Hippos: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ruins of Hippos' Byzantine cathedral, looking west. A shrine to the Roman Emperor stands in the background against the Sea of Galilee.

Hippos is an archaeological site located in Israel on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Between the third century BC and the seventh century AD, Hippos was the site of a Greco-Roman city. Besides the fortified city itself, Hippos controlled a small port facility on the lake and an area of the surrounding countryside. Hippos was part of the Decapolis, or Ten Cities, a group of cities in Roman Palestine that were culturally tied more closely to Greece and Rome than to the Middle East.

From above, the plateau on which Hippos is built very vaguely resembles the head and neck of a horse. This is why early Greek settlers named it after the Greek word for horse, Hippos. The local Aramaic and Hebrew name, Sussita, also means horse, and the Arabic name, Qal'at el-Husn, means "Fortress of the Horse." Other names include the alternate spelling Hippus and the Latinized version of the Greek name: Hippum.

National Park of Hippos



Hippos was built on a flat-topped foothill 2 kilometers east of and 144 meters above the Sea of Galilee (350 meters above sea level), near modern Kibbutz Ein Gev. The site is just on the Israeli side of the 1949 UN-demarcated border between Syria and Israel. Hippos was part of a demilitarized zone between the Golan Heights and Israel proper, until Israel captured the former in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (See this CIA map of the region).



Hellenistic period

It is possible that Mount Sussita was occupied before Hellenistic times, but the city of Hippos itself was built by Greek colonists, most likely in the mid-200s BC. During this time, Coele-Syria served as the battleground between two dynasties descending from Captains of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. It is likely that Hippos, on a very defensible site in the north of Coele-Syria, was founded as a border fortress for the Seleucids. Its full name, Antiochia Hippos (Greek: Αντιόχεια του Ίππου; Latin: Antiocheia ad Hippum), reflects a Seleucid founding.

As the Seleucids took possession of all of Coele-Syria, Hippos grew into a full-fledged polis, a city-state with control over the surrounding countryside. Antiochia Hippos was improved with all the makings of a Greek polis: a temple, a central market area, and other public structures. The availability of water limited the size of Hellenistic Hippos. The citizens relied on rain-collecting cisterns for all their water; this kept the city from supporting a very large population.

Hasmonean Period

The Maccabean revolt resulted in an independent Jewish kingdom under the Hasmonean family in 142 BC. In c. 83-80 BC, Alexander Jannaeus led a Hasmonean campaign to conquer Hippos. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Alexander forced the entire population to convert to Judaism and be circumcised.

Roman period

Map of the Decapolis showing the location of Hippos (here spelled Hippus)

In 63 BC the Roman general Pompey conquered Coele-Syria including Judea, and ended Hasmonean rule. Pompey granted self-rule to roughly ten Greek cities on Coele-Syria's eastern frontier; this group came to be called the Decapolis. Hippos was one of these cities. Under Roman rule, Hippos was granted a certain degree of autonomy. The city minted its own coins, stamped with the image of a horse in honor of the city's name.

Hippos was given to Herod the Great in 37 BC and to the Province of Syria in 4 BC. According to Josephus, during this time Hippos, a pagan city, was the "sworn enemy" of the new Jewish city across the lake,Tiberias. However, Hippos must have had some Jewish residents in the city. Josephus reports that during the Great Jewish Revolt of AD 66-70, Hippos persecuted its Jewish population. Other Jews from Sussita participated in attacks on Magdala and elsewhere. Hippos itself fell under attack by rebels at least once.

After the Romans put down the Bar Kokhba revolt, they created the province of Palaestina in 135, of which Hippos was a part. This was the beginning of Hippos' greatest period of prosperity and growth. It was rebuilt along a grid pattern, centered around a long Decumanus Maximus running east-west through the city. The streets were lined with hundreds of red granite columns imported from Egypt. The great expense required to haul these columns to Palestine and up the hill is proof of the city's wealth. Other improvements included a shrine to the Emperor, a theatre, and new city walls. The most important improvement, however, was the aqueduct, which led water into Hippos from springs in the Golan Heights, 50 km away. The water, collected in a large, vaulted cistern, allowed a large population to live in the city.

