Back to the past

Journey through time to the ancient city of Caesarea to see one of the major urban centers of the Roman East.

By EHUD LAHAV
August 26, 2012 15:23
2 minute read.
Ceasarea

Ceasarea. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Caesarea, or to give it its full name Caesarea Maritima, was one of the major urban centers of the Roman East. In its heyday, the harbor, which was painstakingly constructed on a site that had no natural characteristics, was one of the major harbors in the eastern Mediterranean. The other two were Piraeus and Alexandria.

All the exports of agricultural produce of an area going as far north as Tyre and as far east as what is now Jordan were shipped from Caesarea, and all the imports to these vast areas were channeled through it.

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Since those days more than 2,000 years ago, the sea has reclaimed much of its own, but enough of the harbor remains to attest to its former glory.

The Caesarea Development Corporation invested large sums of money to create a small national park within the greater Caesarea National Park to show visitors what the harbor of Caesarea would have looked like 2,000 years ago. With the aid of the archeological remains and modern technology, the Caesarea Development Corporation has been able to develop a tourist attraction that in many ways recreates the past.

Aside from a magnificent beach, Greek-style restaurants, art galleries and the hand of nature in romantic sunsets and cool sea breezes, the harbor offers many other attractions. For example, The Caesarea Experience is a cinematic exhibition that takes viewers on a journey through time. It depicts of the city of Caesarea Maritima from the Herodian period through the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Crusader periods, until the late 19th century and Baron de Rothschild’s settlement programs in the area.

Besides the film, 12 historical figures associated with Caesarea Maritima over the years, such as King Herod, the Great Salah a din the Crusader, King Louis IX of France and Baron de Rothschild are portrayed by local actors, and the public can interact with them and ask questions.

One of the major attractions of Caesarea Maritima is the underwater archeological park. The sunken harbor covers an area of 200,000 square meters. The aim of the park is to show how the harbor was built, what techniques were used and what attempts were made to prevent its gradual destruction by the forces of nature.



Besides the harbor, Caesarea Maritima has many interesting monuments from the Roman and Medieval periods. The Caesarea Amphitheater, built by King Herod more than 2,000 years ago, is used to this day for concerts and operas. It has magnificent acoustics, evidence of the expertise of Herod’s architects and engineers.

There are also the remains of an aqueduct built by Herod, which brought water from the springs of the Carmel mountain range to the north to the city.

The Medieval remains of Caesarea Maritima are due to the King Louis IX of France, also known as Saint Louis. In 1251 he arrived at what was left of the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem and used some of his great wealth to build fortifications in the kingdom, namely in Jaffa, Acre and Caesarea. In Caesarea he built high walls surrounded by a deep moat that still exist. He also built fine gates and the Cathedral of St. Peter, much of which still remain.

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