The ruins of Caesarea Maritima
|Builder||Herod the Great|
|Periods||Roman Empire to High Middle Ages|
|Cultures||Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Crusader|
|Management||Israel Nature and Parks Authority|
|Website||Caesarea National Park|
Caesarea Maritima (Greek: Parálios Kaisáreia, Παράλιος Καισάρεια) was one of four Roman colonies for veterans in the Syria-Phoenicia region created by the Roman Empire. The ancient Caesarea Maritima (or Caesarea Palestinae) city and harbor was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BC. The city had been populated through the late Roman and Byzantine era. Its ruins lie on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, about halfway between the cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, on the site of Pyrgos Stratonos ("Straton's Tower").
Caesarea Maritima was named in honor of Augustus Caesar. The city was described in detail by the 1st-century Roman Jewish historian Josephus. The city became the seat of the Roman prefect soon after its foundation. Caesarea was the "administrative capital" beginning in 6 AD. This city is the location of the 1961 discovery of the Pilate Stone, the only archaeological item that mentions the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, by whose order Jesus was crucified. According to Flavius Josephus, Caesarea was the scene in 26 CE/AD of a major act of civil disobedience to protest Pilate's order to plant eagle standards on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem. 
The emperor Vespasian raised its status to that of a Colonia, with the name Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Caesarea was the provincial capital of the Judaea Province, before the change of name to Syria Palaestina in 134 AD, shortly before the Bar Kokhba revolt. In Byzantine times, Caesarea remained the capital, with brief interruption of Persian and Jewish conquest between 614 and 625. In the 630s, Arab Muslim armies had taken control of the region, keeping Caesarea as its administrative center. In the early 8th century, the Umayyad caliph Suleiman transferred the seat of government of the Jund Filastin from Caesarea to Ramla.
Herod built his palace on a promontory jutting out into the sea, with a decorative pool surrounded by stoas. In the year 6 BC, Caesarea became the civilian and military capital of Iudaea Province and the official residence of the Roman procurators and governors, Pontius Pilatus, praefectus and Antonius Felix.
In the year 30 BCE the (Phoenician) village was awarded to Herod, who built a large port city at the site, and called it "Caesarea" in honor of his patron Octavian Augustus Caesar....The city transformed rapidly into a great commercial center, and by the year 6 BCE became the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine. Since Caesarea had no rivers or springs, drinking water for the prospering Roman and Byzantine city was brought via a unique high-level aqueduct, originating at the nearby Shuni springs, some 7.5 km northeast of Caesarea....Caesarea served as a base for the Roman legions who quelled the Great Revolt that erupted in 66 BCE [sic], and it was here that their commanding general Vespasian was declared Caesar. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Caesarea became the most important city in the country: Pagans, Samaritans, Jews and Christians lived here in the third and fourth centuries CE.
Josephus describes the harbor as being as large as the one at Piraeus, the major harbor of Athens. Remains of the principal buildings erected by Herod and the medieval town are still visible today, including the city walls, the castle and a Crusader cathedral and church. Caesarea grew rapidly, becoming the largest city in Judea, with an estimated population of 125,000 over an urban area of 3.7 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi). In 66, the desecration of the local synagogue led to the disastrous Jewish revolt.
This city is the location of the 1961 discovery of the Pilate Stone, the only archaeological item that mentions the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, by whose order Jesus was crucified. It is likely that Pilate used it as a base, and only went to Jerusalem when needed.
In 69, Vespasian declared it a colony and renamed it Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea. In 70, after the Jewish revolt was suppressed, games were held here to celebrate the victory of Titus. Many Jewish captives were brought to Caesarea Maritima and 2,500 were slaughtered in gladiatorial games.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, Caesarea was first introduced to Christianity by Philip the Deacon, who later had a house there in which he gave hospitality to Paul the Apostle. It was there that Peter the Apostle came and baptized Cornelius the Centurion and his household, the first time Christian baptism was conferred on Gentiles. Paul's first missionary journey. When newly converted Paul the Apostle was in danger in Jerusalem, the Christians there accompanied him to Caesarea and sent him off to his native Tarsus. He visited Caesarea between his second and third missionary journeys, and later, as mentioned, stayed several days there with Philip the Deacon. Later still, he was a prisoner there for two years before being sent to Rome.
