Saturday, July 11, 2009


Sussita or Hippos is strategically situated on a hill overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). It's name means horse in both Hebrew and Greek. Hippos itself was originally built by the Greeks in the mid 200s BCE and probably served as a border fortress for the Seleucids in their war with the Ptolemies. The conflict between these two dynasties descended from Captains of Alexander the Great was eventually won by the Seleucids and Hippos grew in size and stature. The population relied on collecting rain water in cisterns and the availability of water limited the size of its population.

According to Josephus, during the Hasmonean Period (In 142 BCE, the Maccanean revolt resulted in an independent Jewish kingdom), Alexander Jannaeus conquered Hippos in 83-80 BCE, and forced the entire population to convert to Judaism and be circumcised (ouch).

Then as always, came the Romans. Once again Josephus told the story. Around 4 BCE Hippos was a pagan city with few Jews. After the Romans put down the Bar Kochba revolt in 136 CE, Hippos' prospered. Huge walls were constructed as were a theater, shrines, and palaces. Most importantly, an aqueduct piped water from springs in the Golan Heights (50Km).

Ravid and I set out before 6am. It was warm and hazy, and clear that the day would be a scorcher. Sussita/Hippos is about 20 minutes south of Kanaf where Ravid lives and where bwo and I spent the night.
The view from the access path is spectacular. That's the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias in the distance. The path is narrow and clearly easy to defend.
Sussita was on the border with Syria and housed an Israeli army base. There are still signs of the military presence in the days leading up to the Six-Day war in 67. Yep, it says there are mines on both sides of the trail. We were careful.
This Ravid tells me is a sentry post at the entrance to the site. There are quite a few dugouts like these all over the site.
The aqueduct system must have been very impressive. There are remains of the stone piping that must have been used running into the city. There are impressive remains of this system all along the trail leading up the mountain into the site.
As usual, the Roman stonework is spectacular. Clearly a lot of impressive stones remain as even the most hard working thief would struggle to shlep these down the mountain, as access is difficult.
There are signs of very impressive and expensive marble columns. This is in the large forum in the middle of the site.
Apparent proof of the great wealth of Sussita/Hippos, the streets were lined with many red granite columns which were imported from Egypt. Lifting these to the top of the hill (350M about the sea) could not have been much fun.
This is the Decumanus Maximus (main street). It runs east-west through the city. The granite paving stones are very impressive and you could feel the ghosts of Romans walking along early in the morning.
I am always fascinated by toilets. Maybe it's a wash basin. The homes are well defined and you can get a sense for the size of the rooms and courtyards.
This cross and another similar one looked to have been recently uncovered and restored. There is a dig going on right now. Signs of their work were everywhere.
This looks to be the very solid and intimidating walls. Huge blocks of granite. This is on the west side, overlooking the Kinneret.
As you can see, the Hippos dig, run by the University of Haifa, is well underway. There is still place though, just go here to sign up. It will cost you 330 Euro a week.
Of course, whenever you go out with Ravid, you need to make coffee. He brought along his "gazziyah" and we had Turkish coffee while looking out over the Kinneret.
Right behind our coffee stop, we stumbled over a beautiful tomb or church, complete with mosaic floor and this cross carved into the stone.
The end for Hippos came in January 749 CE when a huge earthquake flattened the city. The results of this can clearly be seen all over. Not single pillar stands, and only the huge squat walls remain solid.

All in all, Sussita/Hippos is well worth visiting. The walk along the trail is not too challenging and the remains and view are spectacular.

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