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Canaan/Palestine/Israel: A Brief Early History in Maps

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Canaan/Palestine/Israel: A Brief Early History in Maps


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This page traces the history of Canaan/Israel/Palestine in maps (click on links to view the maps). From this brief history, we learn that it is a small country that has usually been dominated by outsiders, and that many peoples have lived here and established themselves and staked their claims here.

Canaan before the Hebrews - Canaan had been a collection of city-states, tributary to the Egyptian Pharoah, as attested to in the Tel- El Amarna tablets. The breakup of the Egyptian empire beginning about 1500 BCE made possible the invasion of the Hebrews. The map shows the probable location of cities in Canaan about 1200 BCE.

Israel in Early Times - According to Hebrew tradition, 12 tribes entered Cana'an from Egypt and conquered it, led by Moses. Historical evidence from the Amarna tables suggests that there were already 'apiru' (probably Hebrews) in Canaanites in the time of Egyptian rule, some possibly with names such as "yakubu-el" (Jacob). The biblical account allots different parts of the land to the twelve tribes as shown in the maps.  Soon after, a kingdom was established, first under Saul and then under David. The right-hand map shows the borders of the kingdom of David (about 1000 B.C.E. ) and other nations. The maps are necessarily conjectures based on biblical narrative and supporting archeology.

The Dual Kingdom and Palestine in the Time of Jesus - After the death of King Solomon, Israel split into two kingdoms. Eventually, both the kingdom of Israel, and later that of Judea, with its temple in Jerusalem, were overrun by invaders. The Persians restored the Judean kingdom and allowed the Jews to rebuild their temple. This kingdom fell to Greek and later Hellenic-Syrian domination when Alexander the Great conquered Persia.

In 164 BCE the  Hasmonean Kingdom of Judea revolted and became semi-independent of Syria. It was protected by a treaty of friendship with Rome. However in 61 Pompei conquered Jerusalem, and from then on Israel or Palestine was subordinate to Rome. Parts of it were nominally independent under the rule of local kings of the line of Herod the Idumean. 

Maps of Herodian and Roman Palestine -  Herod build many towns and fortifications (including Massada and Heordion) and extensively remodelled the temple in Jerusalem. After the first Jewish rebellion and fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD,  large numbers of Jews were exiled. Jerusalem was eventually rebuilt as Aelia Capitolina. After the failure of the revolt of Bar-Kochba in 133, there were more exiles and ruined towns. On the ruins of Israelite and Canaanite towns, the Romans built new ones, populated partly by inhabitants of neighboring lands. The land was divided into several districts, of which Palestine was only one. The Negev (southern district), generally excluded from these divisions was inhabited by the Nabateans, an Arab trader nation that made a notable desert civilization in cities such as Avdat (in modern Israel) and Petra (in modern Jordan). The whole area between the desert and the sea was known, later in the Roman Empire, as the Christian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, though this was not a Roman administrative division.

Map of Palestine under the Caliphs - Christian Palestine fell first to the Persians,  in 614. It was reconquered briefly in 629 by Heraclius. However,  with the rise of Islam, the Middle East, and with it Palestine - Israel - Canaan -  was conquered by Arabs. Jerusalem fell in 640. The Jews  were willing allies of the Arabs, as they had been of the Persians. The Land was divided into a Southern Jund  (district)  of Filastin with a capital in Al-Lud (later in Ramleh), and a northern Jund of Al Urdunn with its capital in Tabariyeh (Tiberius).

Crusader Palestine - Beginning in 1095, the crusaders conquered Palestine and the surrounding areas. Initially savage toward Muslims and Jews, crusader rule eventually seems to have brought a measure of good administration before it was eventually eliminated by Salah-e-din and his successors.

Turkish Palestine - Palestine changed hands several times among Moslem conquerors, the last of whom were the Turks. As shown in the map, the land was divided into three administrative areas. These divisions became important in assessing the meaning of promises in the Sykes-Picot agreement and Husayn-MacMahon letters.

Bibliography - Israel/Palestine before 1918

Brief History of Israel and Palestine  Middle East History Sources  Searchable Book Database Middle East Glossary  Palestinian Parties Middle East East News

Definition and Early History of Zionism MideastWeb Web Site Fairness and Accuracy Policy
More history of Israel - at  Zionism and Israel Information Center: Timeline (Chronology) of Zionist and Israeli History  Zionism and the creation of Israel  Detailed Road Map of Israel   Maps of Israel showing distances to borders and comparative size

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Ancient Canaan & Palestine: History & Maps