The Theater at Caesarea Maritima

National Park in Israel

The theater in Caesarea Maritima is one of the most ancient and magnificent Roman theaters discovered in the Holy Land. It was built in the time of Herod and was active for centuries until the Byzantine period. The location is chosen very carefully. The theater held about 4,000 seats. It was originally built entirely of local sandstone and plaster and later in the days of Septimus Severus incorporated marble and porphyry columns. The theater was unveiled by the Italian delegation in the late 1950s. The venues featured among other things mimicry and pantomime performances that included also athletics shows and even executions!

More About the Theater at Caesarea Maritima

In the 1961 excavations, the famous Pilate Stone was discovered in the ruins of the Roman theater, dedicating the “Tiberium” to the prefect Pontius Pilate. But it is not known what Tiberium is, and it is assumed that it is a structure designed to glorify the name of Emperor Tiberius. In other words, some kind of an altar. And this inscription was something of a dedicatory inscription honoring the emperor Tiberius. Pilate Stone is currently on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. In addition, there is a replica on site just next to Herod Palace.

Greek Theaters Vs Roman Theater

How do we know the theater at Caesarea Maritima is a Roman theater built by Herod and not a Greek theater. In fact is there any difference between these two types of theaters? So Roman theatres derive from and are part of the overall evolution of earlier Greek theatres. Indeed, much of the architectural influence on the Romans came from the Greeks; and theatre structural design was no different from other buildings.

However, Roman theatres have specific differences, such as generally being built upon their own foundations instead of earthen works or a hillside and being completely enclosed on all sides. The theaters of Rome had much in common with those of Greece. They were both rounded and had sloping seats for the purpose of making the play audible to a very large crowd.

But there some very distinct differences. Greek Theaters were carved out of a hillside while Roman theaters were built up from the solid ground using either cement or stone. Also, the orchestra is larger because the structures were used for other events which required more space. For example, we know the Roman Theater at Caesarea Maritima held naval battles in the area of the orchestra.


Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

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