'Gath of the Philistines' was one of the five Philistine city-states, established in northwestern Philistia. According to the Bible, the king of the city was Achish, in the times of both David and Solomon. It is not certain whether this refers to two kings of this name or not. Gath was also the home city of Goliath, as well as of Itai and his 600 soldiers who aided David in his exile from Absalom. David, while running from Saul, escaped to Gath, and served under its king Achish. During Solomon's reign, Shemei goes to Gath to return his escaped slave (II Kings 2). In II Kings 12:18, the city of Gath of mentioned as being captured by Hazael of Aram Damascus. Recent excavations at the site have produced dramatic evidence of a siege and subsequent destruction of the site in the late 9th century BC, most probably related to this event.
Although in the past various suggestions were raised on the location of Gath of the Philistines, currently, based on analysis of the references to the site, most scholars (in particular following Anson Rainey) identify the Philistine Gath at Tell es-Safi (aka Tel Zafit). Gath is also mentioned in the El-Amarna letters as "Gimti/Gintu", ruled by a king Shuwardata, and possibly by Abdi-Ashirti as well.
Recent excavations at the site, directed by Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, appear to confirm this identification, due to abundant finds from the relevant Late Bronze and Iron Age periods — roughly when Gath is mentioned as existing in the various Biblical and historical sources. Similarly, after the 9th century BC, the volume of archaeological finds from the site recedes, and a stronger cultural connection with the Judean region is felt (as opposed to the coastal or Philistine cultural orientation beforehand). This seems to mirror the fact that Gath is rarely mentioned in post-9th century biblical narratives (and historical texts) and apparently loses its status as one of the main Philistine cities. Interestingly, Gath appears to have a "mirror image" relationship with nearby Tel Miqne-Ekron. During most periods in which Gath was large, Ekron was small, and vice-a-versa.
In 2005, an inscription dating to the Iron Age IIA (ca. 10th-9th century BC), mentioning names very similar to the name Goliath was discovered at the site.