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Via Maris is the modern name for an ancient trade route, dating from the early Bronze Age, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia — modern day Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria.
Its earlier name was "Way of the Philistines", a reference to a passageway through the Philistine Plain (which today consists of Israel's southern coastal plain and the Gaza Strip). From the Philistine Plain, the Way continues north through the Sharon. At Dor (near modern Hadera) the Way branches into two Ways — one running along the Mediterranean coast, and the other following an inland route through Megiddo, the Jezreel Valley, the Sea of Galilee and Dan.
- terra Zabulon et terra Nephthalim via maris trans Iordanen Galilaeae gentium
- (the land of Zebulon, and the land of Naftali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles).
That verse paraphrases Isaiah 9:1 (or 8:23):
- In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan.
Together with the King's Highway, the Via Maris was one of the major trade routes connecting Egypt and the Levant with Anatolia and Mesopotamia. The Via Maris was crossed by other trading routes, so that one could travel from Africa to Europe or from Asia to Africa. It began in al-Qantara and went east to Pelusium, following the northern coast of Sinai through el-Arish and Rafah. From there it followed the coast of Canaan through Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Joppa, and Dor before turning east again through Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley until it reached Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Again turning northward along the shore, the Via Maris passed through Migdal, Capernaum, and Hazor. From Hazor it crossed the northern River Jordan at Jacob's Ford then climbed sharply over the Golan Heights and wound its way northeast into Damascus. Here travellers could continue on the King's Highway as far as the Euphrates River or proceed northward into Anatolia.