying out the fact that Palestinians are not Philistines actually does matter in the present day.

bordelond
03-31-2004, 05:04 PM
Thirty years later, in 1190 BC, an inscription of Ramses III listed several ethnonyms of Sea Peoples who attacked Syria, and one of them was PLST (which I suppose you could pronounce "Pelest" for convenience).

I doubt the name is of Semitic origin, and I would not put much faith in deriving any meaning from a Semitic root. The PLST were almost certainly not Semitic. They may have been Greek. They seem to have had some connection with either Crete or Cyprus. We don't know what their actual ethnic affiliation was.

...

We don't know what the Philistines' original language was; we don't even know if Pelest was their own name for themselves.

That leaves some room for interpretation. While you yourself have doubts about an ultimate Semitic origin of "Philistine", I find the possibility quite likely -- if unconfirmable.

One of my links above suggests that the Hebrew name for the Philistines meant "invaders". It's possible that Ancient Egyptian -- as a distantly related Afro-Asiatic tongue -- had a cognate which was rendered PLST. The fact that a living Afro-Asiatic language, Amharic, has a present-day cognate is also of interest.

I am aware that the philological record likely does not support any of the above. I suggest it as a valid possibility.

Alessan
03-31-2004, 05:15 PM
Could be the other way around - that the Hebrew word for "invader" (Polesh) comes from the word Philistine, just like, say, the English word "slave" comes from Slav.

bordelond
03-31-2004, 05:39 PM
Could be the other way around - that the Hebrew word for "invader" (Polesh) comes from the word Philistine, just like, say, the English word "slave" comes from Slav.

What suggests to me otherwise is the attribution for the root p-l-sh as a reconstructable root in Proto-Semitic, the mother language of Biblical Hebrew and Classical Arabic. This would be a lot simpler to sort out if we knew conclusively what the Philistines called themselves in their own day.

However, there is a chance you are correct, as the term could still have been borrowed into Proto-Semitic. There are references to probable Indo-European borrowings into Proto-Semitc in this article (http://www.bartleby.com/61/10.html).

Johanna
04-01-2004, 06:32 AM
bordelond, it isn't impossible that PLST could have come from a Semitic root. We don't have enough information to rule it out. I'm just saying it seems less likely. The first mention of the Sea Peoples on the Stele of Merneptah says that they were allied with the Libyans in an attack on Egypt from the west. Next thing they turn up in the Levant. Who knows how they got that name? There is an Egyptian text by an emissary who visited the Sea Peoples' encampments to investigate them, and reported that most of them called themselves PLST. This either means that it was their own name for themselves in their own language, or that this was the name used in the contact language they used to speak with the Egyptian investigator. Since their first contact with Egypt was via Libya, there is a possibility the name came from a Berber root (Berber being yet another branch of Afro-Asiatic).

bordelond
04-01-2004, 10:48 AM
There is an Egyptian text by an emissary who visited the Sea Peoples' encampments to investigate them, and reported that most of them called themselves PLST. This either means that it was their own name for themselves in their own language, or that this was the name used in the contact language they used to speak with the Egyptian investigator.

Ah ... OK. This is good information. From your first post in this thread, I was under the impression that PLST was conclusively an Egyptian name for the Sea Peoples. I hadn't realized that there was a chance the Sea Peoples called themselves PLST.

MC Master of Ceremonies
04-01-2004, 12:21 PM
Alas, if only what you claim were true regarding pointlessness and relevance. In the present day, there are Palestinians who are laying claim to all of the former British Mandate of Transjordan (sometimes called Palestine) specifically on the basis (or so they pretend) that they are Philistines and "Palestine" just means "land of the Philistines". So, laying out the fact that Palestinians are not Philistines actually does matter in the present day.

Firstly, under British rule from 1916 - 1923 the area of what is now Jordan, Isarel and the Occcupied Territories was under (for the most part)a single miltary adminstration and was known as Palestine or (Palestine and the Trans-Jordan). When the mandates were formed in 1922 and put into effect in 1923 the British Mandate of Palestine (modern Israel and the Occupied Territories) and the British Mandate of Transjordania (modern Jordan) were formed. It's not unknown for Palestinians to claim that they are descended from the Philistines (which they almost certainly are in a nominal way at least), but it is uncommon and it ceratinly has nothing to do the present Middle-East conflict.

istara
04-01-2004, 02:29 PM
Arabic has no "p" - they either use "b", or a Farsi (Persian) letter for "p" (likewise there is no "v" so they use either "f" or an Urdu letter for "v").

Eg: "Pepsi" in Arabic transliterates back into English as "Beebsi".

In Arabic though, "Palestine" is not spelt with a p/b, it is spelt with an "f".

The direct transliteration is: f l s t ee n

Johanna
04-02-2004, 06:32 AM
True, the modern Arabic for Palestine is Filastin. The use of f instead of b shows that it's an old word in Arabic. The Greek words borrowed into Arabic long ago, over a thousand years ago, often replace p with f. Modern borrowings into Arabic always replace p with b. Historically, the Proto-Semitic consonant p always corresponds to f in Arabic.

