Caesarea History: Caesarea Old and New

| September 27, 2012 | 0 Comments
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Deror Avi  CC BY 3.0 Caesaria Roman Theater

Deror Avi  CC BY 3.0
Caesaria Roman Theater

History of Caesarea

Caesarea today is an area of fascinating extremes with two sections both well worth visiting. One section is ancient Caesarea, with the National Antiquities Park and the remains of the Roman city and port. Alongside this is the newly built multi-media tourism project which helps you understand what went on in the city at the height of its ancient glory and how it actually looked. The other side of Caesarea is the magnificent 21st century luxury town with beautiful homes, hotels, an art museum, and the country’s only 18-hole golf course.

Caesarea’s fame started in 63 BCE when the small, insignificant Jewish town called Straton’s Tower was captured by the Romans and handed over to Herod the Great in 37 BCE. He renamed the city Caesarea in honor of his patron, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus.

Ancient Caesarea: Roman Theater

Herod then set about building a large deep sea harbor, temples to Caesar, wide roads, markets, public baths and all the other imposing edifices and conveniences that typify a Roman town. He also built a Roman theater for gladiator fights and a hippodrome for horse racing. Sports competitions similar to those held in Rome were held there regularly.

Caesarea Excavations: Roman Aqueducts

By the time Herod had finished his grandiose building, the town was a magnificent port and became the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine in 6 BCE.

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved Excavated Hippodrome

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved
Excavated Hippodrome

Such a large, bustling city with a growing population needed a constant water supply and so the high aqueduct which has come to symbolize Caesarea, was built, to bring water from the Shuni springs. A further supply was delivered underground in Roman aqueducts from the area of Mei Kedem.

In the Byzantine period, the city continued to grow in size and flourish with a mixed population of Jews, Christians, Pagans and Samaritans. By the end of the 6th century, when a large perimeter wall was built it became the largest fortified city in the country.

Later in the history of Caesarea, after the Arab conquest of the country in the 7th century CE, Caesarea’s importance dwindled drastically; most of the population left the city and it disintegrated into a forsaken village.

The Crusaders were the next ones to conquer the city in the 11th century. During their reign the city was refortified and brought back to some of its former glory. However it was destroyed again by the Marmelukes in the 13th – 15th centuries. It lay desolate until the end of the 19th century when the Ottomans renovated the Crusader fortress to use it as an administrative center.

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved Moat Around the Town

Ann Goldberg®  All Rights Reserved
Moat Around the Town

Caesarea Israel History

The nearest Jewish settlement was Sdot Yam which was founded in 1940 and which still houses, in their museum, many of the ancient artifacts which were discovered in Caesarea both above ground and underwater in the ancient harbor.

Since the founding of the State of Israel much of the new development of Caesarea was enabled through the help of the Rothschild family and by the establishment of the Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Development Corporation Ltd.

Caesarea History: Did You Know?

What was excavated in Caesarea, and can be seen today is a Roman theater and not, as is often mistakenly  thought, an amphitheater. An amphitheater is  circular with the stage in the center. The half-moon shaped construction with the stage on the straight side is a theater.

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Category: Caesarea, Historical

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