Ashkelon The present site, called Asskulan, is thus described by Porter (Handbook for Syria, p. 276; comp. Conder, Tent Work, ii, 164 sq.):
"The ruins of this ancient city occupy a splendid site facing the Mediterranean. Along the shore runs a line of cliffs nearly a mile in length, and varying from fifty to eighty feet in height. The ends of the cliffs are connected by a ridge of rock-which sweeps round inland in the form of a semicircle. Within the space thus enclosed stood Ashkelon, and along: the top of the ridge ran its walls. The ground sinks gradually for some two hundred or three hundred yards towards the centre, and then rises again as gradually. into a broad mound, culminating at the sea. The walls are strangely, shattered, and one wonders what mighty agency has been employed in their destruction. Huge masses of solid masonry, ten, fifteen, twenty feet in diameter, are thrown from their plates and lie on the sides and at the base of the rocky bank. The cement that binds the stones together seems as firm as the stones themselves; and the old battlements, instead of having crumbled to pieces as most buildings do, rest in immense disjointed fragments, which, had we power enough to move them, we might almost. arrange in their places again. On the eastern side of the semicircle, at its apex, was the principal gate; and here is stilt the most convenient entrance. The path winds up through heaps of stones and rubbish, among which are great numbers of marble and granite columns: on the left are the shattered walls of a large tower, still of considerable height, and affording from the top the best general view of the ruins. Clambering up the brocken battlements, we have Ashkelon spread out before us not Ashkelon, only the place where it once stood. The northern and larger section of the site is now covered with gardens, divided by rough stone fences, and filled with vines, pomegranates, figs, and apricots, in addition to luxuriant beds of onions and melons. Scarcely a fragment of a ruin can be seen from this spot except the broken wall. As I sat here one morning I counted five yokes of oxen ploughing, two drawing water for irrigation, and twenty-eight men and women engaged in agricultural work! Such is one section of Ashkelon. The remaining portion is even more terribly desolate. The white sand has drifted over its southern wall, almost covering its highest fragments, and now lies in deep wreaths upon the ground within. The scene presents such an aspect of utter desolation that it is painful to look upon it-old foundations of houses, palaces perhaps, and the little vines that men still living had planted over them being alike swallowed up by sand. And the sand is fast advancing; so that probably ere half a century has passed the very site of Ashkelon will have disappeared. How true are the words of Zephaniah spoken. twenty-five centuries ago, Ashkelon shall be desolation (2:4); and the words of Zechariah too, Ashkelon shall not be inhabited (9:5)!
"A walk through the gardens and orchards that cover the site still shows us something of the former magnificence of the city. Proceeding from the gate towards the top of the central mound, now crowned with a ruinous wely, we observe traces of a street once lined with columns. At about two hundred yards we have on the left a low area partially excavated, round which are from twenty to thirty large granite shafts and several smaller ones of marble,' some of them nearly covered with soil and stones. Not a solitary column stands upright, and not a building can be traced even in outline, though 'a few stones of a wall are here and there seen in their places. Deep wells are frequently met with, with curbstones of marble or granite; columns, mostly of granite, exist in vast numbers-scores of them may be. seen .projecting from the ruinous wall along the cliff over the sea, and some lie half buried in the sands below. Hewn stones are not so plentiful as one would expect. But this is explained by the fact that Ashkelon formed the chief quarry from which the materials were taken to build the ramparts and adorn the mosques of Acre., The houses and walls of Yafa have also made large draughts on this place. And poor Lady Hester Stanhope, strangely enough, contributed to. the work. of ruin. Having heard or dreamt of some vast treasure buried beneath the old city, she got a firman from the sultan, assembled a band of workmen, and made extensive excavations; but :the only treasure discovered was .a portion of a theatre. Thus a variety of agencies have combined to render Ashkelon a desolation. There is a little village beside it, but not a human habitation within its walls.'
The following additional particulars are from Badeker's Palestine, p. 316 sq.:
"On the hill, in the Wely Mohammed, which is shaded by sycamores [the sycamore fig, which flourishes here], are seen the still totally preserved towers which defended the principal gate, that, of Jerusalem; but the remains are deeply buried in the sand. The outlet to the road is closed by a thorn hedge. The north side of the ramparts is not easily visited, as they are concealed by luxuriant orchards, both outside and inside the walls. Among the orchards are found remains of Christian churches, and other relics of uncertain date. The orchards, enclosed by prickly-cactus hedges and thorn- bushes, belong to the people of Jora, a village of three hundred inhabitants, situated to the east of the ancient Ashkelon. Sycamores abound, and vines, olives, many fruit-trees, and an excellent kind of onion thrive in this favored district. This last was called by the Romans ascalonia, whence the French chalotte and our shalot are derived." For further details, see the Zeitschr. d. Paldst. Vereins, 1879, p. 164 sq., where a plan is given, of which the one here exhibited is a reduction.