As the capital of the province, Caesarea was also the metropolitan see, with ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Jerusalem, when rebuilt after the destruction in the year 70. In 451, however, the Council of Chalcedon established Jerusalem as a patriarchate, with Caesarea as the first of its three subordinate metropolitan sees.
The Apostolic Constitutions says that the first Bishop of Caesarea was Zacchaeus the Publican, followed by Cornelius (possibly Cornelius the Centurion) and Theophilus (possibly the address of the Gospel of Luke). The first bishops considered historically attested are those mentioned by the early church historian Eusebius of Caesarea, himself a bishop of the see in the 4th century. He speaks of a Theophilus who was bishop in the 10th year of Commodus (c. 189), of a Theoctistus (216–258), a short-lived Domnus and a Theotecnus, and an Agapius (?–306). Among the participants in the Synod of Ancyra in 314 was a bishop of Caesarea named Agricolaus, who may have been the immediate predecessor of Eusebius, who does not mention him, or who may have been bishop of a different Caesarea. The immediate successors of Eusebius were Acacius (340–366) and Gelasius of Caesarea (367–372, 380–395). The latter was ousted by the semi-Arian Euzoius between 373 and 379. Lequien gives much information about all of these and about later bishops of Caesarea.
Buildings from 6th century
The main church, an octagonal martyrion, was built in the 6th century and sited directly upon the podium that had supported a Roman temple, as was a widespread Christian practice. The Martyrion was richly paved and surrounded by small radiating enclosures. Archaeologists have recovered some foliate capitals that included representations of the Cross. The site, used by Herod for his pagan temple, then reconsecrated as a church, would in time be re-occupied, this time by a mosque.
An elaborate government structure contained a basilica with an apse, where magistrates would have sat, for the structure was used as a hall of justice, as fragments of inscriptions detailing the fees that court clerks might claim attest. A well-preserved 6th-century mosaic gold and colored glass table patterned with crosses and rosettes was found in 2005.
Through Origen and especially the scholarly presbyter Pamphilus of Caesarea, an avid collector of books of Scripture, the theological school of Caesarea won a reputation for having the most extensive ecclesiastical library of the time, containing more than 30,000 manuscripts: Gregory Nazianzus, Basil the Great, Jerome and others came to study there. The Caesarean text-type is recognized by scholars as one of the earliest New Testament types. The collections of the library suffered during the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian, but were repaired subsequently by bishops of Caesarea. It was noted in the 6th century, but Henry Barclay Swete was of the opinion that it probably did not long survive the capture of Caesarea by the Saracens in 638, though a modern historian would attribute more destruction to its previous capture by the Sassanid Persians (in 614).
Roman Sebastos harbor
When it was built in the 1st century BC, Sebastos Harbor ranked as the largest artificial harbor built in the open sea, enclosing around 100,000 m2. King Herod built the two jetties of the harbor between 22 and 15 BC, and in 10/9 BC he dedicated the city and harbor to Caesar (sebastos is Greek for Augustus). The pace of construction was impressive considering size and complexity. The breakwaters were made of lime and pozzolana, a type of volcanic ash, set into an underwater concrete. Herod imported over 24,000 m3 pozzolana from Pozzuoli, Italy, to construct the two breakwaters: the 500 meter long on the south and the 275 meter long on the north. A shipment of this size would have required at least 44 shiploads of 400 tons each. Herod also had 12,000 m3 of kurkar quarried to make rubble and 12,000 m3 of slaked lime mixed with the pozzolana.
Architects had to devise a way to lay the wooden forms for the placement of concrete underwater. One technique was to drive stakes into the ground to make a box and then fill it with pozzolana concrete bit by bit. However, this method required many divers to hammer the planks to the stakes underwater and large quantities of pozzolana were necessary. Another technique was a double planking method used in the northern breakwater. On land, carpenters would construct a box with beams and frames on the inside and a watertight, double-planked wall on the outside. This double wall was built with a 23 cm (9 in) gap between the inner and outer layer. Although the box had no bottom, it was buoyant enough to float out to sea because of the watertight space between the inner and outer walls. Once it was floated into position, pozzolana was poured into the gap between the walls and the box would sink into place on the seafloor and be staked down in the corners. The flooded inside area was then filled by divers bit by bit with pozzolana-lime mortar and kurkar rubble until it rose above sea level.
