Off all the places I was most eager to see, Caesarea was right at the top of the list. I had read a great deal about it as being Herod the Great’s crowning accomplishment and I thought that it would be a most magnificent day of poking around in ruins. Well once again, I was way off base. Yes, there are ruins, but they are situated within a privately owned tourist attraction. It is beautiful, and the restaurants and art galleries provide a marvelous juxtaposition to the ruins, but once again the barefaced consumerism wreaks havoc with my senses.
In 63 BCE, the Romans conquered Caesarea which at the time was known as Straton’s Tower. It then fell under the jurisdiction of Herod the Great who renamed it Caesarea in order to score points with Caesar Augustus. In 22 BCE, Herod began construction of a sea harbor which was ingeniously built by building boxes, floating them out to the end of the line and filling them with concrete made out of volcanic ash and limestone. The boxes would sink to the bottom where they would be fitted to the previous box. At the time, it was the world’s largest artificial harbor. To supply the city with water, Herod had a raised aqueduct built to bring water from springs at the foot of Mt. Carmel. Remains of the aqueduct can still be seen in many places. Caesarea is an important site in Christian history. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. It was where Simon Peter converted the Roman, Cornelius, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Paul was also imprisoned for two years in Caesarea.
This site was the first place where we really were able to experience the Mediterranean Sea, and for that I am forever grateful. I could have sat there in the amphitheater all day just looking out it. It is the bluest water I have ever seen and we were lucky to have great light that day. I collected as many shells as seemed reasonable given the fact that I somehow had to smuggle them back into the US…this turned out to be far easier than I imagined – just distract them with an illegal jar of preserves.
To see photos of this fabulous location, click on the album cover: