The town was settled by Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, and named Arshuf after Resheph, the Canaanite god of fertility and the underworld. It was then a part of the Persian Empire and governed from Sidon. Phoenicians of Arshuf produced precious purple dye, derived from murex mollusks, which they exported to the Aegean.
During the Hellenistic period it was an anchorage town, ruled by Seleucids and re-named Apollonia, as the Greeks identified Reshef with Apollo. Later, the Coastal plain, including Apollonia, was captured by the Hashmoneans. The historian Josephus flavius mentions Apollonia as one of the coastal cities ruled by Hashmonean King Alexander Jannaeus.
Under Roman rule, the size of the town increased. It was an important settlement between Jaffa and Caesarea along Via Maris, the coastal road. In 113 AD, Apollonia was destroyed partially by an earthquake, but recovered quickly. The harbor was built, and trade with Italy and North Africa developed.
The Roman Villa
During the Byzantine period, the town extended to cover an area of 70 acres. In the 5th and 6th century AD it was the second largest city in Sharon valley, after Caesarea, populated by Christian and Samaritans, having an elaborate church and a prosperous glass industry.
Byzantine Water Reservoirs
A rock-cut cistern to collect rainwater, above which a barrel arch was constructed.
Pool , a stones lined pool to collect water.
In 640 AD, the town was captured by Muslims, and the Semitic name Arsuf was restored. The town’s area decreased to about 22 acres and, for the first time, it was surrounded by a fortified wall with buttresses, to resist the constant attacks of Byzantine fleets from the sea. Large marketplaces appeared, and pottery production developed. In 809 AD, following the death of Harun al-Rashid, the local Samaritan community was destroyed and their synagogue ruined.
In 1101 Arsuf fell to a Crusader army led by Baldwin I of Jerusalem. The Crusaders, who called it Arsur, rebuilt the city’s walls and created the Lordship of Arsur in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1187 Arsuf was captured by the Muslims, but fell again to the Crusaders on September 7, 1191 after a battle between Richard I of England and Saladin.
The Crusader’s Fortress
The Moat and remains of the Crusader bridge
The Inner Gate of the Fortress
The Crusader’s Port
The Moat sourrounding the Crusader City
In 1265 sultan Baibars, ruler of the Mamluks, captured Arsur, after 40 days of siege. The Mamluks razed the city walls and the fortress to their foundations, fearing a return of the Crusaders. The destruction was so complete that the site has not been resettled since.
An Ottoman Lime-Kiln
The view from the fortress