Hippos, also known as Susita, is an ancient city in the Golan Heights that flourished between the 3rd century BC and the 7th century AD. It sits on a mountaintop that overlooks the Sea of Galilee and resembles a horse; this is why it it called Hippos or Susita, which mean “horse” in Greek and Aramaic. This site is relevant to the history of Christianity since it is a candidate for one of Yeshua’s healings and because of the eight ancient churches found onsite. Let’s take a look at the details.
The mountain Hippos sits on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, near the modern Kibbutz of Ein-Gev. It is roughly 350 meters (1,150 ft) above the Sea of Galilee and about 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) from the shore.
During Yeshua’s life time, Hippos was a part of the Decapolis—a term referred to in the New Testament that describes a group of ten important Greco-Roman cities. Yeshua entered cities in the Decapolis a handful of times and preformed miracles in them among the Gentiles.
Hippos is the in the shape of an elongated oval that stretches east to west. The city is encompassed by a rock wall that has two gates, one on the east and one on the west; a long main street runs through its center connecting the gates. During the Byzantine period, there was a total of eight churches in use, including a large cathedral and baptistry. Ruins of these churches can be seen onsite today.
In 749 AD, a major earthquake devastated the city, causing the surviving inhabitants to abandon it. Evidence of the earthquake is seen in the fact that the pillars onsite have all fallen in the same direction.
Yeshua in the Region
The synoptic gospels record that Yeshua healed a man possessed by demons by casting them into a herd of swine (Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, and Luke 8:26-39). The demons then caused the heard of swine to run down a steep bank into the Sea of Galilee and drown. Hippos is a traditional location for this event due to the steep slope from the city to the sea.