The town of Caesarea in Israel with its select neighborhoods, lovely gardens and impressive golf course is situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa.
Adjacent to the modern town is the Ancient Roman Port City and amazing archeological park, with the remains from many periods that were uncovered during archeological excavations that took place during the 1950’s and 1960”s. The excavations uncovered multifaceted remnants of the Roman and Crusader cities that existed there.
In the first century BCE King Herod, who was without doubt an architect of exceptional ability, established a city on the site Straton’s Tower which had been a Phoenician outpost and named it Caesarea in honor of Augustus Caesar. He also built a harbor so outstanding that it became a wonder of the ancient world. His planning and building of the ancient walled city included a magnificent palace, and facing the sea he built an Amphitheatre that is used today for concerts and is popular with visiting artists, a Hippodrome where chariot racing took place and a Citadel. The streets were paved and huge statues were placed in various positions.
During the time of Herod, an aqueduct was constructed that supplied water to the city through a network of pipes. It started at the foot of the Carmel at springs about 9 km north of Caesarea and according to the growth of the city it was repaired and enlarged. The aqueduct is clearly visible to this day.
During the Byzantine period a Christian academy was established in the city and churches were built. At that time Christians, Samaritans and Jews who built synagogues lived side by side. During excavations the remains of a synagogue from the 5th century were uncovered north of the harbor. Found in the ruins of the Synagogue were carved Candelabra (menorot) and parts of an inscription in Hebrew listing the priestly courses in the Temple in Jerusalem, as well as a column with “shalom” inscribed on it.
The Arabs conquered Caesarea and both the population and the importance of Caesarea declined. Remains of a 3 meter thick wall that surrounded the Arab town in the 10th century were uncovered during excavations.
During Crusader times King Baldwin I with the Frankish army conquered Caesarea and Eastern Christians and Muslims came to settle. Then in 1187 it was captured by Saladin, but retaken in 1191 by the English King Richard the Lionheart who exiled all the Muslim inhabitants. Caesarea remained a Crusader city until 1265 when it was captured by the Mamluks and its fortifications razed to the ground.
Visitors to the ancient city of Caesarea with its enthralling history will need plenty of time to walk around the ancient sites. It is a good idea to start the visit at the Travel and Time display with an interesting 10 minute visual multimedia experience leading the visitor from Phoenician times right up to Zionistic period. Then take in the Time Tower that has huge screens that enables visitors to take a virtual tour of the city.
For those interested in snorkeling or Scuba diving a visit Caesarea’s underwater museum which is unique in the world is a must. Other centuries old ruins and the great harbor that Herod built can be viewed here as well as a Roman Shipwreck and a ruined lighthouse.