Thingol
04-04-2004, 10:03 AM
Palestinians are arabs because they belong to the arabic culture, not because their ancestors are actually arabs. ...

Thanks for all the help, everybody. Some great departure points for investigation on this thread.

But you can see how quickly this topic gets way out of hand, and why it's so difficult to distill applicable info. The original question concerns the etymology of a word. Now we're back to a discussion of modern-day ethnology.

Btw, I know folks who would assert quite the opposite, that modern Palestine was established explicitly as a Jewish homeland, therefore Palestinians are by definition Jewish, not Arab.

Thing is, though, that's all irrelevant to the topic, and should be spun off on another thread.

Thingol
04-04-2004, 10:07 AM
True, the modern Arabic for Palestine is Filastin. The use of f instead of b shows that it's an old word in Arabic. The Greek words borrowed into Arabic long ago, over a thousand years ago, often replace p with f. Modern borrowings into Arabic always replace p with b. Historically, the Proto-Semitic consonant p always corresponds to f in Arabic.

Oops... New to the mechanics of this board. Didn't realize my post wouldn't appear below the cited posting, but rather at the end of the thread (dunno why, since it's obvious if one looks).

At this point, the topic has swung back around, and like I said, lots of relevant info, will help very much, even if ultimately there is no iron-clad bulletproof answer, as is often the case with word origins.

MC Master of Ceremonies
04-04-2004, 10:19 AM
Thanks for all the help, everybody. Some great departure points for investigation on this thread.

But you can see how quickly this topic gets way out of hand, and why it's so difficult to distill applicable info. The original question concerns the etymology of a word. Now we're back to a discussion of modern-day ethnology.

Btw, I know folks who would assert quite the opposite, that modern Palestine was established explicitly as a Jewish homeland, therefore Palestinians are by definition Jewish, not Arab.

Thing is, though, that's all irrelevant to the topic, and should be spun off on another thread.

When it was established the whole of the British Mandate of Palestine or even most of it wasn't meant to be a Jewish homeland, it was menat to contain a Jewish homeland (it marked the area into which Jewish immigration was to be allowed). The term Palestinian when first used (i.e. from the start of British rule) it was quite often used to refer to Arabs and Jews in the area, including Jewish immigrants.

Johanna
04-06-2004, 04:49 PM
The article on Philistines in Encarta says they were definitely "Indo-European," and that they came from Crete. Encarta doesn't buy the theory that they were Pelsagians (i.e. non-Greek people who lived in Greece before the Greeks came). Their place of origin was said to be "Caphtor," and Encarta identifies Caphtor as someplace in Crete. I don't know how anyone can make a positive I.D. with such scanty data. AFAICT, the Philistines being either Indo-European or Semitic, or none of the above, remains an open question and we'll probably never know for sure.

Johanna
04-06-2004, 04:56 PM
That's Pelasgians. Sorry, should have proofread before posting. The Pelasgian theory sounds as good as anything else to me. Why? Because the time when the Sea Peoples began raising hell around the southern and eastern Mediterranean coasts corresponds to about the same time the Mycenean civilization was starting to fall into turmoil. This is the sort of thing that could set migrations of marauders in motion, and if the Philistines were non-Greeks from Greece, they might have been fallout from ethnic conflict over in the Aegean.

bordelond
04-06-2004, 05:10 PM
That's Pelasgians. Sorry, should have proofread before posting. The Pelasgian theory sounds as good as anything else to me. Why? Because the time when the Sea Peoples began raising hell around the southern and eastern Mediterranean coasts corresponds to about the same time the Mycenean civilization was starting to fall into turmoil. This is the sort of thing that could set migrations of marauders in motion, and if the Philistines were non-Greeks from Greece, they might have been fallout from ethnic conflict over in the Aegean.

[channeling Merritt Ruhlen (http://www.powells.com/biblio/45000-45200/0471159638.html)]

I can't help but notice the p-l-s in the word Pelasgian. I guess there's no way to know if that was their own name for themselves.

[/channeling Merritt Ruhlen]

Johanna
04-06-2004, 10:21 PM
If I'm not mistaken, the name Pelasgian is Greek (what the Greeks called the people of the Aegean seacoasts who preceded them there), and is thought to be derived from a Greek word for sea: pelagoV pelagos. (Don't ask me how that extra s got in there.) So pelagos 'sea' > PeLaSgioi 'sea people'? > PLST. (I might be able to explain the final -T. In Afro-Asiatic it's the feminine ending, and country names are traditionally feminine, at least in Egyptian, Arabic, and Berber.)

Your perhaps sarcastic reference to Merritt Ruhlen's etymological methods may not be so far off the mark. Because in Egyptian and Semitic, where only the consonants were recorded, it's the consonantal outline of a word that counts for etymology (yes, I know the old jibe that goes "etymology is a science in which consonants count for little and vowels not at all"). But seriously, that's mainly how Semitic and Egyptian etymology is done. I hadn't noticed that before, thanks for pointing it out. It sounds as plausible as any other theory I've heard, so who knows?

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
04-07-2004, 09:07 AM
Given the history of the area, I suspect "Palestine" is derived from a word that means : "place where you get your @ss kicked just for breathing", but I could be wrong... :rolleyes: