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CAESAREA MARITIMA Palestine, Israel.

Founded in the years 22-10 or 9 B.C. by Herod the Great, close to the ruins of a small Phoenician naval station named Strato's Tower (Stratonos Pyrgos, Turns Stratonis), which flourished during the 3d to 1st c. B.C. This small harbor was situated on the N part of the site. Herod dedicated the new town and its port (limen Sebastos) to Augustus. During the Early Roman period Caesarea was the seat of the Roman procurators of the province of Judea. Vespasian, proclaimed emperor at Caesarea, raised it to the rank of Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta, and later Alexander Severus raised it to the rank of Metropolis Provinciae Syriae Palestinae. During Late Roman and Byzantine times, Caesarea was an important center of both Jewish and Christian learning. The city flourished in the Byzantine period; its long decline began after its conquest by the Moslems in A.D. 640.

The more than 500 ha which comprise the area of Caesarea have been only partly excavated. To the N remains of houses of the Phoenician station have been discovered and remains of Jewish synagogues of Late Roman and Byzantine times, identified by dedicatory inscriptions and by capitals decorated with Jewish symbols.

In the central area, facing the ancient harbor, remains of a huge podium have been unearthed, presumably that of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, described by Josephus Flavius. It consisted of a series of five vaulted structures, each ca. 21 by 7 m, and 15 m high. To the N of it, and of approximately the same size, are a series of chambers, filled with crushed sandstone. Nothing of the superstructure remained, but reused in walls of later buildings numerous fragments of marble statues were found, belonging most probably to that temple. To the W of the podium extended the limen Sebastos. The harbor consisted of an artificially excavated basin and the harbor proper, which was protected by two breakwaters, one 250 m long, the other 600 m long. The harbor thus occupied an area of ca. 200,000 sq. m.

At the S extremity of Caesarea a Roman theater has been excavated. The earliest of its kind in Palestine, it was built by Herod the Great. Of the original building are preserved the cavea and a series of 14 superimposed floors made of fine plaster, painted in geometric, floral, and formal designs, made to resemble marble. The scaena had a rectangular central exedra, flanked by shallow, half-rounded niches. The podium and the pulpitum were also plastered and painted. The theater was rebuilt in the 2d c. A.D. The scaena took the form of a large circular exedra, flanked by two deep rectangular niches, adorned by columns. The podium and the orchestra were faced with marble. In the 3d c. a large half-rounded exedra, like that at Dugga, was added at the back of the scaena frons. In the 3d and 4th c. A.D. the theater was adapted for water games. During the Byzantine and Arab periods it formed part of a large circular fortress.

Sections of the water supply system of Caesarea, which was probably built during Herod's reign, have also been excavated. It consisted of a double, arched conduit, which conveyed the water from springs at the foot of Mt. Carmel, 12 km to the NE of the city. A lower level aqueduct conveyed water from the Crocodile river, about 10 km to the N of Caesarea.

To the Byzantine period belongs a city wall, which encircled an area of ca. 60 ha. Within the wall were discovered remains of a street, probably identical with the Roman decumanus, as well as churches and other Christian religious institutions, richly decorated with mosaics.


A Reifenberg, “Caesarea, A Study in the Decline of a City,” Israel Exploration Journal 1 (1950-51); M. Avi-Yonah, “The Synagogue of Caesarea,” Rabinowitz Bulletin 3 (1963); A. Negev, “The High Level Aqueduct at Caesarea,” Israel Exploration Journal 14 (1964); A. Frova, Scavi di Caesarea Maritima (1966); id., Caesarea (1967).


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