Apollonia (Arsuf)


Apollonia or Arsuf is located 16 km (10 mi) North of Tel Aviv in Israel. This city existed from the 6th- 5th century AD to 13th century then it was destroyed by the Mameluks. The city offers a great inside into history of the region. The ruins of Apollonia are probably one of the most tourist- friendly in the Holy Land. Almost every stone here played some role in the history of the site and this region and therefore it has its own sign in Hebrew and English explaining the purpose and history of this particular location. Besides it has illustration and reconstruction of what the structure looked like in its heyday. You can also rent paraglide gear in Tel Aviv and see the beauty of the ruins from a the top.



Location: 16 km (10 mi) North of Tel Aviv      Map


History of Apollonia (Arsuf)

Apollonia or Arsuf was probably settled by Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC. Ruled by the Persian empire the city was named Arsuf as a version of goddess Reshef. This Canaanite deity was responsible for wars and thunder. The city started as a small post for collectors of the murex mollusks in a costly and long process of production of the purple color. Only royalty and high priests could afford this color for dying their cloths. Export made this city rich and soon it grew.

After conquest of Alexander the Great that started the Hellenistic period the city was renamed Apollonia. This time it was after Greek deity Apollo. The city was captured by Hasmonean Kingdom briefly, but Romans soon took over the region and increased the size of this town. Byzantines (Eastern Roman Empire) increased the size of the city to 70 acres and called it Sezussa. Trade of glass and natural products made it rich and important port. However Byzantine emperor lost the control of predominantly Christian- Samaritan city to Arab armies in 640 AD. The city shrank to 22 acres. Arabs who also were from the Semitic tribe returned its ancient name of Arsur. They build first fortifications here and increased trade. In the 809 AD Samaritans were expelled and their synagogue ruined.

The Crusaders captured the city in 1101 AD under leadership of Baldwin I of Jerusalem just two years after sacking Jerusalem. Knights built their own castle those remains you see today. In 1187 AD Saladin took the city, but lost it to Richard the Lion Heart in 1191. Christian rule did not last however and the city was taken by sultan Baibars in 1265. Mameluks forced captured Crusaders to burn their own castle. The so called Burnt room still has the remains of the fire that destroyed the citadel and much of the city. Apollonia was abandoned subsequently and never resettled.


Roman villa in Apollonia (Arsuf)

The Roman villa was build in the 1st century AD. The edifice included a courtyard surrounded by colonnades.


Byzantine cisterns in Apollonia (Arsuf)

Build in the 5th- 6th century AD this was an elaborate system of cisterns and underground storage for collection of rain water. Collecting this valuable source was always a key issue in the Holy Land.

Remains of the port Apollonia (Arsuf)

Handy stones for catapults or simply if you want to throw something from a wall.

Crusader fortress in Apollonia (Arsuf)

Apollonia Fortress had double walls and was protected by a dry defensive moat. It was 90 feet wide and 42 feet deep. The bridge over moat was the only way to get inside the castle. In case of siege bridge was raised. The outer walls of the castle included semi- circular towers, gates and a retaining wall. The inner system had higher walls (at 18 feet). For better defenses the gate through outer walls was not in line with the gates of the outer walls to make it hard on the attackers. The last resort was the keep, a large tower that offered last sanctuary for defenders.