Arsuf, also known as Apollonia, contains the remains of an ancient settlement on the Israeli coast that has stood for over 1,000 years. Arsuf is best known for the remains of a once-mighty Crusader castle which was once home to the Knights Hospitaller, but the site also contains remnants from the many other civilisations that have occupied the area.
Founded by the Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, Arsuf was occupied by the Persians, Seleucid Greeks (from where it gained the name Apollonia), Romans, Byzantines, Muslims and finally the Crusaders who captured the town in 1101AD. In 1191AD Richard the Lionheart defeated Saladin here in the Battle of Arsuf.
The area was fought over throughout the Crusader period and, from 1261AD the fortress of Arsuf was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. However, just four years later the Mamluk Sultan Baibars captured the fortress after a 40-day siege. His forces destroyed the town and the site was abandoned.
Today, Arsuf has been excavated and is now Apollonia National Park. Visitors can see the remains of the Crusader fortress, including evidence from the final battle. The clifftop setting and impressive defensive moat bring to life the scale and drama of the once-mighty castle. Also on show are the remains of a Roman villa, which highlights the diverse nature of the settlement at Arsuf.
Visitors can wander through the remnants of Crusader chambers and the site contains useful information on the various areas of the ruins. The site itself takes only about an hour to view, and contains some pleasant coastal and tranquil walkways.
During the holidays, events are often held here for children and the site can make for a good family day out. Purists be warned, those core historians seeking to explore the atmosphere of the ancient ruins should check ahead to avoid these events, as the site can be overrun with children dressed as pirates!
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