Has ever been anything called Palestina?

Map of Palestine during the Middle Ages accord...
Map of Palestine during the Middle Ages according to the description of the Arab geographers, drawn by Geo. Armstrong, from Palestine Under the Muslims: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from AD 650 to 1500, by Guy Le Strange, London 1890 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most common statement I have heard lately is that has not ever existed a “Palestinian” state. This is historically not correct and it is quite easy to find historical sources that talk about “Palestine” as a geographical and political entity.

Specific references to “Palestine” date back nearly five hundred years before “the time of Jesus.” In the 5th Century BCE, Herodotus, the first historian in Western civilization, referenced “Palestine” numerous times in chronicle of the ancient world, The Histories, including the following passage describing “Syrians of Palestine”:

“…they live in the coastal parts of Syria; and that region of Syria and all that lies between it and Egypt is called Palestine.” (VII.89) The above translation by Harry Carter is featured in the 1958 Heritage Press edition of Herodotus’ famous work. Both older and newer versions corroborate the accuracy of the reference. A. D. Godley‘s 1920 translation of the crucial line states, “This part of Syria as far as Egypt is all called Palestine”, while Robin Waterfield’s 1998 updated Oxford translation renders the passage this way: “This part of Syria, all the way to the border with Egypt, is known as Palestine.”

(Some other references can be found here and also here  )

from Herodotus notes it is out of doubt that there was, at that time, a political entity called Palestine. We can find out here:

‘The Scythians next turned their attention to Egypt, but were met in Palestine by Psammetichus the Egyptian king, who by earnest entreaties supported by bribery managed to prevent their further advance. They withdrew by way of Ascalan in Syria. The bulk of the army passed the town without doing any damage, but a small number of men got left behind and robbed the temple of Aphrodite Urania – the most ancient, I am told, of all the temples of this goddess. The one in Cyprus the Cyprians themselves admit was derived from it, and the one in Cythera was built by the Phoenicians, who belong to this part of Syria. The Scythians who robbed the temple at Ascalan were punished by the goddess with the infliction of what is called the ‘female disease’, and their descendants still suffer from it. This is the reason the Scythians give for this mysterious complaint, and travellers to the country can see what it is like. The Scythians call those who suffer from it ‘Enarees’.’
[…Herod. 1:105]
‘The Egyptians did, however, say that they thought the original Colchians were men from Sesostris’ army. My own idea on the subject was based first on the fact that they have black skins and woolly hair (not that that amounts to much, as other nations have the same), and secondly, and more especially, on the fact that the Colchians, the Egyptians, and the Ethiopians are the only races which from ancient times have practised circumcision. The Phoenicians and the Syrians of Palestine themselves admit that they learned the practice from Egypt, and the Syrians who live near the rivers Thermodon and Parthenius, as well as their neighbours the Macronians, say that they learnt it only a short time ago from the Colchians. No other nations use circumcision, and all these are without doubt following the Egyptian lead. As between the Egyptians and the Ethiopians, I cannot say which learn from the other, for the custom is evidentially a very ancient one; but I have no doubt that the other nations adopted it as the result of their intercourse with Egypt, and in this belief I am strongly supported by the fact that Phoenicians who have contact with Greece drop the Egyptian usage, and allow their children to go uncircumcised.’
[…bid, 2:104]
‘Fifth: from the town of Posideiium, which was founded by Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus, on the border between Cilicia and Syria, as far as Egypt – omitting Arabian territory, which was free of tax – came 350 talents. This province contains the whole of Phoenicia and that part of Syria which is called Palestine, and Cyprus.’
[…Ibid, 3:91]
‘Between Persia and Phoenicia lies a very large area of country; and from Phoenicia the branch I am speaking of runs along the Mediterranean coast through Palestine-Syria to Egypt, where it ends. It contains three nations only.’
[…bid, 4:39]
‘The Phoenicians, with the Syrians of Palestine, contributed 300. The crews wore helmets very like the Greek ones, and linen corslets; they were armed with rimless shields and javelins. These people have a tradition that in ancient times they lived on the Persian Gulf, but migrated to the Syrian coast, where they are found today. This part of Syria, together with the country which extends southward to Egypt, is all known as Palestine.’
[…Ibid, 7:89]

In the same areas were living different populations, among them also the Jews tribes living with other non monotheistic populations.

A hundred years later, in the mid-4th Century BCE, Aristotle made reference to the Dead Sea in his Meteorology.

“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,” he wrote. “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.” (II.3)

So there are another reference to Palestine also here. From an historical point of view is hard to deny so the existence of Palestine in ancient times, two major historical fonts name the place, and this is just a milestone we cannot ignore. We should by the way notice that both do not mention the presence of a monotheistic population that could be referred to the Jew. and if this quite understandable form an Aristotle point of view (his focus was on Metereology) the Observation from Herodotus are quite clear and exhaustive.

