The Philistines were a branch of a primitive race that inhabited the southern coast of Palestine around the time of the arrival of the Israelites. There was almost perpetual war between the two races. This powerful tribe made frequent incursions against the Israelites. They sometimes held the tribes, especially the southern tribes, in degrading servitude; at other times they were defeated with great slaughter.
They make their first appearance in Biblical history late in the period of the Judges in connection with the prophesied birth of the hero Samson, who would deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines who had held them in servitude for forty years. Samson, indeed generates havoc for these enemies of the nation, until they finally subdue him using a treacherous woman Delilah.
In the early days of Samuel the Philistines tried to make themselves masters of the interior of Palestine, and in one of the ensuing battles they succeeded in capturing the Ark of the Covenant. The coming of a pestilence upon them, however, induced them to return it.
They met with a severe defeat a few years later in the reign of David who succeeded in reducing them to a state of vassalage. The Philistines regained their independence at the end of is reign, probably about the time of the schism, but Hezekiah later subdued them totally. The continued to occupy their territory, however, and always showed their old hatred to Israel.
The Philistines were finally conquered by the Romans.