One of the most special and least known Crusader fortresses in Israel – The story of Apollonia–Arsuf

One of the most special and least known Crusader fortresses in Israel – The story of Apollonia–Arsuf

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Apollonia known in the Early Islamic period as Arsuf and in the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem as Arsur, was an ancient city on the Mediterranean coast of what is today Israel. In Israeli archaeology it is known as Tel Arshaf (תֵּל אַרְשָׁף). Founded by the Phoenicians during the Persian period in the late sixth century BCE, it was inhabited continuously until the Crusader period, through the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, during the latter being renamed to Sozusa (Σώζουσα, or Sozusa in Palaestina to differentiate it from Sozusa in Libya). It was situated on a sandy area ending towards the sea with a cliff, about 34 kilometers (21 mi) south of Caesarea.

It fell to the Muslims in 640, was fortified against Byzantine attacks and became known as Arsuf. In 1101 it was conquered by the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and was a strategically important stronghold in the Third Crusade, during which the Battle of Arsuf (1191) was fought nearby. The fortified city and the castle fell to the Mamluks in 1265, when both were completely destroyed.

The site of Arsuf is now in Herzliya municipality, Israel (just north of Tel Aviv). The site was intensively excavated from 1994. In 2002 Apollonia National Park was opened to the public.

Crusader to Mamluk period
Godfrey de Bouillon attempted to capture it, but failed for want of ships (William of Tyre, IX, x). King Baldwin I took it in 1102, after a siege by land and sea, allowing the inhabitants to withdraw to Ascalon. The Crusaders, who called it Arsur, rebuilt the city’s walls and created the Lordship of Arsur in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1187 Arsuf was recaptured by the Muslims, but fell again to the Crusaders on 7 September 1191 after the Battle of Arsuf, fought between the forces of Richard I of England and Saladin.

John of Ibelin, Lord of Beirut became Lord of Arsuf in 1207 when he married Melisende of Arsuf. Their son John of Arsuf (d. 1258) inherited the title. The title then passed to John of Arsuf’s eldest son Balian of Arsuf (d. 1277). He built new walls, the large castle and new harbor in 1241. In 1251 Louis IX of France re-erected its ramparts. From 1261, the city was ruled by the Knights Hospitaller.[16]

In 1225, Yakut wrote: “Arsuf remained in Muslim hands till taken by Kund Furi [Godfrey of Bouillon], lord of Jerusalem, in the year 494 [ AH 494, i.e. 1101 CE], and it is in the hand of the Franks [Crusaders] at the present day.”

In 1265, sultan Baibars, ruler of the Mamluks, captured Arsuf after 40 days of siege, after almost getting killed in the moat by a sortie of the defenders. The inhabitants were killed or sold as slaves and the town completely razed. The destruction was so complete that the site was abandoned and never regained its urban character – in the 14th century the geographer Abulfeda said it contained no inhabitants (“Tabula Syriæ”, 82).

Zahi Shaked A tour guide in Israel and his camera [email protected] +972-54-6905522 tel סיור עם מורה הדרך ומדריך הטיולים צחי שקד 0546905522
My name is Zahi Shaked
In 2000 I became a registered licensed tourist guide.
My dedication in life is to pass on the ancient history of the Holy Land.

Following upon many years of travel around the world, which was highlighted by a very exciting emotional and soul-searching meeting with the Dalai Lama, I realized that I had a mission. To pass on the history of the Holy Land, its religions, and in particular, the birth and development of Christianity.

In order to fulfill this “calling” in the best way possible, I studied in depth, visited, and personally experienced each and every important site of the ancient Christians. I studied for and received my first bachelors degree in the ancient history of the Holy Land, and am presently completing my studies for my second degree.(Masters)

Parralel to my studies, and in order to earn a living, I was employed for many years in advertising. What I learned there was how to attract the publics attention, generate and, increase interest, and assimilate information. All this I use as tools to describe, explain and deepen the interest in the sites that we visit. From my experience, I have learned that in this way, the Holy Land becomes more than just history, and that the large stones that we see scattered about in dissaray, join together one by one until they become – a Byzantine Church. This also happens when I lead a group of Pilgrims in the Steps of Jesus.