Byzantine period

The imperial restructuring under the emperor Diocletian placed Hippos in the province of Palestina Secunda, encompassing Galilee and the Golan. When Christianity became officially tolerated in the Roman Empire, Palestine became the target of Imperial subsidies for churches and monasteries, and Christian pilgrims brought additional revenue. Industry expanded and more luxury goods became available to common people.

Christianity came slowly to Hippos. There is no evidence of any Christian presence before the 300s. A Byzantine-era pagan tomb of a man named Hermes has been found just outside the city walls, attesting to the relatively late presence of paganism here. Gradually, however, the city was Christianized, becoming the seat of a bishop by at least 359. One Bishop Peter of Hippos is listed in surviving records of church councils in 359 and 362.

Umayyad period

The Umayyad Caliphate invaded Palestine in the 600s, completing their conquest by 641. Hippos' new Arab rulers allowed the citizens to continue practicing Christianity. However, the population and economy continued to decline. An earthquake in January 749 flattened Hippos. The city was abandoned permanently.


The German rail-road engineer and surveyor Gottlieb Schumacher first surveyed Hippos in 1885, although he incorrectly identified the ruins as those of the town of Gamala.

The first excavations were carried out by Israeli archaeologist Emmanuel Anati, Claire Epstein, Michael Avi-Yona and others in 1951-1955. They unearthed some domestic buildings, the main city gate at the east and a large Byzantine church that had probably been the seat of Hippos' bishop. After the excavations, the Israel Defense Forces used Mount Sussita for the same purpose as the ancient Greeks: as a fortress. It was used as a border defense against Syria until the Golan Heights were captured by Israel in the Six Day War. In 1964 Mt. Sussita was declared a National Park and in 2004 the area around it, including the site itself, were declared a National Reserve. Following an archaeological survey conducted in 1999, it was decided to embark on a large-scale scientific project of excavations and in July 2009 the tenth season of excavation was conducted. The research undertaken at Hippos-Sussita is an international project. The first ten seasons (2000-2009) were an Israeli-Polish-American collaboration co-directed by Professor Arthur Segal and Dr. Michael Eisenberg from the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa; Professor Jolanta Młynarczyk from the Research Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology, Polish Academy of Sciences; Dr. Mariusz Burdajewicz of the National Museum, Warsaw and Professor Mark Schuler from Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. In summer 2010 the team plan to embark on a new session of excavations. The main areas of excavation would be the odeion, the basilica, the North-East Church and its surrounding insulae, domestic quarters, two baths, the defensive ditch and fortifications next to it and the necropoleis. The objective of the expedition is to uncover the entire ancient city, the street network, the main secular and religious public buildings, as well as the domestic quarters. It also hopes to survey and excavate the two necropoleis located to the south and the south-east of the city. The relationship between the city and the surrounding countryside will also be examined in future seasons, especially the area stretching between the city and the lake. Furthermore, it plans to conduct a detailed survey of the lake's shore to establish the exact location of Hippos' port.

Biblical connection

In the New Testament, when Jesus mentions a "city set upon a hill" that "cannot be hidden" (one of the metaphors of Salt and Light in the Sermon on the Mount) he may have been referring to Hippos. In addition, a miracle of Jesus recounted in Mark 5 and Luke 8 may also be related to Hippos. See Gergesa for a discussion of the location of this miracle.

Catholic mystic Maria Valtorta in her vision-based work "Poem of the Man God" reports that Jesus Christ visited and preached in Hippos.

