The hot sun beating down made the Mediterranean seem that much more inviting. The blue water washing the clear sand, the pale sky looking like a thousand fingers had leeched the colour from it. Romans had paused at this place for hundreds of years, making it their administration capital of Judea. And like all things Roman, and all things administration, the architects were instructed to build to impress. I also think they built to take in the wonderful view and make a dramatic back drop for ‘circus and bread’.
The first port of Caesarea was established by those enterprising Phoenicians and Alexander with ever an eye on the main chance, conquered it on his way to being great. Herod, another person of infamous reputation, built the Roman city when he arrived in 22BC. He created a large city which became a source of wealth for himself and Rome. Being an important port it attracted a cosmopolitan group of traders and the following centuries witnessed the changes of religion and conquerors.
There is a saying which goes, “If you hear Caesarea thrives, but Jerusalem suffers – believe it. If you hear Jerusalem thrives, while Caesarea suffers – believe it. But if you hear that both are thriving – don’t believe it.” This saying reflects the rivalry between the commercial and spiritual centres in Judea. Jerusalem remains today the spiritual centre and Caesarea has found renewed prosperity with its restored buildings and beautiful Roman theatre.
When I first visited this area I stayed with acquaintances in a nearby Kibbutz. As I wandered about their simple abode I noticed a long, beautifully formed pillar being used as an edging to their garden. Very casually my friend remarked that it was Roman and as it was lying around they thought it should be put to use. Being the kiwi I am, I was stunned that something I thought should be revered in a museum was being treated as an ordinary object. As if, you too can have a 2,000 year artefact in your garden as edging.
Mandy has been a tour leader with Tours Direct for over 15 years. She has a wealth of experience and never gets tired of travelling to old and new destinations.