Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Site-Seeing: Nimrod: A Golan Fortress Fit for a Giant

By Jonathan Klawans

Biblical Archaeology Review

Nestled in the northern Golan between Tel Dan to the west and the Hermon Ski Resort to the east, there’s a site that is too often passed by: Nimrod Fortress, also known as Qal‘at al-Subayba (Fortress of the Cliff). Seasoned tourists tired of Crusader fortresses will find here something refreshingly different: an extensive Islamic fortress from those tumultuous times.

Built early in the 13th century by Saladin’s Syrian-based successors (the Ayyubids), the original purpose of the structure was to keep the Crusaders at bay. But along came the Mongols, who ravaged the fortress shortly before they themselves were decidedly defeated by the Egyptian-based Mamluks in the Battle of Ein Jalut (1260). It was the Mamluk Sultan Bay-bars (r. 1260–1277) and his officer Bilik who restored and expanded the fortress, reinforcing the external ramparts with alternating square and round towers.

In time, the Crusaders, Mongols, and Ayyubids were no longer a menace to the Mamluks. With the entire region under Mamluk control, the Golan ceased being a battleground. Used intermittently as a prison, the fortress eventually fell into disuse and disrepair, ravaged by time and earthquakes.

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