Caesarea Maritima

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Roman theater in Caesarea (Kesarya), Israel.
Ruins of the Crusader City

Caesarea Maritima (actually Caesarea Stratonis or Caesarea Palaestinae ), which is often called Caesarea or Caesarea without any additional name , was an important ancient city of Palestine , later also an important fortress of the Crusaders . The original name of the city was Stratonos Pyrgos ( ancient Greek Στράτωνος πύργος ). The archaeological sites are among the most important in Israel today, and the area has been declared a national park.

The city is located northwest of Hadera in the northern Sharon Plain on the Mediterranean , about halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv . Not far from the ancient place is the modern Caesarea or Keisarija .


Persian and Hellenistic times

In the Persian epoch (586–332 BC) the Phoenicians built a place in one of the bays with a high water table , which after the conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. BC as well as in the following Hellenistic period and then belonged to the area of ​​the ancient city of Dor . The place was named Straton in a papyrus by the Egyptian Zenon of Kaunos from 259 BC. First mentioned. Straton as well as Dor were born in 103 BC. By the Hasmonean king Alexander Iannaeus in 103 BC. And belonged to the kingdom of Judah until it was conquered by the Romans in 63 BC. Chr.

Roman Imperial Era

Mosaic floor from Roman times
Lower (left) and upper (right) palace of Herod the Great

Caesarea Maritima, like some other cities, e.g. B. Caesarea Philippi , founded during Roman rule and named Caesarea in honor of the Roman emperors . To distinguish it, the place was given the addition of Maritima , which refers to its location on the Mediterranean Sea.

The founding of Caesarea goes back to Herod the Great , who ruled the area in the decades before the turn of the century as a client king who was dependent on Rome . He left Caesarea between 22 and 10 BC. At the site of the town, which had run down to a small port settlement called Turris Stratonis (Straton's Tower), in honor of the Roman Emperor Augustus , whose full name was Emperor Caesar Augustus and, especially in the Greek East, was mostly simply called Caesar , and with a Luxuriously equip a variety of structures. During the excavations, during which a strip several hundred meters long was excavated along the sea, a theater , a hippodrome , shopping streets , large baths and palace complexes were discovered.

The Caesarea Maritima Theater is the oldest theater found in Israel. It was built as a Roman theater under Herod the Great and was used until the Byzantine period. The half- round theater ( cavea) with around 4,000 seats was divided into two tiers. The orchestra floor of the theater was decorated with marble-like plaster. The theater was converted into a fortress after the end of the Byzantine period and fell into disrepair after the Arab conquest. The reconstructed Caesarea amphitheater with 15,000 seats is now used for concerts.

The U-shaped hippodrome, which was called Herod the Great Amphitheater at the time, was used for horse racing, sports competitions and entertainment throughout the Roman period. The arena was 250 m long and 50 m wide and had 10,000 seats in twelve rows.

The remains of the palace of Herod the Great are located on a headland that adjoins the southern end of the hippodrome. The lower part, reaching into the Mediterranean, was reserved for private rooms. The upper wing with an inner courtyard contained the public spaces that were used for jurisdiction, administration, reception and entertainment of dignitaries.

The artificial harbor of Caesarea with large breakwaters was at that time the most important in the area of ​​today's Israel / Palestine and probably the second largest in the eastern Mediterranean at that time. To the north of the actual urban area are the remains of a six-kilometer-long aqueduct that supplied the city with water from the Carmel Mountains , about 10 kilometers away . Through targeted expansion, Caesarea became one of the most important cities in the Roman Orient within a very short time.

Stone on which the name Pontius Pilatus is engraved. Second line: … vs Pilatvs

In 6 AD, when the area came under direct Roman control, the city became the residence of the Roman governors , who initially had the rank of prefect , from the middle of the 1st century a procurator and were only occasionally in Jerusalem stopped. In 1961, the Pontius Pilate inscription by Caesarea was found in the city's theater , which is the oldest extra-biblical evidence of the governorship of Pontius Pilate .

