Set on a rock plateau above the Sea of Galilee, Sussita (known also as “Hippos Sussita”) was a major city in Roman and Byzantine times. It was first settled in the Hellenistic period, yet in the Roman period it became a member of a treaty of ten Romanized cities called the “Decapolis”. In 2019, “The Watchman” representative Raj Nair and I reviewed the site, and especially its links to the Christianity.
Sussita and the New Testament
Sussita is not mentioned by name in the New Testament, but it was a member of the “Decapolis” league. The “Deca-polis” (Greek for “Ten-Cities”) was a political treaty of ten cities, all pagan, that were developed and supported by the Romans. Accordingly, Sussita a sophisticated water system, a grid of street around a main street (“Decumanos“), bath house, a theatre, and more. Sussita continued to thrive in Christian times, and at least four churches were erected in the city in the Byzantine period.
Sussita may have been referred to by Jesus during the “Sermon in the Mount”. Preaching on a hill somewhere near Capernaum, among others Jesus stated, “A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Mathew 4:15).
It is possible that he pointed to Sussita, which is perched on a hilltop, to demonstrate this statement.
Furthermore, at another even Jesus cured a person who was possessed by demons. He casted them into swine which ran in madness into the waters of the Sea of Galilee, drowned.
Since swine herders are also mentioned in the story (Mat 8:33), it had to take place in the non- Jewish around the Sea of Galilee. Indeed, the site of the Swine miracle is identified at Kursi, which is right next to Sussita. If so, perhaps Sussita is “the city” where the swine herders reported on the event (same).
Sussita is been excavated for more then 20 years by an expedition from Haifa University. Until 1967 it was at the border with Syria, and to this day sign along the path to the site warn you of mines. The road leading the its eastern entry is not officially open, but people use it anyway. Especially in the spring months a visit to the site is a worth every effort. Carpets of blossoming flowers are bloom in and around the site. And the view of the Sea of Galilee is simply breathtaking.
PS. While editing this post, I ran across a photo that reminded me I was already once before at Sussita with a TV production!. Back in 2009 (I think) I brought “The Naked Archaeologist”, Simcah Jacobici, to the site. Unfortunately the Chapter is not available on Youtube or Vimeo, but it can be watched for a pay on certain websites.