Two hundred years later, in the mid-2nd Century BCE, ancient geographer Polemon wrote of a place

“not far from Arabia in the part of Syria called Palestine,”

while Greek travel writer Pausanias wrote in his Description of Greece,

“In front of the sanctuary grow palm-trees, the fruit of which, though not wholly edible like the dates of Palestine, yet are riper than those of Ionia.” (9.19.8)

Despite the claim “the Romans didn’t rename Judea as ‘Palestina’ until a hundred years after the death of Jesus,” contemporaries of Jesus also routinely referred to Palestine as, well, Palestine. For instance, in the first decade of the 1st Century, the Roman poet Ovid mentioned Palestine in both his famed mythological poem Metamorphoses and his erotic elegy The Art of Love.

He also wrote of “the waters of Palestine” in his calendrical poem Fasti. Around the same time, another Latin poet Tibullus wrote of “the crowded cities of Palestine” in a section “Messalla’s Triumph” in his poem Delia.

The noted Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo, writing around the 1stCentury CE, opined,

“Also Syria in Palestine, which is occupied by no small part of the very populous nation of the Jews, is not unproductive of honourable virtue.” (XII.75)

The Jewish historian Josephus (c.37-100 CE) was born and raised in Jerusalem, a military commander in Galilee during the First Jewish Revolt against the occupying Roman authority, acted as negotiator during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE and later penned vital volumes of Levantine Jewish history. His The Jewish War, Antiquities of the Jews, and Against Apion all contain copious references to Palestine and Palestinians. Towards the end of Antiquities, Josephus writes,

“I shall now, therefore, make an end here of my Antiquities; after the conclusion of which events, I began to write that account of the war; and these Antiquities contain what hath been delivered down to us from the original creation of man, until the twelfth year of the reign of Nero, as to what hath befallen the Jews, as well in Egypt as in Syria and in Palestine, and what we have suffered from the Assyrians and Babylonians, and what afflictions the Persians and Macedonians, and after them the Romans, have brought upon us; for I think I may say that I have composed this history with sufficient accuracy in all things.” (XX.11.2)

The claim that the Roman emperor Hadrian, eager to punish Jewish inhabitants of Judea after the Bar Kokhba Revolt, officially changed the name of the region to “Syria Palaestina” or simply “Palestine” in 135 CE and forced the Jewish community into exile is dubious at best, especially when, by then, the terms “Syrian Palestine” and “Palestine” had already been in use for over six hundred years.

So if out of doubt that palestine did exist, it is historically proven even by some Jewish  font.

now we should take a look at the maps:

Historically, the land of Palestine was populated by a people known as the Palestinians. Palestinians have always been religiously diverse, with the Muslim majority maintaining friendly relations with their Christian, Jewish, and Druze brethren.

At the turn of the 20th Century, a new Jewish nationalist ideology called Zionism was developing. Zionism called for the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

During this time, increasing numbers of Jewish Europeans immigrated to Palestine, causing the Jewish population to grow from a tiny minority to 35% of the population.

Population of Historic Palestine


Non-Jewish Palestinians

Jewish Population













Source: McCarthy, Justin, The Population of Palestine, Columbia University Press: New York, 1990, pp. 10, 35.

you can find a map of palestine before 1947 here:



the state of israel is defined by an UN resolution in 1947 and the proposed territory is showed in this map:

The above map is Israel as it was first created by UN declaration in 1947. The blue portion is Israel, the rest is all Arab lands. Note that Jerusalem was completely within Arab lands and Israel was much smaller than it is today. Note also that there is NO Israeli presence inside the area surrounding Jerusalem.

Since we have already seen that historically it was a palestine presence in that area is quite understandable why settling a new state entity would have given troubles. According to what we know from history (avoid form religious mythologies and ideologies) the Jews tribes were living in that area with other tribes and other (and bigger) political entity so it would be accordingly possible to instate a new political entity in that area with the condition to let the other part still live there as well.

Some critical areas, as Jerusalem, were considered “special” since considered holy for the 3 main monotheistic.

In 1947, the United Nations partitioned Historic Palestine, giving 55% to the Jewish population and 45% to the Palestinian population. The indigenous Palestinians rejected the division of the land on which they had lived and farmed for centuries.

At the time of partition, the Jewish population owned less than 6% of Palestine.

In 1948 Israel declared its “independence,” but chose not to name its borders (Israel may be the only nation in the world with undeclared borders). Following its founding war of 1947-49 Israel came into existence on 78 percent of Palestine, a percentage it has steadily increased in subsequent years, a process that continues today.

West Bank area is disputed and is where Israel is creating the biggest number of colonies in what is, for UN, palestinian territory (this is the reason because UN declare illegal those settlements).

Just to give to history a little respect.



To the official site of Related Posts via Taxonomies.

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