External links


  • Bagatti, Bellarmino. "Hippos-Susita, an Ancient Episcopal See." Ancient Christian Villages of Galilee. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 2001. pp. 59-66.
  • Chancey, Mark A. and Adam Porter. "The Archaeology of Roman Palestine." Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 64, No. 4. December 2001. pp. 164-198.
  • Epstein, Claire. "Hippos (Sussita)." The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land. Vol. 2. Ed. Ephraim Stern. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society & Carta, 1993.
  • Parker, S. Thomas. "The Byzantine Period: An Empire’s New Holy Land." Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 62, No. 3. September 1999. pp.134-171.
  • Russell, Kenneth W. "The Earthquake Chronology of Palestine and Northwest Arabia from the 2nd through the Mid-8th Century A.D." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 260. 1982. pp. 37-53.
  • Segal, Arthur. "Hippos (Sussita) Excavation Project: First Season – July 2000." The Bible and Interpretation, 2000. Online. [1]
  • Segal, Arthur. "Hippos-Sussita Excavation Project: The Second Season – July 2001." The Bible and Interpretation, 2001. Online. [2]
  • Segal, Arthur and Michael Eisenberg. "Hippos-Sussita Excavation Project: The Third Season." The Bible and Interpretation, 2002. Online. [3]
  • Segal, Arthur and Michael Eisenberg. "Hippos-Sussita Excavation Project: The Fourth Season." The Bible and Interpretation, 2003. Online. [4]
  • Tzaferis, Vassilios. "Sussita Awaits the Spade." Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 16, Issue 5. Sep/Oct 1990. Online.[5] Accessed 26 August 2004.
  • Report from the excavations by Haifa university

Coordinates: 32°46′44″N 35°39′34″E / 32.77889°N 35.65944°E / 32.77889; 35.65944

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

One of the cities of the Decapolis in Palestine, the site of which is uncertain. For the identifications of the ancient geographers see Pliny ("Hist. Naturalis," v. 14, xv. 18), Josephus ("Vita," § 65), and Eusebius ("Onomasticon," s.v., "Apheca"). In the Talmud Hippos occurs under the name "Susita" ( (missing hebrew text) ), the Hebrew equivalent, and it is frequently mentioned with Tiberias. These two cities, facing each other (Gen. R. xxxii.), were situated on opposite shores of the lake; and merchants went to and fro between them (Yer. Sheb. viii. 3). Susita was for a time opposed to Tiberias (Lam. R. i., 18); and it is spoken of as inhabited by Gentiles (Yer. R. H. ii. 1). It is mentioned with Ashkelon as an example of a heathentown in the midst of the land of Israel (Tosef., Oh. xviii. 4). R. Joshua b. Levi identified the land of Tob (Jdg 11:3) with Susita (Yer. Sheb. vi. 2). It is very likely that the primitive name was "Susita" and that "Hippos" was the Greek translation of this, for by the Arabian geographers it is called "Susiyyah."

Hippos seems to have been an important city, as the whole district was called, after it, "Hippene" (Josephus, "B. J." iii. 3, § 1). It was conquered by Alexander Jannæus and afterward freed by Pompey (idem, "Ant." xiv. 4, § 4; idem, "B. J." i. 7, § 7), thus becoming one of the independent towns of the Decapolis. Later, Augustus presented it to Herod ("Ant." xv. 7, § 3; "B. J." i. 20, § 3), after whose death it was again wrested from the Jewish dominions ("Ant." xvii. 11, § 1; "B. J." ii. 6, § 3). From that time on Hippos was designated as a Greek city (ib.); and probably the Talmudic passage Yer. R. H. ii. 1 refers to that epoch. At the outbreak of the Roman war the Jews, led by Justus of Tiberias, devastated Hippos; but the inhabitants avenged themselves by massacring the Jews ("B. J." ii. 18, § 1, 5).

In the Christian period Hippos became an episcopal see (Epiphanius, "Hæres." lxxiii. 26). A coin has been discovered bearing the name "Hippos" (Muret, "Revue Numismatique," 1883, i. 67). It is of the time of Nero, having on the obverse side Nero's head and on the reverse a horse with the inscription ιππηνων.

Bibliography: Neubauer, G. T. pp. 238-240; Clermont-Ganneau, in Revue Archéologique, 1875, xxix. 362-369; Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., p. 120.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address