First founded as a small Phoenician port city, the city was called Stratons Towers, an apparent distortion of the name of the Sidonese god Ashtoreth. In 90 BCE, the town was captured by Alexander Jannaeus and annexed into the Hasmonean kingdom.
In 31 BCE, after winning the Battle of Actium, Augustus Caesar gifted the town, along with the entire shoreline of Eretz Israel, to Herod. Herod, for his part, named the town for Augustus. He built the city between 22 - 10 BCE, constructing a major port, numerous recreational facilities, bathhouses and temples. The port was built in Ceasarea because of its location in the center of the country, in close proximity to agricultural lands and convenient access routes.
Archeological Findings from the Hellenistic and Herodian Era
Following Herod's death, Caesarea became the place of residence for Jewish Roman commissioners and the provincial capital of Judea. The population in the city was mixed, and the lifestyle completely foreign. Jewish residents of the city were frequently harassed and constant tension existed between the Jewish community and their foreign neighbors. During this period, the city expanded eastward, and a range of public facilities were built. Large granaries were also built - south of Herod's palace landowner villas were built in the Sharon region, close to the landowners' warehouses. In addition, subterranean granaries were discovered at the site. In 66, events that took place near the synagogue in Caesarea sparked bloody riots between the Jews and foreigners, and led to great rebellion. In the days of the Bar-Cochva rebellion, the Roman army's main supply base was Caesarea. Several of the Ten Martyrs (rabbis executed by the Romans) were executed, including Rabbi Akiva.
Archeological Findings from the Roman / Later Roman Period
During the Byzantine period, Caesarea became an important Christian center where several of the church's patriarchs lived. Caesarea was assigned an elevated status by Christians. According to Christian tradition, it was here where the first pagan, Corenelius, converted to Christianity. In the seventh century, Caesarea, as was all of Eretz Israel, was conquered by the Moslems. Later, between the 10th and 12th centuries, rule alternated between the Crusaders and Saladin. In the 13th century, the city was captured by the Mamluks, and was destroyed, as were all of the coastal cities in the country.
Findings from the Byzantine Period
The town was reestablished at the end of the 19th century by a group of German Templars who tried to settle there under the guise of archeological digs. In 1882, Bosnian Moslems founded the town of Caesarea. The village was captured in the War of Independence and its residents expelled.
Archeological Finds from the Hellenistic and Herodian Period
Herod's Caesarea, founded on the ruins of the Stratons Tower, was a meticulously planned city based on the architectural principles of that time. Herod created a massive port in the city in order to meet the need for another port between Dor and Jaffa.
The northern port was constructed on land to protect it from waves and storms. Familiar Roman techniques of casting into wooden construction molds were used in the construction of the port.
The Greek temples that were built in Caesarea were primarily dedicated to the gods. Archeological digs uncovered the remains of two temples:
1. The temple, built on the hill adjacent to the port, was decorated with a statue of Rome and a statue of the Caesar, which welcomed visitors from the sea.
2. Tiberium - the temple was created in honor of the Emperor Tiberius. The temple was apparently established behind the amphitheater, incorporated in the avenue of pillars between the theater and the ocean.
The palace ruins were discovered on the major reef facing the sea. Most of the ruins in the northern sections of the palace - a large hall and passageways on both sides were preserved. In the western rooms, remains of a mosaic floor with a geometrical pattern were uncovered. During a later period, the palace was used as the place of residence for Roman governors.
This is the oldest surviving Roman theater in the eastern Mediterranean. 100 meters in diameter and designed to seat 4000, the theater is located adjacent to the sea in the southern section of the city. It served Caesarea residents for 500 years. Initially, classic Greek and Roman plays were performed. Later, pantomime evolved and earned tremendous accolades. At the Caesarea amphitheater, mime plays were performed where jabs were made against the Jewish community and religion.
The theater's structure has undergone numerous modifications and renovations. A colorful plastered Herodian floor was discovered underneath the ancient marble floor. Granite recessed pillars were added at the entrance that included sculptures and ornamentation was added. In the fourth century, the floor was converted into a pool that was home to pool games and water competitions.
