Glimpses of Israel - Caesarea

by Joseph Hunting

Today Israel boasts magnificent harbours at Haifa and Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast and between these modern cities lie the ruins of Caesarea, originally built as a Roman health resort by Herod the Great and named after Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D.

The city was to become the Roman capital of Palestine for 500 years. During that time it was the country's major port. Some idea of the size of ancient Caesarea can be gauged by the ruins of the aqueduct, the hippodrome and the semi-circular theatre.

Seven hundred years after the Romans withdrew their Legions from Palestine the Crusaders restored Caesarea in the twelfth century. They enclosed the city with a vast moat which is still partly extant.

The religious life of the city in ancient times was catered for by a synagogue built near the aqueduct, a temple to the reigning Caesars and this in turn was replaced by a cathedral built by the Crusaders. The cathedral was destroyed in its turn by the Moslems in 1291.

Today Caesarea has been bypassed by modern Israel, but here amidst the ruins of temples, flying spray and wheeling seagulls one has ample evidence of the metropolis that was for so long the finest harbour along the Mediterranean coast.