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The Headquarters of the Romans in Israel
Caesarea, also known as Caesarea Maritima, is a town located between Tel Aviv and Haifa on the Israeli Mediterranean coast. Famous for its impressive archaeological park and stunning modern homes belonging to Israel’s elite, Caesarea is a popular attraction for those who travel to Israel. No tour to Israel would be complete without a visit to the beautiful seaside excavations at Caesarea National Park.
The History of Caesarea
Caesarea was built on the ruins of Straton’s Tower, which was founded by Straton of Sidon. In 90 BCE, Straton’s Tower was captured by Alexander Jannaeus and remained a Jewish city until the Roman conquest of 63 BCE. Following the conquest, Caesarea became the headquarters of the Romans in Israel.
Herod the Great renamed the city in honor of Caesar Augustus. Between 22 and 10 BCE, he rebuilt it into one of Israel’s greatest cities. Herod constructed a major port, markets, wide roads, bathhouses, temples, recreational facilities, and a theater. Caesarea went on to host gladiator games, sports competitions, and theatrical productions every few years.
By the time of Herod’s death, Caesarea was one of the most important port cities in the eastern Mediterranean. Its population was half gentile and half Jewish. Tensions began to mount between the people, coming to a head when pogroms against the Jewish people took place from 60 CE to 70 CE.
The First Jewish-Roman War, also known as the Great Revolt, was a major rebellion by the Jews against the Roman Empire that began in 66 CE. Following the revolt, thousands of Jews were executed in Caesarea’s amphitheater. In 132 CE, after the rebellion of Bar Kochba, 10 Jewish sages were brought to the amphitheater and tortured to death in front of a crowd.
In subsequent years, Caesarea changed hands several times, and by 1261, the city was in ruins. Its remains were eventually swallowed by shifting sand dunes. When Kibbutz Sedot Yam was founded in 1940, farmers came across bits and pieces of Caesarea while tilling the land. Significant investments were made in the 1990s to restore the ancient city. Today, Caesarea National Park is one of the most magnificent archaeological sites you’ll see when you travel to Israel. Located on a 3km stretch of beach, Caesarea National Park is home to the following sites of interest:
• Roman Theater. This theater, which can seat up to 5,000 spectators, is a wonderful venue for summer concerts and performances.
• Herodian Amphitheater. This horseshoe-shaped stadium is where people watched major sporting events over 2,000 years ago.
• Crusader City. Built by King Louis IX of France, Crusader City consists of a citadel, moat, escarpment, and walls.
• Herod’s port. Also known as Port of Sebastos, Herod’s port extends from Crusader City into the sea. Today, the submerged port has become an underwater archaeological park that’s popular with scuba divers.
• Byzantine Street. Located near the Crusader City entrance, Byzantine Street features two headless Roman statues.
• Time Trek. Time Trek is a cinematic experience that exposes you to the cultures and historical figures that once dominated Caesarea.
• Jewish Quarter. Caesarea’s Jewish Quarter, which is situated outside the walls of Crusader City, flourished during Roman times.
For more information, please fill out our online contact form or call 1.800.2.ISRAEL (1.800.247.7235).