An Introduction to Caesarea
Herod built Caesarea (or as it was known Caesarea Maritima) in the 1st century B.C.E. as a splendid Roman style city complete with a theater, amphitheater, hippodrome, palace, Roman temple and an extensive network of aqueducts. Built on a section of unprotected coastline that once served as a Phoenician ship landing, Herod even created an artificial harbor.
Caesarea continued to function after Herod’s death and holds a notable place in rabbinic literature, the writings of Flavius Josephus, the New Testament and the writings of Church Fathers.
We recommend beginning a visit to Caesarea National Park at the “Roman Theater” entrance. Pick up a brochure with a map at the admission booth and ask about available audio visual presentations.
Caesarea is at least partial accessible to wheelchair users. The combination of the sea and the ruins make this a great place for a photo shoot.
Just past the entrance on the left is a relief model of the site. From the model continue to the Roman statuary in front of the theater and then proceed on to enter the theater itself. In recent decades the theater has once again served as a venue for musical and dramatic performances and you may see some equipment on stage. In the open lot west of the theater various examples of architectural elements made of different materials, many of them foreign to Israel are on display. The pieces of Masonry are evidence of both the highly cosmopolitan nature of Caesaea in the 1st century and the investment in elegant building.
Continuing on from the theater to the west we come to the area of the ‘Promontory Palace’ overlooking the Mediterranean. After exploring the ‘Promontory’ of the building, continue down the steps on the north near the beach to visit the hippodrome, later converted into an amphitheater and try to picture its dubious past glory through its ruins.
From here you can, either return to your car and drive north to the harbor/eastern entrance or walk up the coast in order to see the bathhouse above the hippodrome and visit the walled crusader city further on. Remember if you walk up the coast you will have to come back to retrieve your car later.
After entering the walled city, venture out onto the pier, examining sections of the collapsed sea wall along the way. Be careful of slipping on the jetty, which is frequently wet from breaking surf. In Herod’s stay the artificial harbor or Sebastos extended from the present day jetty further west. Looking north we can still see some of the Herodian harbor extending from point opposite us. Looking further north you can see the arches of the aqueducts that once supplied the city with freshwater.
Ancient & Modern Caesarea
Integrated within the ruins of ancient Caesarea some of the water front and harbour area has been lovingly restored and is now a charming area to browse the galleries and to relax in the cafes and restaurants. A superb location to watch the sun sink into the Mediterranean at the end of a long day’s touring.
To see more of ancient Caesarea, drive north through modern Caesarea to Aqueduct Beach. Here you can still see the impressive ruins of the aqueducts that carried water to Caesarea from the Shuni Springs at the foot of Mt. Carmel.