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Caesarea

Date of Submission: 30/06/2000
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Delegation Permanente d'Israel aupres de l'UNESCO
Coordinates: Lat. 32°30' N / Long. 34°53' E
Ref.: 1480
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Description

Caesarea is situated on the Mediterranean coast alongside bays and shallow inlets that were formed by wave erosion. These unique bays were utilized throughout history for the anchorage of sea-going vessels and made Caesarea a major port of call in the Mediterranean. During the Persian rule, the Phoenicians built a settlement on the shoreline of one of the bays, where the ground water level was high. The village flourished in the Hellenistic period and is first mentioned under the name of Straton's Tower. In the year 30 BCE the village was awarded to Herod, who built a large port city at the site, and called it Caesarea in honor of his patron Octavian Augustus Caesar. In Josephus' Jewish War it says: "And he chose on the coast one forsaken town by the name of Straton's Tower...which thanks to its favorable location was suitable for carrying out his ambitious plans. He rebailt it entirely out of white stone and adorned it with a royal palace of unique splendor, displaying...the brilliance of his mind". Caesarea was a planned city, with a network of crisscrossing roads, a temple, theater, amphitheater, markets and residential quarters. It took 12 years to build, and great festivities were held to mark its completion. The city transformed rapidly into a great commercial center, and by the year 6 BCE became the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine. Since Caesarea had no rivers or springs, drinking water for the prospering Roman and Byzantine city was brought via a unique high-level aqueduct, originating at the nearby Shuni springs, some 7.5 km northeast of Caesarea. The aqueduct consists of thrce canals, two of which were added in the course of its use. In low lying areas, sections of the aqueduct were carried on arches (arcadiha). Caesarea served as a base for the Roman legions who quelled the Great Revolt that erupted in 66 BCE, and it was here that their commanding general Vespasian was declared Caesar. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Caesarea became the most important city in the country Pagans, Samaritans, Jews and Christians lived here in the third and fourth centuries CE. Among its famous citizens were Rabbi Abbahu, and the church leaders Auregines and Eusebius. During the Byzantine period the city flourished, and extended over some 400 acres. Toward the end of the sixth century a perimeter wall was built, making Caesarea the largest fortified city in the country. It was re-fortified again in the ninth and 13th centuries by conquering Arab and Crusader armies. The late 19th century marked the start of the first scientific exploration of the site, noting the Crusader city, the theater, hippodrome and aqueducts. Extensive explorations from 1959-1964 further revealed details of the theater, parts of the city's fortifications, and the upper aqueduct; while subsequent study uncovered additional parts of the Crusader city, the Jewish quarter and sections of the aqueduct. Caesarea is an outstanding example of main city planning of the Herodian period as well as part of a series of Crusader fortresses constructed in the Holy Land.