On the southern breakwater, barge construction was used. The southern side of Sebastos was much more exposed than the northern side, requiring sturdier breakwaters. Instead of using the double planked method filled with rubble, the architects sank barges filled with layers of pozzolana concrete and lime sand mortar. The barges were similar to boxes without lids, and were constructed using mortise and tenon joints, the same technique used in ancient boats, to ensure they remained watertight. The barges were ballasted with 0.5 meters of pozzolana concrete and floated out to their position. With alternating layers, pozzolana based and lime based concretes were hand placed inside the barge to sink it and fill it up to the surface.
At its height, Sebastos was one of the most impressive harbors of its time. It had been constructed on a coast that had no natural harbors and served as an important commercial harbor in antiquity, rivaling Cleopatra’s harbor at Alexandria. Josephus wrote: “Although the location was generally unfavorable, [Herod] contended with the difficulties so well that the solidity of the construction could not be overcome by the sea, and its beauty seemed finished off without impediment.” However, there were underlying problems that led to its demise. Studies of the concrete cores of the moles have shown that the concrete was much weaker than similar pozzolana hydraulic concrete used in ancient Italian ports. For unknown reasons, the pozzolana mortar did not adhere as well to the kurkar rubble as it did to other rubble types used in Italian harbors. Small but numerous holes in some of the cores also indicate that the lime was of poor quality and stripped out of the mixture by strong waves before it could set. Also, large lumps of lime were found in all five of the cores studied at Caesarea, which shows that the mixture was not mixed thoroughly. However, stability would not have been seriously affected if the harbor had not been constructed over a geological fault line that runs along the coast. Seismic action gradually took its toll on the breakwaters, causing them to tilt down and settle into the seabed. Also, studies of seabed deposits at Caesarea have shown that a tsunami struck the area sometime during the 1st or 2nd century CE. Although it is unknown if this tsunami simply damaged or completely destroyed the harbor, it is known that by the 6th century the harbor was unusable and today the jetties lie more than 5 meters underwater.
The Byzantine Empire declined in the 7th century and Caesarea was raided by the Sassanid Persians early in that century. Then, in 638, the city, still the capital of Byzantine Palestine and an important commercial and maritime center, was taken by the Muslims, allegedly through the betrayal of a certain Yusef, who conducted a party of troops of Muawiyah through a "secret tunnel", perhaps the extensive Byzantine sewers, into the city. The Persian historian al-Baladhuri, who offers the earliest Muslim account, merely states that the city was "reduced". The 7th-century Coptic bishop John of Nikiû, mentions "the horrors committed in the city of Caesarea in Palestine".
Under Arab rule, the city walls remained, but within them the population dwindled and agriculture crept in among the ruins. By the 9th century there was a substantial colony of Frankish settlers established by Emperor Charlemagne to facilitate Latin pilgrimages. When Baldwin I took the city in 1101/2, during the First Crusade, it was still very rich. A legend grew up that in this city was discovered the Holy Grail around which so much lore accrued in the next two centuries. The city was strongly refortified and rebuilt by the Crusaders. A lordship was created there, as was one of the four archbishoprics in the kingdom. A list of thirty-six Latin bishops, from 1101 to 1496 has been reassembled by 19th century historians; the most famous of these is probably Heraclius. Saladin retook the city in 1187; it was recaptured by the Crusaders in 1191, and finally lost by them in 1265, this time to the Mamluks, who ensured that there would be no more battling over the site—where the harbor has silted in anyway—by razing the fortifications, in line with their practice in other formerly-Crusader coastal cities. The Latin archbishopric of Caesarea in Palestina, no longer a residential bishopric, is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. The Orthodox Church of Antioch likewise consider Caesarea a titular see, to which Ignatius Samaan, Auxiliary Bishop in Venezuela of the Archdiocese of Mexico, was appointed in 2011. Since 1965, the holder of the titular see within the Melkite Catholic Church is Hilarion Capucci.
