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Apollonia (Tel Arsuf)

Apollonia National Park, or Tel Arsuf, is the ruins ancient city located on a cliff overlooking the sea in Herzliya a short drive from Tel Aviv.

The city was created by the Phoenicians who called it Arshuf, after their god Reshef. Here, they produced purple dye and traded with the countries.

During the Hellenistic period, the Greeks identified Resheph with Apollo, and so they called it Apollonia.

In the Roman period the city grew and developed, as evidenced by the villa discovered in the south of the site.

It was during this time that the city grew in size and importance, and a harbor was constructed.

During the Byzantine period, Apollonia – then called Sozousa – reached the peak of its prosperity and was the urban center of the entire region.

The city had facilities for processing agricultural produce, an extensive glass industry, and an active port.

Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE its name was changed to Arsuf, it was surrounded by a wall, and in the center, a market street was built.

The city was taken by the Crusaders who built a fortress in the north and it became a Crusader stronghold.

It had a gate with semicircular towers on either side and large halls around an open courtyard.

The fortress had three sets of walls, surrounded by a broad moat, and a protected harbor was built on the breakwaters at the foot of the cliff.

In 1265 the city was recaptured by the Muslims. The city was razed to the ground and never inhabited again.

Archaeological research identifying the remains of the city in the 1800s when there was an archaeological survey of the land of Israel.

In 1942 a British police station was established at the site≥ It was equipped with radar, to prevent clandestine immigration ships from reaching the shore.

With the establishment of the state, the Naval Command was briefly housed there and as of 1977, Tel Aviv University has carried out excavations at the site.

The Apollonia National Park was built to integrate naturally with the site’s ancient ruins and natural landscape and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hiking trails have been added as well.

What to See

The Moat

The southern side of the city moat was excavated helping to estimate the size and strength of the city in Crusader times.

The moat can clearly be seen to continue beyond the excavated area, and it is about 4.5 m deep.

The Roman Seaside Villa

The Roman villa overlooking the sea, is dated to the 1st century CE, and was destroyed in an earthquake in 118 CE.

The Crusader fortress

The construction of the fortress is dated to 1241, and its destruction to 1265, when the city was captured by the Mamelukes.

The fortress building was influenced by similar fortresses in southern England, and is evidence that the architect was European.

The fortress has three systems of fortification: a wide and deep moat, a first wall (the external fortification array), and a second wall and donjon (keep).

The fortress was built by Balian of Ibelin, Lord of Arsur. However in 1261, at the start of Baibars’ campaign to the land of Israel, it and the entire city of Apollonia handed over to the Hospitaller Knights.

Baibars besieged the city for 30 days, and the fortress for another three days. At the foot of the fortress is a small sea anchorage at which boats could tie up.

The coastal path

From the point where it splits off, the path descends towards the Roman villa, and then follows the route of the city wall.

The trail rejoins the upper trail at the Tamarisk tree compound.

The glass furnace

The glass furnace at the entrance to the park was in use in the Byzantine period (6th century CE).

So far 12 furnaces have been found around Apollonia, and it seems that the glass industry was an essential part of the city’s economy.

By firing at a particularly high temperature (1,100°C) in the glass furnace, the raw material, mainly the silica found in beach sand, was turned into a sheet of raw glass, 50 cm thick.

After firing, the glass sheet and the furnace were dismantled, and so the furnace was used for only one firing.

From the quantity of potsherds found near the furnaces, it is likely that they were used a number of times for making pottery vessels before glass was fired in them, after which they were abandoned and a new furnace was made.

Sidna Ali Mosque

Sidna Ali mosque was built in 1481. The mosque is in use today, and entry is permitted only in modest dress.

Visit Apollonia

While you it is possible reach the park by bus, it is easiest to reach by car.

For visiting hours and entrance fees see the Apollonia National Park webpage.

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