Caesarea Maritima

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Caesarea Maritima, formerly Strato's Tower, also known as Caesarea Palestinae as an ancient city in the Sharon Plain on the coast of the Mediterranean, now in ruins. The ancient city is known as Qēsarya (قيسارية) in Arabic. The ruins of the ancient city, on the coast about 2 kilometers south of modern Caesarea, were excavated in the 1950s and 1960s CE and the site was incorporated into the new Caesarea National Park in 2011 CE.


The name Caesarea (Καισάρεια) was adopted into Arabic as Qaysaria قيسارية‎. The location was all but abandoned in 1800. It was re-developed into a fishing village by Bosniak immigrants after 1884, and into a modern town after 1940, incorporated in 1977 as the municipality of Caesarea (Hebrew Kesariya קיסריה‎) within Israel's Haifa District, about halfway between the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Brief History


Caesarea is built on the ruins of Stratonospyrgos (Straton's Tower), founded by Straton I of Sidon, Straton's Tower remained a Jewish city for two generations, until the Roman conquest of 63 BCE when the Romans declared it an autonomous city.

The pagan city underwent vast changes under Herod the Great, who renamed it Caesarea in honor of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus. In 22 BCE, Herod began construction of a deep sea harbor and built storerooms, markets, wide roads, baths, temples to Rome and Augustus, and imposing public buildings The city hosted major sports competitions, gladiator games, and theatrical productions in its theatre overlooking the Mediterranian Sea.The city was chiefly a commercial centre relying on trade.

Apparently until the Crusader conquest in the eleventh century. In 1251 CE, Louis IX fortified the city. The French king ordered the construction of high walls and a deep moat. However strong the walls were, they could not keep out the sultan Baybars, who ordered his troops to scale the walls in several places simultaneously, enabling them to penetrate the city.

Notable Structures


The only remnants left from the Roman era theatre of Caesarea are the rows of seats, the orchestra, the stage and the scena-frons which is an ornamental wall behind the stage. Comparisons show that it might have resembled the facade of a two or three-story building with elegant doorways decorated with columns, niches and sculptures.


The nymphaeum at Caesarea Maritima was the public fountain that stood at the center of ancient city, as one of the main monuments. It was situated where the main street meets the Herodian port. The nymphaeum had a decorative function, provided drinking water and was also a place where residents of Caesarea and its visitors could congregate.

The structure consists of a monumental wall. Marble statues were incorporated in its facade and a pool and fountains are located at the foot of it. In the Herodian period the nymphaeum was integrated in the north-western corner of the temple's bema - a large and magnificently built platform upon which the main temple stood in the Roman period and the Byzantine church afterwards. The pool went out of use in the Byzantine period and was replaced by another building, and paved road was constructed in front of it.


Governor's Palace Baths
The bathhouse is the only important remains of the private wing of the Byzantine Governor’s Palace, almost entirely destroyed by the construction of medieval fortifications.


The hippodrome of Caesarea was the epicenter of this Rome-away-from-Rome. Built in the 2nd century CE for chariot racing, this hippodrome was 450 meters long and 90 meters wide, and could seat some 30,000 spectators. Columns originally set on the wall running along the middle of the race track (spina) were unearthed in the arena, as well as a 27 meters high porphyry obelisk.


The Herodian aqueduct of Caesarea Maritima, also known as the high-level aqueduct I, can be seen on the beach of Caesarea, north of the ancient city. When Hadrian visited Caesarea in AD 130 on his grand tour of the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the growth of the city required additional water. Hadrian then commissioned extensive repairs and a new aqueduct to be built. This new section (known as the high-level aqueduct II) was added to the right of the first canal and doubled its capacity. These twin parallel aqueducts continued to supply water for 1200 years.


Crusader Fortifications
The mid 13th-century CE fortifications of Caesarea, as rebuilt by the Crusading King Louis IX of France, are the most complete examples of unaltered Crusader urban defences in the Middle East. These Crusader-era fortifications on the Palestinian coast are possibly the best-preserved Crusader urban defences, largely because this site was abandoned for centuries after it had been retaken by the Mamluks.

The original height of this mid-13th-century wall is unknown, but in several places there were casemated arrow slits with sloping sills; the whole being fronted by a talus rising 8m from the base of a dry ditch 7-8m wide and 4-6m deep. The vertical counterscarp remains, along with 14 projecting towers. One tower on each of the landward sides of Caesarea had a bent entrance. The ruins of a castle were found on the southern harbour mole, consisting of a keep behind a wall with rectangular towers fronted by a sea-level rock-cut moat.

Notable Artifacts


Pilate Stone
The Pilate Stone or the Pilate Inscription Stone, now housed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was the first archaeological find in Judea that mentioned Pontius Pilate, the Roman official who ordered the killing of Jesus, according to the Gospel. It was carved in Latin and embedded in a section of steps leading to Caesarea’s Theater. The “Pilate Stone” is historically significant because it dates to Pilate’s own lifetime. The inscription suggests that the stone was originally placed at the entrance to a temple erected by Pilate, in honor of Emperor Tiberius.

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