Thinking Roman city, right? What gave it away? Yes, Caesarea is a city that Herod the Great dedicated to Caesar Augustus more than 2,000 years ago. Today, it is one of Israel's major tourist attractions and an increasingly popular place for Israel's elite to make their homes. History The aqueduct, originally built by Herod in the first century BCE, was repaired and expanded by the Romans in the second century CE. It conveyed water to the city from springs at the foot of Mt. Carmel over 10 kms. away. (Ministry of Tourism Photo) Caesarea was originally called Straton's Tower after its founder Straton, who is believed to have been a ruler of Sidon in the 4th century BCE. In 96 BCE the city was captured by Alexander Yannai and remained in the Hasmonean kingdom until it became an autonomous city by Pompey. After being for some time in the possession of Cleopatra, ruler of Egypt, it was returned by Augustus to Herod. Once the site of a Phoenician port, over the course of 12 years Herod built Caesarea into the grandest city other than Jerusalem in Palestine, with a deep sea harbor (called Sebastos, i.e., Augustus in Greek), aqueduct, hippodrome and magnificent amphitheater that remain standing today. Herod renamed the city Caesarea in honor of the emperor. The population of Caesarea was half gentile and half Jewish, often causing disputes among the people. In 6 CE, Caesarea became the home of the Roman governors (Procurators) of Judea. The city remained the capital of Roman and Byzantine Palestine. The Great Revolt of 66-70 CE started in Caesarea when the Jewish and Syrian communities began fighting over a pagan ceremony conducted on Shabbat near the entrance of a synagogue. The Romans ignored the Jewish protests of this provocation and violence soon spread throughout the country. When the Romans finally quelled the revolt, and razed Jerusalem, Caesarea became the capital of Palestine, a status it maintained until the Roman Empire was Christianized by the Emperor Constantine in 325 CE. Caesarea was also the site where the Romans tortured and executed Rabbi Akiva following the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE. Israel Fact The only golf course in Israel is in Caesarea. Caesarea is an important site in Christian history. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. This was where Simon Peter converted the Roman, Cornelius, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Paul was also imprisoned for two years in Caesarea. During the 3rd century, Caesarea was a center of Christian learning. In the 4th century, the site converted to Christianity and became a major center of the Christian Roman Empire. In 640 CE, Caesarea was the last Palestinian city to fall to the Muslim invaders. After the Muslims swept out of Arabia and across the Middle East, driving out the Romans, Palestine was largely neglected. In 1101, the Crusaders captured the city under the leadership of Baldwin I, only to lose it in 1187 to Saladin. Under the Crusader rule, the Jewish community of Caesaria dwindled until in 1170 only 20 Jews remained. From 1251-1252, the city was entirely reconstructed by Louis IX. In 1265, Caesarea fell to Baybars, the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, who destroyed the city, which remained in ruins until 1884. In 1884, a small fishing village was established on the remains at Caesarea by Muslim refugees from Bosnia. The city was abandoned by its inhabitants during the War of Independence (1948).