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Caesarea

Caesarea

Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea Palaestina from 133 AD) was found by king Herod the Great in 25 BC. It became one of the most important harbors in the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

 

Location: Map

Open: 8am- 4pm daily

Info: (04) 617 4444/6550

Caesarea Museum

Kibbutz Sdot Yam

Tel. (04) 636 4367

Open: daily

 

Underwater Archeological Park

Caesarea Harbour

Tel. (04) 626 5898

Open: 6am- dark daily

 

 

 

Description of Caesarea

 

Caesarea lies abandoned today on the shore of the Mediterranean near Tel Aviv, but at the heyday Caesarea had its own aqueduct, hippodrome, theatre, palace and other beautiful structures indicating previous prosperity. Most of the ancient ruins are protected by Caesarea National Park.

 

Ancient Caesarea was constructed by the personal orders of Herod the Great of Judea. He named new harbor after Roman Emperor or Caesar Octavian Augustus who de facto ruled ofer Judea. However first settlement was found much sooner. Phoenicians conquered these lands in the 4th century BC. Over time it was used by Jews, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and later Crusaders, Arabs and Mamluks. Every nation and empire needed this strategic harbor to control trade routes between Middle East and all of Mediterranean Sea. Some of the most prominent people that passed through Caesarea including Pontius Pilate, Apostle Paul, Rabbi Akiva, Syrian king Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.

 

Today Caesarea is protected by Caesarea National park that encompasses a large area on land and part of the sea. Due to sea level rise, some of the historical layers are now hidden under the waves of Mediterranean. As you enter archaeological site you encounter Street of Statues. It exhibits ancient Roman statues of gods and rulers. Many of them are missing heads and arms. One might assume it was done by the ancient vandals (hooligans, not the tribe of vandals). However these parts were intended to be removable. Ancient Roman empire saw great deal of turmoil and power struggle. New emperor came so soon that the sculptures couldn't always catch up with political changes. Instead of creating a new statue of a new emperor, they would simply exchange old head for a new one.

Travel Destinations in Caesarea

Caesarea Harbor

 

In the Ancient times this was one of the largest trading centers largely due to ingenious constructions of its harbor. Without natural barriers that could protect the ships it used cement with volcanic ash to build wave breakers. That made this cement unique is the fact that it could solidify while being in the water. The remains of the harbor is clearly visible from above. This invention allowed Caesarea to become one of the most important ports in the region. In fact this was the official residence of Roman prefects or officials. Among them was a famous Pontius Pilatus who sent Jesus Christ to death as it is described in the Gospels of the New Testament.

 

 

Caesarea City Walls

 

Best preserved city walls of Caesarea National Park belong to the medieval period. When Crusaders came to the region in the 12th century the city was mostly abandoned and in ruins. Due to European Christian occupation of the region Crusaders constructed new ring of defensive walls around 1250's around Herod's Harbor that was still usable at the time period. However most of ruins of the ancient city were left outside of Crusaders City walls. Today they serve as the entrance to the nucleus of Herod's gem.

In addition to medieval Crusaders city walls from the 13th century Caesarea had a ring of original Herod's Walls and later Byzantine City Walls that mark furthest extend of the ancient city.

Caesarea Theatre

 

Theater of Caesarea was an unusual sight for Jews that lived in the area, but their king intended his subjects to civilize, which at the time meant become more like Greeks and Romans. At its heyday it housed over 4000 residents. Today theater was restored to its original appearance. Thanks to the excellent acoustics Cesarea Theater hold musical concerts and performances that held here annually.

Herod's palace

 

Another notable structure of Caesarea is Herod's Palace in the South part of the archaeological park. Due to water erosion and heavy use as a quarry site by subsequent generations much of the original structure is gone, however its base gives an idea of the original appearance of this magnificent palace. In the ancient times the palace faced the sea perched in the corner of the ancient city.

Caesarea Hippodrome

Hippodrome lies in the Eastern part of the city close to Byzantine defensive walls. In addition to chariot races Caesarea Hippodrome was also used for gladiator fights. Its walls are decorated with frescoes depicting the fights with animals.

Pontius Pilatus Stone

 

Archeological digs in Caesarea yielded one of the most interesting finds in Holy Land. It is a small marble stone with the inscription in Latin. Second line of the writings mentioned "Pontius Pilatus" the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judea from 26 to 36 AD during reign of Emperor Tiberius. He best known as a judge that presided on the trial of Jesus Christ which resulted in his crucifixion.

His rule came to an end in 36AD as a result of political and religious instability. Josephus Flavius in his Antiquities of the Jews (18.4.2) described a large group of Samaritans that was convinced by some unknown and un- named self- named prophet to go to Mount Gerizim to find sacred artifacts Moses have left there. The group of pilgrims was routed at the village of Tirathana at the base of the mountain. "A detachment of cavalry and heavy-armed infantry, who in an encounter with the firstcomers in the village [Tirathana] slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential".

Vitellius, Roman governor of Syria, heard about the mass murder and dismissed Pilate from his post in Caesarea. Furthermore he sent him to Rome to Emperor Tiberius to face his own trial, but fortunately for Pontius Pilate Tiberius died in 37AD.  Pontius Pilate escaped execution, but his political career never recovered after that.

City Aqueduct

City Aqueduct was constructed at the Herod's time at the time Caesarea was found. Its spectacular ruins are visible in the North par of the Archaeological park. The settlement was envisioned to be large from the start so it needed large amounts of water on daily basis. Engineers and workers from the Roman Empire came to Judea and built a large water delivery system that extended for 17 km (11 miles). Aqueduct carried water from the foothills of Mount Carmel to Caesarea.

 

Byzantine Baths

Hygiene was an important part of the ancient Roman Empire and this didn't change much in an era of Byzantine Empire. Its floors are covered by beautiful mosaics indicating an importance of this place in lives of residents of Caesarea.

 

 

 

 

 

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