According to Flavius ​​Josephus, Caesarea was the scene of a large demonstration against Pontius Pilate. In disregard of the Jewish ban on pictures, he had legionary eagles and pictures of the emperor brought to Jerusalem. He had the demonstrators surrounded at the racetrack and threatened them with execution. When they knelt and bared their necks, Pilate, impressed by the courage of the Jews, relented.

According to Flavius ​​Josephus, 20,000 Jews were killed in religious disputes around AD 66 under Gessius Florus . After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, Caesarea became the capital of the province of Palestine ; the city was elevated to a colonia and flourished until the late 6th century. In the 2nd century the Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea is said to have had a population of around 125,000.

After the Bar Kochba uprising in 135, some of the leaders of the Caesarea uprising were tortured to death. Rabbi Akiba , the spiritual father of Bar Kochba, was among them . At the end of the 2nd century the city became a Christian bishopric. During the Valerian persecution of Christians (257/58) in Caesarea in Palestine, as later reported by Eusebius of Caesarea , allegedly three men (Priscus, Malchus and Alexander) were accused of eating wild animals because of their confession of Christ and thus suffered martyrdom .

Byzantine period

In another heyday in the 5th and 6th centuries, Caesarea probably again reached a population of well over 100,000 during the Eastern Roman rule and was an important naval base. The emperors Anastasius and Justinian had major construction projects carried out in Caesarea. Among other things, the port, which is always threatened by silting, was renewed. During this time a magnificent steam bath was built. Since the 4th century at the latest, there has been a well-stocked and widely famous library , for which Eusebius of Caesarea made a particular contribution and which was probably also used by the important Greek historian Prokopios , who came from the city, in the 6th century . Among other things, he complained about the violent action taken by the emperors against the Samaritans who lived in Caesarea .

Persians and Arabs

The importance of the city declined rapidly in the middle of the 7th century after the temporary conquest by the Persian Sassanids around 619 to 628 and through the permanent occupation by the Arabs after 640, against which Caesarea had long defended himself. At first the port was still in use. After the 8th century, however, it fell into disrepair, as silting up was no longer effectively counteracted before it was reopened by the Crusaders.

Crusader time

City gate of the crusaders

The city ​​once again experienced a brief period of prosperity under the Crusaders . They captured the city on May 17th, 1101 after a fifteen-day siege. Because the city had resisted the surrender request previously offered by Baldwin I trusting its walls, after the fall there was looting and a massacre of the population, which only a few residents escaped. After their capture, the crusaders made the city the center of a rule and the seat of an archbishopric with the Cathedral of St. Peter . The crusaders fortified it again and for the last time built 1254 large ramparts, which were also excavated and are well preserved. However, the Crusader City only took up a fraction of the area of ​​the ancient city.

Mamelukes and Ottoman times

Despite the strong fortifications, Caesarea was conquered by Sultan Baibars in 1275 . The population was killed or enslaved. After the conquest, the city fell into disrepair; some of the stones were removed as building material. The place remained completely deserted for a long time; From the late 19th century, the small village of Keisarije existed on the site of Caesarea . The residents were Muslim refugees (Bosnian families) who had been settled by the Ottomans . The residents of the village were displaced in the Palestine War.


The biblical place of Caesarea has been forgotten by many Christians in the West. The pilgrims' house in the city is not only important for local Christians: it is believed that the apostle Peter stayed in the city.

In the New Testament Caesarea is mentioned several times. Here to by the apostle Simon Peter , the first baptism of Gentiles or non-Jews (the Roman centurion Cornelius took place) ( Acts 10 EU ). The Bible also reports that Paul landed in the port of Caesarea on the way back from his second missionary journey ( Acts 18:22  EU ). And finally he was held captive here for two years. Here, presumably in the rooms of the upper palace of Caesarea, Paul is by the Roman procurator of Judea Porcius Festus before Herod Agrippa II. And his sister Bernice been interrogated ( Acts 25:23  EU ) and from here to Rome to the Emperor Nero sent been (Acts 27 EU ).

The Christian scholar Pamphilus of Caesarea founded a school in Caesarea Maritima in the succession of Origen , who had transferred his teaching activities from Alexandria to Caesarea in 231, and built the extensive library of Caesarea here . He was the teacher of Eusebios, Bishop of Caesarea.

