I was lucky. It was one of those rare days when it rains in Israel. That’s why I was alone in Caesarea, at least for the first half of the day. Later, some of the most stubborn enthusiasts of history still landed on the territory of the ancient city from their buses. Thank God, in the corner of a hippodrome, somebody has constructed for them something like a chariot with stylized horses made of iron rods in order that the guides could direct tourists there and suggest they take some pictures.
Herod the Great built Caesarea in honor of the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus with his own money in 25-13 BCE. Herod was fascinated by construction and rather successful at it. Moreover, the Roman Empire provided him great scope by giving him extra money for that.
Today, the hippodrome is almost washed by the sea, but there were times when Caesarea presented a power and strength to every passing ship. Once, it even became the capital of Palestine. The hippodrome, the cathedral, the court palace, the theater… Even their ruins inspire respect and admiration. Look at the floors.
Have you ever thought to lay a floor in your bathroom THIS WAY?! No. You used practical, but boring tile. The desire for beauty in life yielded to the pressure of practicality and functionality. Sure enough, why use a complicated and expensive mosaic when there is a great variety of ceramic tiles?
However, all this has come from Ancient Greece. Do you know how many philosophical schools your city has? In Greece, every more or less advanced philosopher founded his own philosophical school and even had students! You might say: They should work instead. But that was a work indeed; however, unlike olive cultivation, Greek philosophy exerted a great influence over the whole history of mankind. The main science for the Greeks was geometry, the basis of all sciences, the science of gods. Where would we be now without Euclidean geometry?
Generally speaking, I have the impression that with the decline of the Greek and Roman civilizations all gods had retired, and Europe stopped, and regressed, plunging into the gloom, absurdity and dementia of the Middle Ages, and losing the remnants of the Greco-Roman culture. But let’s go back to Caesarea.
What was the first thing the Greeks built on a new territory? A temple and thermae, or bathhouses.
The Greeks and the Romans of all classes took steam baths and SPA-procedures with a decent regularity, but several hundred years later, European aristocrats still did not wash themselves for months, if not years. Let alone the peasant class.
Caesarea has perfectly kept ruins of public baths, but of the late Byzantine period.
Tourists have already occupied the iron chariot. Seriously, what can be so appealing in the ruins of a barn, toilet, or bathhouse? But it’s appealing for me! I enjoy walking along these old walls that have seen the great part of Israel’s history, looking at mosaics scrupulously, lovingly created by an old master day by day. The master is gone a long time ago, but his love is still here, in his mosaics. I enjoy walking here and… thinking.
Thinking of what? Well, for example… Can you name at least one great merchant of antiquity? Nevertheless, merchants were those people who bloodlessly raised the prosperity of their country and themselves, and yet they received only contempt from historians. But you can easily remember a dozen names of great generals and conquerors, and probably even estimate the number of people they killed. History remembers only such things. It is so strange.
This is the Court Palace. It is semi-flooded now. Destinies of thousands of people were resolved here. Just think of the karma it has garnered? This is the place where archeologists initially found a reference to the fifth procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. Since for some period of time, Roman procurators were located in Caesarea rather than Jerusalem, can we suppose that just at this spot, Pilate conversed with a Palestinian troublemaker named Jesus?
The beautiful theater, the oldest antique theater in Israel. By the way, a theater was the third building the Greeks or Romans built on any new territory.
Creating beautiful Caesarea, why should King Herod break the traditions of his wise predecessors? Bread and circuses! There are the huge barns full of corns, and here are the hippodrome and the theater. Enjoy your life, people! But if you are dissatisfied, the court is not far.