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Caesarea

Caesarea is located on the Israeli Mediterranean Coastal Plain, the historic land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa approximately half-way between the major cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Caesarea is the city that Herod the Great dedicated to Caesar Augustus more than 2,000 years ago. It was originally called Straton's Tower after its founder Straton, who is believed to have been a ruler of Sidon in the 4th century BCE.

In 96 BCE the city was captured by Alexander Yannai and remained in the Hasmonean kingdom until it became an autonomous city by Pompey. After being for some time in the possession of Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt, it was returned by Augustus to Herod.

Once the site of a Phoenician port, over the course of 12 years Herod built Caesarea into the grandest city other than Jerusalem in Palestine, with a deep sea harbor (called Sebastos, i.e., Augustus in Greek), aqueduct, hippodrome and magnificent amphitheater that remain standing today.

Herod renamed the city Caesarea in honor of the emperor. The population of Caesarea was half gentile and half Jewish, often causing disputes among the people. In 6 CE, Caesarea became the home of the Roman governors (Procurators) of Judea. The city remained the capital of Roman and Byzantine Palestine.

The Great Revolt of 66-70 CE started in Caesarea when the Jewish and Syrian communities began fighting over a pagan ceremony conducted on Shabbat near the entrance of a synagogue. The Romans ignored the Jewish protests of this provocation and violence soon spread throughout the country. When the Romans finally quelled the revolt, and razed Jerusalem, Caesarea became the capital of Palestine, a status it maintained until the Roman Empire was Christianized by the Emperor Constantine in 325 CE. Caesarea was also the site where the Romans tortured and executed Rabbi Akiva following the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE.

Caesarea is also an important site in Christian history. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. This was where Simon Peter converted the Roman, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Paul was also imprisoned for two years in Caesarea. During the 3rd century, Caesarea was a center of Christian learning. In the 4th century, the site converted to Christianity and became a major center of the Christian Roman Empire.

In 640 CE, Caesarea was the last Palestinian city to fall to the Muslim invaders. After the Muslims swept out of Arabia and across the Middle East, driving out the Romans, Palestine was largely neglected. In 1101, the Crusaders captured the city under the leadership of Baldwin I, only to lose it in 1187 to Saladin. Under the Crusader rule, the Jewish community of Caesaria dwindled until in 1170 only 20 Jews remained. From 1251-1252, the city was entirely reconstructed by the French king Louis IX. In 1265, Caesarea fell to Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, who destroyed the city, which remained in ruins until 1884. In 1884, a small fishing village was established on the remains at Caesarea by Muslim refugees from Bosnia. The city was abandoned by its inhabitants during the War of Independence (1948).


IN: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Caesarea.html

ISO: 100

Unfortunately, I did not have much time for a good visit and could also not avoid the late morning bright light/sun on a hot day. The historic site is very large and requires a few hours for complete visit, not the 15 minutes I had that day.

The main picture is a view of the Herodian Amphitheatre.

It is a huge u-shaped entertainment structure, complete with an arena and hundreds of seats. Built by Herod, it was probably used for horse racing, sport events and entertainment shows during the Roman period. The amphitheatre, more than 250m long and 50m wide, originally had 12 rows of seats, with place for some 10,000 spectators. Two rows of columns were added to its eastern section at a later stage. The structure was referred to as an amphitheatre during Herod’s time (Antiq. XV:341) and might be the stadium mentioned by Josephus Flavius in Jewish War (II:9,3).

IN: Caesarea National Park brochure

In WS1, a general view of Caesarea taken from the Roman Theatre.

In WS2, a view of the Roman Theatre.

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Additional Photos by Antonio Ribeiro (ribeiroantonio) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4814 W: 466 N: 6476] (22637)
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