Some historic facts of Caesarea

The famed city of Caesarea was built on the site of an older town, Straton Tower, first mentioned in the letters of Zeno, an Egyptian treasury official of the third century BCE.

Zeno disembarked at the harbor while on his way from Egypt to Syria. The remains of the older town, named after a King Straton of Sidon, are north of a wall built much later in the Crusader period.

In 96 BCE the city fell into Jewish hands in a Hasmonean campaign to secure the coastline and develop fishing and shipping industries. In 63 BCE the Roman general Pompey the Great conquered Caesarea and declared it to be a free town under the authority of the Roman governor of Syria.

The great leap in its development and fame arrived in 22 BCE When Herod the Great gained control of Caesarea and began his colossal building projects there.

Flavius Josephus wrote that Herod “observed there was a city by the seaside that was much decayed (its name was Straton’s Tower). Herod rebuilt it all with white stone and adorned it with several most splendid palaces and built a haven”.

Herod indeed planned and entire city, based on the Roman model and including imposing public buildings, a theater, hippodrome, temples and a surrounding wall. A palace was built for the Roman governor of Judea. Two aqueducts were built from the foot of the Carmel Mountains, many sections of them still visible today, including one pillar with an inscription carved by soldiers of the 10th Roman Legion. Herod named the city for the emperor Augustus and its crowning glory was the port – one of the most impressive building projects built anywhere in this period.

The Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who condemned Jesus to be executed, lived at Caesarea and a plaque bearing his name and recording a dedication he made has been found. It is the only written evidence of Pilate outside the gospels. Peter, the successor chosen by Jesus made his first direct convert to Christianity in Caesarea, of a man named Cornelius. Herod later imprisoned Peter in Jerusalem during Passover, but he escaped and made his way to Caesarea and from there he set sail for Rome and into history.

There had been endless friction between the Jews and non-Jews of Caesarea, so when the revolt against Rome erupted in 66 CE, the conflict quickly became bloody in the city. The Roman general Vespasian (later emperor) made Caesarea his base from which to launch the conquest of Jerusalem.

The remains of the town today date mainly from Crusader period. It was captured during the first Crusader campaign in 1101 and became the center of the marine transport system along the coast.

The Crusaders built and rebuilt the city´s fortifications, especially in 1249 during the campaign of Louis IX of France (who became Saint Louis after his death).

In the 1265 the Mameluk Sultan Baybars conquered Caesarea and destroyed its wall to discourage any resettlement. The city and its surroundings remained in ruins.

In the recent years efforts have been made to expose the Roman, Byzantine and Crusader parts of the city, including the eastern Crusader entrance.

The pillars of the drawbridge are well preserved the entrance gate was carved with capitals, cornices and other architectural devices that have also survived.


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