Ashkelon’s ruler won a city from the Babylonians in a card game. Instead of paying, they destroyed the city.
The ancient city of Ashkelon, known to the crusaders as Ascalon and in Latin as Ascalonia, was possibly destroyed by the Babylonians because of the unfavorable result of an ancient card game.
The legend goes that the ruler of Ashkelon, an important trade port of the Mediterranean coast, was invited to a wedding of his neighbor’s daughter, a prominent Babylonian governor. At the weeding, the two were involved in gambling that can be best described as an ancient card game. The ruler of Ashkelon, whose name is not known to us, allegedly came out as the winner of the game that was supposed to last three days.
The card bet was not less than a city in the Babylonian province. When the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar II heard the news, he got very angry. First he ordered the execution of his governor for bringing shame to his empire by not winning a card game.
The Babylonian ruler, who is also known as the builder of the Hanging Gardens, decided to destroy the city instead of paying the debt of his governor. Around 604 BC, he gathered his army and took Ashkelon by surprise.
Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath was terrible. He completely destroyed the city, slaughtered many of its citizens and enslaved and deported the rest to Babylon.
A few years later, the Babylonian king turned against Judea, invading its capital Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned in the Bible as the destroyer of the First Temple and the ruler who forced the Jews into the Babylonian exile.
Ashkelon was an important port and fortification during the crusades and now is a town of 100,000 in Israel.