Archaeology and reconstruction
Archaeological excavations in the 1950s and 1960s uncovered remains from many periods, in particular, a complex of Crusader fortifications and a Roman theatre. Other buildings include a temple dedicated to Caesar; a hippodrome rebuilt in the 2nd century as a more conventional theater; the Tiberieum, which has a limestone block with a dedicatory inscription. This is the only archaeological find with an inscription mentioning the name "Pontius Pilatus"; a double aqueduct that brought water from springs at the foot of Mount Carmel; a boundary wall; and a 200 ft (60 m) wide moat protecting the harbour to the south and west. The harbor was the largest on the eastern Mediterranean coast. Work directed by Robert Bull of Drew University is still in the process of publication while more recent work in the harbor directed by Robert Hohlfelder *U of Colorado, John Oleson of the U of Victoria, and the late Avner Raban has been largely published. Caesarea has recently become the site of what bills itself as the world's first underwater museum, where 36 points of interest on four marked underwater trails through the ancient harbor can be explored by divers equipped with waterproof maps.
Since 2000 the site of Caesarea Maritima is included in the "Tentative List of World Heritage Places" of the UNESCO.
- Butcher, 2003, p. 230
- Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Cæsarea Palestinæ". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Raban and Holum, 1996, p. 54
- Jewish Antiquities XV.331ff; The Jewish War I.408ff
- A History of the Jewish People, H.H. Ben-Sasson editor, 1976, page 247: "When Judea was converted into a Roman province [in 6 CE, page 246], the Romans moved the governmental residence and military headquarters from Jerusalem to Caesarea.
- Reed, 2002, p. 18
- Antiquities of the Jews XVII:III:1,2,3. The Jewish War II:IX:3.
- Shimon Applebaum (1989) Judaea in Hellenistic and Roman Times: Historical and Archaeological Essays Brill Archive, ISBN 90-04-08821-0 p 123
- UNESCO tentative list:Caesarea
- name="George Menachery, 1987 in Kodungallur, City of St. Thomas, Azhikode, 1987 ChapterII note 19 quotes the National Geographic article: Robert L. Hohifelder, "Caesarea Maritima, Herod the Great’s City on the Sea". The National Geographic, 171/2, Feb., 1987, pp.260-279. 2000 years ago, Caesarea Maritima welcomed ships to its harbour called Sebastos. Featuring innovative design and hydraulic concrete, this building feat set a standard for harbours to come. A monumental work, city and harbour were constructed on an unstable storm-battered shore, at a site lacking a protective cape or bay. The project challenged Rome’s most skilled engineers. Hydraulic concrete blocks, some weighing 50 short tons (45 t) anchored the north breakwater of the artificial harbour...Caesarea Maritima, rival to Alexandria in the Eastern trade, a city worthy to be named for Herod’s patron, Caesar Augustus, master of the Roman world, in view of its opulence and magnificence.
- http://www.indianchristianity.com/html/Books12.htm accessed August 31, 2015
- http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/caesarea-history.htm accessed September 17, 2007
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- Acts 9:30
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- Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. III, coll. 529-574, 1285-1290]
- Unique glass mosaic unveiled after restoration in Caesarea
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- name="George Menachery, 1987 in Kodungallur, City of St. Thomas, Azhikode, 1987 quotes the National Geographic article: Robert L. Hohifelder, "Caesarea Maritima, Herod the Great’s City on the Sea". The National Geographic, 171/2, Feb., 1987, pp.260-279. 2000 years ago, Caesarea Maritima welcomed ships to its harbour called Sebastos. Featuring innovative design and hydraulic concrete, this building feat set a standard for harbours to come. A monumental work, city and harbour were constructed on an unstable storm-battered shore, at a site lacking a protective cape or bay. The project challenged Rome’s most skilled engineers. Hydraulic concrete blocks, some weighing 50 tons anchored the north breakwater of the artificial harbour...Caesarea Maritima, rival to Alexandria in the Eastern trade, a city worthy to be named for Herod’s patron, Caesar Augustus, master of the Roman world, in view of its opulence and magnificence.
