CAESAREA , ancient city on the coast midway between Tel aviv and Haifa.
From Ancient Times to the Mamluks
Caesarea was originally called Straton's Tower after its founder Straton (Abd-Ashtart), who was probably a ruler of Sidon in the 4th century b.c.e. (Jos., Ant., 13:395). The city is first mentioned in 259 b.c.e. by Zeno, an official of Ptolemy ii, as a harbor where he disembarked on his way to Jerusalem (F. Preisigke, Sammelbuch griechischer Urkunden aus Aegypten, no. 6777e). During the dissolution of the Seleucid kingdom it fell into the hands of a tyrant called Zoilus. In 96 b.c.e. Alexander Yannai captured the city and it remained part of the Hasmonean kingdom until its restoration as an autonomous city by Pompey; it was rebuilt by Gabinius in 63 b.c.e. (Ant., 13:324ff., 395). After being for some time in the possession of Cleopatra, it was returned by Augustus to Herod (Ant., 15:215ff.), who greatly enlarged the city and renamed it Caesarea in honor of the emperor. Herod surrounded it with a wall and built a deep sea harbor (called Sebastos, i.e., Augustus in Greek); the new city was officially inaugurated in about 13 b.c.e. The population of Caesarea was half gentile and half Jewish and the divergent claims of the two groups to citizenship and municipal rights led to frequent disputes (Ant., 20:173ff.; Wars, 2:266ff.; 284ff.). After Herod's death (4 b.c.e.) Caesarea fell to his son Archelaus, but after his banishment to Gaul in 6 c.e. it became the seat of the Roman procurators of Judea. Except for the brief reign of Agrippa i (41–44), who died in Caesarea (Acts 12:19–23), the city remained the capital of Roman and Byzantine Palestine. The clashes between Jewish and gentile communities finally sparked the Jewish war against Rome in 66 c.e. During the war Vespasian made Caesarea his headquarters and when he became emperor he raised it to the rank of a Roman colony – Colonia Prima Flavia Caesarea. The city prospered in the first and early second centuries but the harbor began to fill with sand in the late second century.
Caesarea was one of the first gentile cities visited by the apostles Peter and Paul (Acts 10:1, 24; 11:11; 21:8); Paul was imprisoned there before being sent to Rome (Acts 23:23ff.). During the Bar Kokhba War (132–135) the city was the headquarters of the Roman commander Julius Severus, and after the fall of Bethar several prominent Jewish leaders, including R. Akiva, were martyred there. In the third century Caesarea was a center of Christian learning; its celebrated scholars included Origen and later Eusebius, archbishop of Caesarea. Although it was the capital of Roman Palestine, Jewish life flourished there from the third century onward. The Talmud mentions judges or rabbis who lived in Caesarea, particularly R. Abba, R. Adda, R. Ḥanina, R. Assi, R. Hosheya, R. Hezekiah, and R. Ahava b. Zeira (Er. 76b; tj, Shab. passim). R. Abbahu, the most important local leader, represented the Jewish community before the Roman governor (Ket. 17a, et al.). The Talmud also refers to the synagogue of Caesarea (Kenishta Maradta – possibly the "Synagogue of the Revolt," tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a, et al.); it was situated near the harbor and prayers were said there in Greek (Alunistin; "Hellenic"; tj, Sot. 7:1, 21b). Caesarea contained a large number of Samaritans who were recruited for the city guard (tj, Av. Zar. 1:2, 39c). The city reached its greatest extent in Byzantine times when it was surrounded by a semicircular wall; it was then served by two aqueducts, one from Naḥal Tanninim and the other from the mountains near today's Zikhron Ya'akov. In the late Byzantine period Caesarea was the capital of the province of Palaestina Prima. It was the last Palestinian city to fall to the Muslims in 640. According to Arabic sources the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea showed the conquerors a way into the fortress.
