Sunday, July 18, 2010


Dear readers, it is time for something I’ve been looking forward to all summer: posting about Israel. After a whirlwind 9 days (which should have been 10 but Delta canceled our flight out) I have returned to the states wanting nothing more than to return. The bottom line is if you want ancient history, go to Israel. Its position as the crossroad of the ancient world gave the area significant wealth to outside empires, and caused an extreme meshing of cultures. Layers of history are found in each different place because of the number of empires that have ruled the area over time and what they did to try and leave their mark on the land.

Within two hours of being in the country, my group was already staring at the meshing of cultures at Caesarea. This town has a modern area as well as ancient ruins, which have been put on display for tourists, and it is located in the northern area of Israel, on the coast and is probably about one hour north of Tel Aviv.

When the Emperor Augustus came to power he placed King Herod in control of Israel. King Herod is a figure that was responsible for many of the building projects in Israel during the Roman Rule. In fact, King Herod is so important I even spent a day studying him and what he did for Israel in my Roam Empire class.

King Herod built Caesarea for the same reasons other rules built: to try and boost the economy of their region. Over 12 years King Herod built the city into the grand city it became, complete with a deep-water port, aqueduct, hippodrome and amphitheater. King Herod named it Caesarea in honor of the Caesar of Rome, who at the time was Augustus.

Caesarea was not only important to the Roman population there; the religious communities of the region also found importance with the city. Prominent Christen leaders lived her; Pontius Pilate governed Caesarea during the life of Jesus and this is where Simon Peter converted the first non-Jewish Roman, Cornelius, to believe in Jesus.

In 640 CE Caesarea was the last Palestinian city (after the revolt in 70 CE the name of the region was changed to Palestine after the Philistines living there to punish the Jews) to fall to the Muslims. After this time period the city was neglected, and after several earthquakes was largely destroyed.

The area also has a rich religious history. When Caesarea was originally built King Herod dedicated a temple to Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time. Later, Christian leaders Peter and Paul visited the city (recorded by the New Testament) and later it was the center of Jewish revolt against the Romans.

From my tour there I learned some really interesting information about the historical importance of the hippodrome in Caesarea. Our group was seated in the stands of the hippodrome, and we listened as our tour guide explained the importance of the site to Jews.

In the ancient times the stadium housed all of the chariot races and gladiatorial games in the area. As we were there and we were talking about the glory of the stadium during those days, our tour guide also told us a darker side of the area’s history. After the Bar Kochva Revolt all the religious leaders who participated in the revolt were brought to Caesarea. Once there they were forced to participate in the gladiatorial games, which became a fight for their lives.

Prior to the revolt, Rabbi’s urged the Jewish population to stay away from the gladiatorial games. But once they were fighting for their lives they recognized how important it was to have the crowd on your side, because it was also the crowd who determined if someone would live or die. So Jews began to attend the gladiatorial games to try and support those who were forced to fight for their lives.

The hippodrome is where Rabbi Akiva was killed. Rabbi Akiva was highly educated and systematized the material later becoming the Mishah.

Enjoy the pictures I took while I was there. I definitely was in history heaven, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the group knew how infatuated I was with history by the end of the tour. It’s ok; I think I surprised them all in a good way by the end of the trip with my knowledge!

Crusader Fortifications built by Louis XI of France who came during the sixth cursade during the 13th Century. This was aparently built on previously destroyed fortifications by Saladin in 1187, and Muslims described the city as a well-fortified city.

Byzantine Period Reservior

I believe this is what is left of the wall that used to surround the harbor. But I could be totally wrong.

This is a Dedicatory Inscription for Pontius Pilatus. Since it is written in Latin, this hints at the Romanization throughout the province and in Caesarea at the begining of the first century C.E.

This is the ampitheatre in Caesarea, and concerts are still held there today.

I have at least two other posts I would like to do from my trip. Be patient as I work to get them up, and leave comments if you wish letting me know how you like this one. And as always, happy history!

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