"Hippos" in Greek, "Sussita" in Aramaic, which means "Horse". These are the names of the ancient city in present-day Israel. It stands on top of the hill whose shape is like the horse's croup. The city is on the East bank of Lake Kinnereth.
The horses were also depicted on the local coins. Yet, the archaeologists didn't find any stables here. One explanation of the name is that the city was founded by the cavalrymen.
The city arose during the Hellenistic era in the 2d century BC. and lasted 900 years. Sussita was part of the Decapolis, the group of ten ancient cities, centers of Hellenistic culture. They were autonomous and had extended rights to self-government. Decapolis is mentioned in the New Testament. It is in the tale about the miracle of healing the possessed in the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
"As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed". Mark 5:18-20, New International Version
The residents of Hippos have seen four historical eras - Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Early Muslim. The city passed from hands to hands, the rulers constantly changed. But this didn't prevent the city's development. There were palaces and public baths, Pagan and later Christian temples, the Forum and even a two-tier fountain. Water arrived to the city by aqueducts. Eight meter throwing weapon was found in the excavations together with its ammunition. Roman historian Plinius noted the beauty of Hippos. The city is mentioned in Talmud too.
Hippos reached its peak in the Byzantine era. In its heyday, it is estimated that five to ten thousand people lived here. Beside this, merchants and pilgrims stopped in the city on their way to Nazareth and Jerusalem.
Initially the city was Pagan but in the 4th century it converted to Christianity and became a bishop's residence. The archaeologists discovered seven Christian churches built from the 4th to the 7th century. Some were built on the site of the former Pagan temples. The churches continued to be active after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century. The city existed till 749 when it was destroyed. This was not because of the war, but because of the earthquake. The city was never rebuilt. The stones of its walls and buildings were partially removed for construction in other places.
Today the excavations on the site of the ancient city continue. Some areas around it are still mined, making the access difficult for the tourists.