During the pillage that followed the capture of Caesarea in 1101 by Baldwin i, a leader of the First Crusade, Genoese soldiers discovered in a building some green glassware, among which was a bowl which the crusaders believed to be the Holy Grail. Taken to Italy and still preserved in the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Genoa, it became known as the "Sacro Catino". Utilizing the remains of Herod's large harbor at Caesarea the crusaders built a smaller harbor inside it and fortified the city, making it the seat of an archbishop, and building a cathedral there. The city was made a signoria of the larger feudal third, into which Palestine was divided. However, it was destroyed by Saladin in 1187 and again in 1191, but was restored by the Knights Hospitalers in 1218 when the city's citadel and southern breakwater were largely rebuilt. From 1251–52 it was splendidly reconstructed by Louis ix. This time the city too was strongly fortified, by a deep moat and high walls. The moat was transversed by two bridges. Most of the remains of the Crusader period now visible at Caesarea after recent excavations date to the time of Louis ix. Under Crusader rule the Jewish community dwindled until in 1170 only 20 Jews remained (according to Benjamin of Tudela).
In 1265 Caesarea fell to Baybars, and the Mamluks systematically destroyed the city, which remained in ruins – serving as a quarry for the pashas of Acre – until 1884, when it was resettled by Muslim refugees from Bosnia who lived there for a short time, and whose place was taken by Arabs. A few remains of Straton's Tower have been found north of the Crusader city. The Herodian city is represented by the remains of a harbor (moles and vaulted magazines), one vault possibly serving as foundation of the Temple of Augustus, and the remains of a wall with round towers. The Roman and Byzantine cities (although mostly still buried under 12 feet (4 m.) of sand) are also amply represented by a city wall, hippodrome, theater, and a paved square, with staircase and mosaics, where Roman statues were set up, in secondary use in Byzantine times. The foundations of a cathedral and of another church outside the wall, paved with fine mosaics depicting beasts and birds, as well as the remains of a synagogue, have been uncovered near the harbor at its northern end. From the Crusader period, the wall of Louis ix, with its sloping fosse, gateways, and towers, has been cleared and partly restored. Many remains of sculpture (including a very large porphyry statue) and hundreds of inscriptions (among them the first epigraphic mention of *Pontius Pilate and of Nazareth) have been found in this site. Caesarea's exploration has been undertaken by the Israel Department of Antiquities, the Hebrew University, the Instituto Lombardo of Milan, the Link Underwater Expedition, and the Israel Department for the Preservation of Antiquities and Landscape. The full investigation of the huge site has, however, hardly begun.
Michael *Avi Yonah ended his essay on Caesarea (see above) with the words "the full investigation of the huge site has, however, hardly begun." Little did Avi-Yonah know but numerous archaeological excavations were soon to be conducted at the site, from the late 1970s and through to the early 2000s. Some of these exposures were extensive, especially along the western side of the city. In 1992 a new project was initiated with the aim of opening up Caesarea for tourism. The Combined Caesarea Project was undertaken by various institutions, notably the Israel Antiquities Authority, University of Maryland, University of Haifa, and University of Pennsylvania. Largescale investigations were conducted in the area of the amphitheatre/stadium (described in the writings of Josephus) extending along and parallel to the coastline, from the theater area in the south and to the Crusader city wall to the north. Excavations were also conducted immediately east of the "promontory palace" dated to the time of Herod the Great, revealing a complex of buildings identified as the Praetorium, i.e., the Roman governor's seat. A large and sumptuous bath house was uncovered dating from the beginning of the Byzantine period. Excavations were also undertaken in the area of the vaults of the Roman temple podium. Various buildings, shops, and an octagonal church (of St. Procopius) from the Byzantine period were also uncovered. Numerous decorated mosaic floors, some with inscriptions, were brought to light. One structure had a fresco decorated with images of praying Christian saints. A possible Chapel of St. Paul may have existed in an upper story above the warehouses. Further work was also undertaken underwater and on land to recover information about the harbors and their installations. The inner Herodian harbor ("Sebastos") apparently fell into disuse in the Byzantine period.
