Caesarea Maritima

Caesarea Maritima was founded by Herod in 22-10/9 BC on the site of a deserted Hellenistic coastal town called Straon’s Tower. According to Josephus Flavius (Jewish War1.408-15; Jewish Antiquities 15.331-41), Herod established an elaborate harbor there. It was called Sebastos, a city with streets laid in a grid pattern. The city, like the harbor, were named after the emperor Caesar Augustus, Herod’s patron in Rome. In the city, Herod erected a temple which he dedicated to Rome and Augustus, a theater, and an amphitheater, as well as a royal palace – basileia. All the Herodian structures were built of local kurkar stone coated by a layer of polished white stucco, the “white stone” praised by Josephus. Marble was first imported after 70 CE under the Roman regime.

Caesarea served as the main harbor and capital city of Herod’s kingdom and of the later Roman province of Judaea / Syria Palaestina, the seat of the Roman governors and financial procurators of the province. Vespasian made Caesarea a Roman colony in 71 or 72 CE, and Alexander Severus (222-235 CE) raised it to the rank of metropolis. In the Byzantine period, it was the capital of Palaestina Prima and a Metropolitan See, subordinate to the Patriarch of Jerusalem since the mid-5th century. In the second and third centuries, it was the hometown of a Jewish academy headed by Rabbi Oshaiah and Rabbi Abbahu and of a Christian academy headed by Origen and Eusebius; it was the town of origin of Procopius, the notable historian in the court of the emperor Justinian in the 6th c. The Arab conquest in 640 brought a sharp decline of urban life that might have started already following the Persian conquest of 614. Islamic and Crusader Qaisariyah was a small town of marginal importance, located around its decaying harbor.

In recent years (1992-2002), excavations have tremendously augmented previous archaeological information on the site, mainly on the temple platform and the southwestern zone. Our information on the northern and eastern sectors of the city is more meager. Underwater work also augmented previous knowledge of the harbor and its gradual demise.

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