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Caesarea Maritima

The Capital of Judea

When Judea becomes a Roman province in 6 CE, Caesarea Maritima replaces Jerusalem as its civilian and military capital and becomes the official residence of its governors. For example, the Roman procurator Antonius Felix; and prefect Pontius Pilatus. In the 3rd century, Jewish sages exempted the city from Jewish law; as by this time, the majority of the inhabitants were non-Jewish. The city was chiefly a commercial center relying on trade.



In fact, Caesarea Maritima is the location of the 1961 discovery of the Pilate Stone; the only archaeological item that mentions the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate; by whose order Jesus was crucified. It is likely that Pilate used it as a base and only went to Jerusalem when needed.

Roman City Caesarea Maritima According to Josephus

So the city was described in detail by the 1st-century Roman Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. Josephus describes the harbor as being as large as the one at Piraeus; the major harbor of Athens. Remains of the principal buildings erected by Herod as well as the medieval town are still visible today; including the Crusader city; the city walls, the ruined citadel surrounded by the sea, and remains of the cathedral and a second church. Herod’s Caesarea grew rapidly; in time becoming the largest city in Judaea; with an estimated population of 125,000 over an urban area of 3.7 square kilometers (1.4 sq mi).

According to Josephus, Caesarea was the scene in 26 CE of a major act of civil disobedience to protest against Pilate’s order to plant eagle standards on the Temple Mount of Jerusalem. Emperor Vespasian raised its status to that of a Colonia; with the name Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea.

According to Josephus, the outbreak of the Jewish revolt of 66 CE was provoked by Greeks of a certain merchant house in Caesarea sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. In 70 CE, after the Jewish revolt was suppressed, games were held there to celebrate the victory of Titus. Many Jewish captives were brought to Caesarea Maritima; Josephus claims that 2,500 captives were “slaughtered in gladiatorial games” at the Hippdrome.



Furthermore, in 6 CE Caesarea became the provincial capital of the Judaea Province; before the change of name to Syria Palaestina in 135, in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba revolt. Caesarea was one of four Roman colonies for veterans in the Syria-Phoenicia region. Caesarea is mentioned in the 3rd-century Mosaic of Rehob, with respect to its non-Jewish population.

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Hi! My name is Arik, an Israeli native who dedicated his life to sharing my passion for the Holy Land with those interested in knowing more about this incredible piece of land. I’m the Chief Guide at ‘APT Private Tours in Israel’.

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