Hippos-Sussita: The High Horse of the Decapolis

Excavations shine light on Decapolis city


A fresco of the Greek goddess Tyche was preserved in a peristyle home in the Decapolis city of Hippos-Sussita. Photo: Hippos-Sussita Excavations Project.

Settled next to one of the major churches at the archaeological site of Hippos-Sussita is a large domestic structure that contains a peristyle court, fountain plaza and a blue-and-white geometric mosaic floor. Originally referred to as “the Peristyle House,” the building is now called the “House of Tyche” because the excavators uncovered a partially preserved fresco of the Greek goddess Tyche.

The ongoing excavations at Hippos-Sussita are discussed in “Archaeological High Horse” in the November/December 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The Hippos-Sussita Excavations Project, which will carry out its 16th season in the summer of 2015, aims to expose the entire ancient city located at the top of a diamond-shaped mountain 1,000 feet above the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The project was begun in 2000 under the direction of Arthur Segal and Michael Eisenberg (Segal retired from the excavation in 2012).

Established in 200 B.C. as Antiochia Hippos by the Seleucids, the city was renamed Sussita under the reign of Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus. The Greek name Hippos and the Aramaic name Sussita both mean “horse.” In the Roman period, Sussita was part of the Decapolis, a group of ten cities considered centers of Greek culture in northeastern Palestine.

The excavations at Hippos-Sussita have uncovered evidence of the earthquake that shook Galilee and nearby regions in 363 A.D. Read more in Bible History Daily >>

Some of the structures uncovered at Hippos-Sussita include a Hellenistic sanctuary, a forum, a small theater, Hellenistic and Roman temples, a standard main street called the decumanus maximus and several Christian churches erected in the Byzantine period.

High above the eastern shore of Galilee, the mountain reminded ancient people of a horse or a saddle, thus the name Hippos (“horse” in Greek) and Sussita (“horse” in Aramaic). Photo: Hippos-Sussita Excavations Project.

The fresco of Tyche and depictions of Tyche on several excavated coins offer a glimpse into the veneration of the goddess at Hippos-Sussita. Tyche was a popular deity during the Hellenistic period, likely due to her name: Meaning “luck” in Greek, Tyche was the personification of chance and good fortune. Cities often developed their own iconic versions of Tyche and mirrored the crown on her head after the walls around the city.

Learn more about the finds from Hippos-Sussita in “Archaeological High Horse” in the November/December 2014 issue of BAR.


BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Archaeological High Horse” in the November/December 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.

The Galilee is one of the most evocative locales in the New Testament—the area where Jesus was raised and where many of the Apostles came from. Our free eBook The Galilee Jesus Knew focuses on several aspects of Galilee: how Jewish the area was in Jesus’ time, the ports and the fishing industry that were so central to the region, and several sites where Jesus likely stayed and preached.

Read more about the excavations at Hippos-Sussita in the BAS Library:

Vassilios Tzaferis, “Sussita Awaits the Spade,” Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1990.

Arthur Segal and Michael Eisenberg, “The Spade Hits Sussita,” Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2006.

Michael Eisenberg, “Archaeological Views: What’s Luck Got to Do with It?” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2010.

Arthur Segal and Michael Eisenberg, “Hercules in Galilee,” Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2011.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.


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  • Eric says

    And your point is what?

  • Kurt says

    Tyche (Greek: luck) is the Greek goddess of chance or fortune. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Fortuna. Personifications of Tyche are unclear in the preSocratic period, but the abstract idea of Tyche is found throughout ancient literature.
    Her imprint appears on ancient Hellenistic coins about three centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.
    Tyche is often described as one of the Fates or as a daughter of Zeus. Temples for Tyche were, for the most part, built around cities. They offered protection or good luck. Alternately, Tyche was often blamed for natural disasters like floods, frost and drought. Even political misfortunes could be attributed to Tyche.
    One source says she’s an Oceanid, one of a group of 3,000 nymphs who are daughters of Oceanus, the oldest of the Titans. In art she’s sometimes depicted as blind but her influence goes further than that.(Wikipedia)
    In medieval times
    she was depicted as carrying a cornucopia, an emblematic ship’s rudder, and the wheel of fortune, or she may stand on the wheel, presiding over the entire circle of fate. In the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara, Tyche became closely associated with the Buddhist ogress Hariti.
    GODS (Goddesses)Greece (ancient):http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200272442

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