Caesarea or “Keysarya” was an Ancient Roman city which is now a large archaeological site in Israel.
History of Caesarea
It is believed that the city of Caesarea was initially founded atop the ruins of Straton’s Tower, a third century BC Phoenician port city. Conquered by King Alexander Jannaeus of the Hasmonean Kingdom in 90 BC, Caesarea’s population remained under local control until it was taken by the Romans in 63 BC. It was King Herod the Great who named the city Caesarea – after Augustus Caesar – and who endowed it with the majority of its great public buildings, infrastructure and monuments from 22 BC.
Caesarea became a thriving commercial hub which hosted sporting events, as well as a city of significance for Christians, and it flourished further under the Byzantines. Some even would say rivalling Carthage and Alexandria in terms of importance as a port city.
The city was captured by Muslims as part of the wider conquest of the Levant in the 7th century and partially destroyed: it never quite regained its status after that. However, by the 11th century, when it was captured by Crusaders, it had been refortified and was clearly a city of some sophistication. Further defences were erected in 1251 under French King Louis IX.
The port fell out of use by the 16th century, and was left to ruin. Modern settlements were founded nearby from the 19th century onwards, with the Jewish town of Caesarea being founded as part of the State of Israel in 1952.
Caesarea Maritima, as the old city is called, shouldn’t be mistaken with the modern town of Caesarea. The ruins of the old city offer plenty to explore, including a large amphitheatre overlooking the ocean and an extensive labyrinth of ruins. Some of the most imposing remains at Caesarea are its Crusader fortifications. Allow at least half a day to fully explore the ruins and to make the most of the gorgeous seaside location.
Nearby, visitors can also explore the stunning remains of the Caesarea Aqueduct.
Getting to Caesarea
Caesarea is about 55km north of Tel Aviv, on the Mediterranean coast. Depending on traffic, it should take between 60 and 90 minutes to drive via Route 2, along the coast. Buses run from Tel Aviv to the Or Akiva Interchange: the bus takes about an hour, and from there it’s another 40 minutes walking. You should be able to find a taxi to take you the final leg if you’re not keen to walk so far.
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