The city was a Christian bishopric at an early stage. As predecessors of Eusebius in the episcopate are named by himself: Agapios of Caesarea, Theoteknos and Domnus. According to the New Testament Apocrypha, which were summarized in the 4th century in the Apostolic Constitutions , Zacchaeus was installed by the Apostle Peter as the first bishop of Caesarea.

During the time of the Crusaders, the Latin hierarchy was established. After the conquest of the Holy Land by the Arabs, the metropolis finally went under and, as Caesarea in Palestine, became the titular archbishopric of the Roman Catholic Church .

There is also a titular archbishopric of the Greek-Melchitic rite - nomen “de curia”: Caesariensis in Palaestina Graecorum Melkitarum in memory of the archbishopric Caesarea Maritima.

Modern city

The first Jewish settlement in the Caesarea area was Kibbutz Sdot Jam , which was founded in 1940. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the modern "Keisarija" ( Hebrew קיסריה) was created a few kilometers from the sea . The rebuilt ancient theater of Caesarea is now used for musical and theatrical performances against the backdrop of the Mediterranean.


The first scientific investigations began in 1873 by the Palestine Exploration Fund . The theater, the hippodrome, the aqueduct and the crusader city as well as columns, capitals and statues were found. The excavations were continued from 1959 by Italian and Israeli and from 1992 also by American archaeologists.

  • In February 2015, five amateur divers accidentally found almost 2,000 coins from the time of the Fatimids (909 to 1171 AD) on the harbor floor. As the Israel Antiquities Authority announced , it is the largest gold treasure ever found in Israel and weighs around nine kilos.
  • In 2016, hobby divers found coins and similar items in the remains of sunken ships at the ancient port of Caeserea. a. with the portrait of Emperor Constantine (306–337) and bronze statues from Roman times.
  • In 2018, archaeologists discovered a Roman mosaic from the Byzantine period. The rare stone work of art with an inscription in ancient Greek is more than 3.5 meters by 8 meters and adorned the floor of a building. It shows 3 males.
  • To the east of Caesarea is the En Esur archaeological site , which contains the remains of a 5,000-year-old city that housed around 6,000 residents and stretched over 65 hectares.



Web links

Commons : Caesarea Maritima  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. AE 1963, 00104
  2. Flavius ​​Josephus, Jewish War 2,9,3 .
  3. Flavius ​​Josephus, Jüdischer Krieg 2,457 ; 7.361 .
  4. Steven Runciman, Peter de Mendelssohn: History of the Crusades. Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-39960-6 , p. 383 ( online , accessed on May 30, 2009).
  5. ^ Father David Jaeger optimistic about the conversation with Israel. Vatican Radio , January 31, 2007, accessed July 31, 2018 .
  6. Eusebius of Caesarea: Church history (Historia Ecclesiastica) . tape 7 , chap. 14 ( ).
  7. Apostolic Constitutions: Enumeration Ordained by Apostles . tape 7 , no. 46 , chap. 4 ( ): “Of Caesarea of ​​Palestine, the first was Zacchaeus, who was once a publican; after whom was Cornelius, and the third Theophilus. "
  8. ↑ Accidental discovery in Israel: Hobby divers discover huge gold treasures. In: Spiegel Online . February 17, 2015, accessed January 22, 2017 .
  9. So far the largest gold treasure found in Israel. , February 18, 2015, accessed on January 1, 2020 .
  10. Mediterranean: Divers recover spectacular Roman treasures. In: Spiegel Online . May 16, 2016, accessed January 22, 2017 .
  11. 1600 year old remains of a ship . In: Daily port report of May 18, 2016, p. 16.
  12. DER SPIEGEL: Israel: Colorful mosaic from Roman times discovered in Caesarea - DER SPIEGEL - science. February 9, 2018, accessed April 5, 2020 .
  13. Bronze Age New York found. In: Israelnetz .de. October 7, 2019, accessed October 17, 2019 .

Coordinates: 32 ° 29 ′ 55.2 ″  N , 34 ° 53 ′ 29 ″  E