[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
The beginnings of modern Caesarea date back to 1884, when a small fishing village was set up on the Roman and Crusader remains near the ancient port. It was founded by Muslims from Bosnia who had chosen to leave their homes in the wake of the Austrian occupation of their country. The village soon became Arab-speaking; it was abandoned by its inhabitants in the War of Independence (1948) and most of its primitive dwellings disappeared with the progress of the archaeological excavation in the 1950s and 1960s. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, large parts of the lands in and around Caesarea had been acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild and the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) for development. The land was given as a gift by the Rothschild family to the State of Israel. Modern Caesarea was founded by wealthy families who built their homes in the area. It is an urban community managed by a private company, the Caesarea Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild Development Corporation Ltd. founded by the Baron de *Rothschild, and is the only privately run settlement in Israel, with residents paying service fees rather than property taxes. Over the years, hotels, a country club, vacation homes, the country's only golf course, and an industrial park were built. In 1984 Caesarea received municipal status. In 2002 the population of Caesarea was 3,560.
[Efraim Orni /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
S. Klein (ed.), Sefer ha-Yishuv, 1 (1939), s.v.; L. Haefeli, Caesarea am Meer (1923); Reifenberg, in: iej, 1 (1950), 20–32; L. Kadman, The Coins of Caesarea Maritima (1957); A. Frova, Scavi di Caesarea Maritima (1966); Avi-Yonah, in: brf, 3 (1960), 44–48; Prawer, Ẓalbanim, index (Heb.). add. bibliography: C.T. Fritsch (ed.), Studies in the History of Caesarea Maritima (1975); J. Ringel, Césarée de Palestine (1976); L.I. Levine, "Roman Caesarea: An Archaeological-Topographical Guide," Qedem, 2 (1975); idem, Caesarea Under Roman Rule (1975); L.I. Levine and E. Netzer, Excavations at Caesarea Maritima. Qedem 21 (1986); J.A. Blakeley, Caesarea Maritima: The Pottery and Dating of Vault i – Horreum, Mithraeum and Later Uses (1986); K.G. Holum et al., King Herod's Dream: Caesarea on the Sea (1988); A. Raban, et al., The Harbours of Caesarea Maritima, vol. i (1989); R. Lindley Vann (ed.), Caesarea Papers: Straton's Tower, Herod's Harbor, and Roman and Byzantine Caesarea, vol. i (1992); Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer (1994), 94–96; J.P. Oleson et al., The Harbours of Caesarea Maritima, vol. ii (1994); A. Raban and K.G. Holum (eds.), Caesarea Maritima – Retrospective After Two Millennia (1996); Y. Porath, "Caesarea: Expedition of the Antiquities Authority," in: Excavations and Surveys in Israel, 17 (1998), 39–49; idem, "Caesarea 1994–1999," in: Excavations and Surveys in Israel, 112 (2000), 434–40; idem, "Theatre, Racing and Athletic Installations in Caesarea," in: Qadmoniot, 36 (2003), 25–42; K.G. Holum et al., Caesarea Papers, vol. ii (1999); J. Patrich, "A Chapel of St Paul at Caesarea?" in: Liber Annuus, 50 (2000), 363–82; idem, "Caesarea: the Palace of the Roman Procurator and the Byzantine Governor, a Storage Complex and the Starting Stalls of the Herodium Stadium," in: Qadmoniot, 35 (2002), 66–77; idem, "Four Christian Objects from Caesarea Maritima," in: Israel Museum Studies in Archaeology, 1 (2002), 21–32; A. Raban, "The History of Caesarea's Harbors," in: Qadmoniot, 37 (2004), 2–22; Y. Arnon, "Early Islamic Period Caesarea," in: Qadmoniot, 37 (2004), 23–33. website : www.caesarea.org.il.