We all know that the Dutch are the world’s champions in drying seas, but was it their invention? Definitely not! When Herod was building his city he wanted everything to be luxurious, and so had to be the harbor. For this purpose he had to start building in the water. Even then the Roman technique of hydraulic concrete already existed and huge blocks of concrete were dumped in the sea to create steady platform for the biggest harbor of the Mediterranean cost.
The remains of this ahead-of-its-times construction can be seen if you chose to go on a diving tour. You don’t have to be a certified diver, so anyone can do it. You will be accompanied by an experienced instructor who will also show you the ancient ruins of Herod’s harbor. You will be given a map with points of interest so you won’t miss a thing. The diving session takes about 30 minutes, but it is long enough, especially for the inexperienced ones among us.
Their English site is still under construction, so better e-mail them and call.
This is the beautiful "Bird Mosaic" floor; its size is 14.5m x 16m and it is located on a hilltop, some 500 m outside the city wall of Byzantine Caesarea. The "Bird Mosaic" is believed to be the remains of a villa from the Byzantine period (the second half of the 6th century-first half of the 7th century CE). From the plan of the parts that were exposed in the excavations, it is estimated that the villa complex covers an area some 3,000 square m. It is also believed that the complex was destroyed in a raid that occurred prior to the Muslim siege of Caesar in 640 CE..
The site is now open to the public and entrance to it is free.
In Caesarea there is also a large archaeological site, with remains from Roman, Byzantine and Crusader periods.
At the beach north of the Caesarea National Park you will find the remains of the Aqueduct bringing water to the city. This was necessary as there were no other sources available here. So water had to be transported over kilometers from far away into town.
If you have time you can bring your beach stuff with you and stay here for some time.
The harbour had a 400 meter long outer quay, an inner quay and an area where the boats could set the anchor. It was built during the rule of Herod and made Caesarea an important town. Nowadays not much is seen above the surface, but for divers it is possible to visit the remains hidden under water.
There is a diving center. If interested try the phone number of the National Park given on the Ceasarea NP page linked below.
There are ruins of a temple platform from Herods time on which a temple dedicated to Roma and Augustus was built. In later periodes other religious buildings were erected here, a mosque and a cathedral.
Close to the Promontory Palace you will find a lime stone block set up which carries an inscription telling the name of Pontius Pilatus, the man who send Jesus to the crucifixion. According to a documentory (and stated on wikipedia) this is the first physical evidence found of him beside what is written in the bible. It was found in the theater in 1961. Keep your eyes open, the stone is easily missed. It is a copy, the original one is in the Israel Museum (Jerusalem).
The Promontory Palace is located directly at the sea in the west of the theater. It originates from the Roman and Byzantine Periode. You can see a pool in the remains which, according to scientists, was used as the cities fish market for a while.
The Amphitheater is a huge and long structure between the harbour and the theater. A long row of seats can be seen along the impressive arena floor which extends over 250 meters in length and 50 meters in width. About 10.000 people could attend events here. Walking along there you can clearly imagine spectacles taking place.
The theater in Caesarea is in a very good shape, as the seats seem to be restored. It is pretty large and the most ancient in Israel. 4000 spectators could find place in it. According to the flyer, which is handed out at the entrance, the theater was converted into a castle towards the end of the Byzantine periode. After the Arab conquer it was deserted as the rest of the town.
Caesarea's ancient amphitheater is an impressive semi-circular structure built by King Herod.
Its location is superb, near the coast, with a view of the Mediterranean from the balconies.
The ampitheater was reconstructed so that it is fully functional now. It's a unique experience to sit on the 2000 year old stone balcony, see the extensive ruins of the Roman city below you, watch the sunset over the Mediterranean, and listen to a concert or watch an opera.
You can get an idea of the splendor and elegance of ancient Caesarea when you visit the baths. This public building was constructed in the Byzantine period, with mosaics, marble floors and marble pillars. Before and after the bath, bathers used to exercise in the paleastra; in the baths, different pools had different water temperatures: a real spa.
More than 250 meters in length, the U-shaped hippodrome is one of the most impressive remains of Roman Caesarea.
It was built in Herod's days, and could seat 10,000 spectators, who came to watch the horse and chariot races, gladiator fights, athletics, hunting games and other forms of entertainment.
It used to be called "amphitheater" in Herod's days, and referred to as "stadium" by Josephus, but is now generally known as the hippodrome.
You can see the starting gates ("carceres") at the northern end, from which the chariots actually started the race, and parts of the balcony are also well preserved.
You can also have your photo taken on a symbolic iron chariot (see photo), and pretend you are a Roman chariot driver!
Near the Southern end of the Roman city, on a small promontory jutting into the sea, there are the ruins of the upper and lower palace. Not much has remained of the upper palace: a few marble and mosaic floors, the bases of a few columns, some steps... Still less has survived in the lower palace, of which you can only see the general layout half covered by the sea water. A few reconstructed pillars help you imagine what it used to be like in Herod's days. With a little bit of imagination you can imagine the splendor of this edifice in ancient times.
The upper palace was the public part of the palace, and the lower palace was the private part.
It is still unclear who built this palace in the Roman period: King Herod, the great builder of Caesarea, or the Roman governor, when the city became the province capital. Whoever it was, he surely picked a great location, and the beauty of this spot can still be appreciated today.
Bringing water to the Roman and Byzantine city of Caesarea was not easy. The nearest water source was the springs of Shuni, some 7.5 km away. A massive, high aqueduct was constructed, and has survived in good condition for 2000 years. Long segments of the aqueduct were built on stone arches. One segment, crossing a low ridge of hills , was hewn out of the rock. The average slope of the aqueduct was only 0.2/1000. This was a remarkable engireering feat.
Today the aqueduct can be seen north of the main archeological site, in an open area on the beach. The way is well signposted.
As it lies outside the National Park, it is always open and accessible and free.
There is a swimming beach right near the aqueduct. Families also come here for picnics. It's an interesting mixture of Roman ruins and a vibrant modern beach, with children in swimsuits climbing the 2000-year-old aqueduct.
Sunsets here can be very romantic!
A little bit north from the Ceasarea port you will find the Aqueduct , now a lovely and quiet beach.
The entrance to the Aqueduct beach is free and you will find remains of old Roman Aqueduct (dates back to the 13th century).