Built in the days of Herod, this stadium sprawls along the shoreline. The Hippo-Stadium is surrounded by stone benches. Along the walls that surround the arena are animal paintings and depictions of hunts. At the northern end of the arena, starting gates were discovered, indicating that the site was also used as a hippodrome, hence the name - combination of hippodrome and stadium.
Findings from thePeriod
During this period, the city expanded, bringing with it the construction of a variety of public buildings. Herod's Palace was converted to the place of residence for Roman governors. During this period, additional rooms and facilities were added.
In Hadrian's time, a hippodrome was built in Caesarea that served city residents until the sixth century. The facility was designed for chariot races and preparation for races - buildings to form groups, clubs, etc. The hippodrome was constructed in the eastern section of the city. Originally, hippodrome seats were made of stone but these have been stolen over the years.
The ruins of a synagogue is discovered in the mosaic that was part of the site. The synagogue in Caesarea is mentioned in Josephus' book "The Jewish War". According to the writing, this was the site where the fire that burned all of Judea in the revolt against the Romans was started. During the late Roman Era, many Jews lived in Caesarea and though it appears that there were many conflicts with the foreign neighbors in the city, there is also evidence of good neighborly relations.
The spectacular obelisk spans a height of 10.5 meters, and a width ranging between 172 cm (at the base) and 140 cm (at the upper section). The overall weight of the obelisk (before completion) is 84 tons.
According to archeologists, the obelisk was erected in 300 ACE and survived the Byzantine assault. It later fell and broke into two pieces.
The obelisk, which originated in Egypt, where is it considered a ritual site, was adopted by the Romans, who made it a common and fashionable ornament in buildings that hosted chariot races.
It is a known fact that Augustus shipped two obelisks from Egypt to Rome.
The old city of Caesarea has two obelisks, one of which is believed to have been built by Herod and erected south of the port, and the second was currently re-erected next to the site of the ruins. The protruding obelisk is located behind the sculpture garden, about 200 meters behind the Caesarea Winery. It can be reached through an ash road by foot or by ATV.
The project to re-erect the obelisk began in 5/1999 and ended in 8/2001. Funding the $150,000 project were the Stall and Feldman Families, residents of central Israel, the Antiquities Authority, the Government Company for Antiquities and the Caesarea Development Co.
Findings from the Byzantine Period
The Bathhouse and Pilaster:
Caesarea has bathhouses from the Byzantine Period that were a tremendous source of pride for city residents. Before bathers entered the bathhouses, they would enter the Pilaster, where they would exercise. After immersing in the bathhouses, the bathers would again enter the Pilaster to receive massages. The bathhouse was built long after performances were stopped at Herod's amphitheater.
Water Supply System to Caesarea
In the time of Herod, underground water supplied the needs of Caesarea residents. With the expansion of the city, additional water sources were found in the region, and in order to draw the water to Caesarea, several aqueducts were built.
The highest aqueduct:
The highest aqueduct includes three channels that were built in different times:
The first channel was apparently built in Herod's time, and drew water from various springs to Caesarea, north of Binyamina. The aqueduct, built on arches, crossed the gravel ridge of Jasser a-Zarka through a tunnel.
The second channel that was added later channeled the waters of the Tsabrin spring located north of Amikam. Between Ein Tsabrin and Ein Aviel, a 6km-long tunnel was dug. This aqueduct was built during Hadrian's time by the tenth legion. This channel drew water from other water sources as well by underground factories that directed water from the Elyakim, Amikam and Aviel regions.
The third channel was build during the Crusades. Apparently, since the Crusades city was built on the ruins of its predecessor, its level of water was higher, as was the second channel - and this was the third channel.
The low aqueduct
This aqueduct was apparently built during the Byzantine period, with an increasing population that needed a larger water supply. The aqueduct channeled spring water from the Maagan Michael region (the Kabara marshes), north of Caesarea. Since the level of the springs was lower than the level of Caesarea, dams were built through which water was stored in lakes whose level was sufficiently raised to channel the water to Caesarea. Near Caesarea, the channel passed under the arches of the high aqueduct, running parallel to that one until the city.