- Hohfelder, R. 2007. “Constructing the Harbour of Caesarea Palaestina, Israel: New Evidence from ROMACONS Field Campaign of October 2005.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36:409-415
- Votruba, G. 2007. “Imported Building Materials of Sebastos Harbour, Israel.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36:325-335.
- Votruba, G., 2007, Imported building materials of Sebastos Harbour, Israel, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36: 325-335.
- Raban, A., 1992. Sebastos: the royal harbour at Caesarea Maritima - a short-lived giant, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 21: 111-124.
- Hohfelder, R. 2007. “Constructing the Harbour of Caesarea Palaestina, Israel: New Evidence from ROMACONS Field Campaign of October 2005.” International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 36:409-415.
- Brandon, C., 1996, Cements, Concrete, and Settling Barges at Sebastos: Comparisons with Other Roman Harbor Examples and the Descriptions of Vitruvius, Caesarea Maritima: A Retrospective after Two Millennia, 25-40.
- Holum, K. 1988. King Herod’s Dream: Caesarea on the Sea. New York: Norton.
- Reinhardt, E., Goodman, B., Boyce, J., Lopez, G., Hengstum, P., Rink, W., Mart, Y., Raban, A. 2006. “The Tsunami of 13 December A.D. 115 and the Destruction of Herod the Great’s Harbor at Caesarea Maritima, Israel.” Geology 34:1061-1064.
- Raban, A., 1992, Sebastos: the royal harbour at Caesarea Maritima - a short-lived giant, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 21: 111-124
- Meyers,1999, p. 380 ff
- The archaeological stratum representing the destruction is analyzed in the PhD dissertation of Cherie Joyce Lentzen, The Byzantine/Islamic Occupation of Caesarea Maritima as Evidenced Through the Pottery (Drew University 1983), noted by Meyer 1999:381 note 23.
- Al-Baladhuri, 1916, pp. 216-219
- Meyers, 1999, p 380
- Quoted in Meyers, 1999, p. 381
- Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 867
- Al-Baladhuri (1916). The origins of the Islamic state: being a translation from the Arabic, accompanied with annotations, geographic and historic notes of the Kitâb fitûh al-buldân of al-Imâm abu-l Abbâs Ahmad ibn-Jâbir al-Balâdhuri. Translator: Philip Khuri Hitti. New York: Columbia University.
- Butcher, Kevin (2003). Roman Syria and the Near East. Getty Publications. ISBN 08-92-36715-6.
- Inowlocki, Sabrina; Claudio Zamagni, eds. (2011). Reconsidering Eusebius: Collected papers on literary, historical, and theological issues. BRILL. ISBN 9004203850. (Vigiliae Christianae, Supplements, J. Patrich, p. 1).
- Lehmann, Clayton Miles; Holum, Kenneth G. (2002). The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Caesarea Maritima. University of Michigan. ISBN 0897570286.
- Meyers, Eric M. (1999). ""The Fall of Caesarea Maritima"". Galilee Through the Centuries. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 157506040X.
- Raban, Avner; Holum, Kenneth G. (1996). Caesarea Maritima: a retrospective after two millennia. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 90-04-10378-3.
- Reed, Jonathan L. (2002). Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: a re-examination of the evidence. A&C Black. ISBN 1-56338-394-2.
- Herod's Lost Tomb (2008; National Geographic Society), in addition to examining Netzer's purported find of Herod's tomb, Caesarea Maritima and most of Herod's other large projects are reconstructed in CGI.
- Media related to Caesarea Maritima at Wikimedia Commons
- Texts on Wikisource:
- Jewish Encyclopedia: Cæsarea by the Sea
- PBS Frontline – Caesarea Maritima
- Archaeology of Caesarea
- Photo gallery of Caesarea Maritima
- Photo gallery of Caesarea Maritima
- Gavriel Solomon, Caesarea National Park: Conservation Maintenance, Israel Antiquities Authority Site - Conservation Department