Herod the Great Builder Caesarea Maritima Unit


Herodthe Great Builder: Caesarea Maritima


Table of Contents

Introduction 4

Background 4

Herod the great 4

History Caesarea Maritima 6

Construction details of the Caesarea Maritima 7

Construction details 8

Walls and gates 12

Road and sewage systems 13

Temples 14

Palaces and praetorian 15

Sports arena and amphitheaters 16

Warehouses 16

Summary 17

Conclusion 17


Table of figures

Figure 1 An artist`s depiction of the hammered box method (source: Hohfelder, Brandon &amp Oleson 2007). 10

Figure 2An artist`s depiction of the barge system (source: Hohfelder, Brandon &amp Oleson 2007). 11

Figure 3 The ruins of the church built upon the Roma and Augustus temple (source: https://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/herods-temple-to-roma-and-augustus-at-caesarea-maritima/) 15


Introduction:introduce Herod the great and Caesarea Maritima


Provides briefsupport information about the king, his childhood, family andcharacter relevant to the study. The section will also information onCaesarea Mritima in terms of the importance of the city port to theregion and to King Herod. This will offer comparison to the built upcity.

Constructiondetails of the Caesarea: provides an overall view of the city andwhat needed to be changed and what was changed.

Constructiondetails: details the areas that Herod sought to change about thecity.

Walls and gates:specific information on the types of walls and gates constructed intransforming the city.

Road and sewagesystem: technology used and any evidence on the types of roadsand the role they played in modernizing the city.

Temples:Temples played a role as religious and cultural symbols. Theirpresence would later influence the history of the city.

Palaces andpraetorian : palaces served King Herod and other kings indifferent capacities. Their place in ruins is examined.

Sports arena andamphitheaters: The evidence of sports areas is evident in ruins.The arenas played important cultural symbols.

Warehouses:The construction employed complex borrowed technology. Played a rolein modernizing life in the new metropolis.

Summary &ampconclusion recaptures main issues raised and concludes theresearch paper.


Caesarea Maritima is one of the ancient cities of the Roman Empirename so by Herod the great. The city, which is also known as CaesareaPalestinae, was built between 25 and 13 BC and is a majorarcheological site today. The city, which was established as portcity along the Mediterranean Sea, was named after another Romangreat, Augustus Ceasar, by Herod himself. The city is well mentionedin the Bible which cements its relevance to Christians today ahotspot for Christian persecutions. After the end of the persecutionsand legalization of Christianity, the city was turned into anevangelical center by Philip as mentioned in the book of Acts 21:8.Again, this city was the seat of government for the Judean andbyzantine governments. The city thus holds rich archeologicalinformation and artifacts that help modern scholars to betterunderstand the conditions of life then and the success factors thatled to the growth and prosperity of that city for centuries. However,for this paper is limited in scope as it looks at Caesarea Maritimaas a masterpiece of Herod’s architectural prowess. This paper thusexamines contributions of Herod the great in building andconstruction projects in Caesarea Maritima and the application ofRoman technology in making the projects successful.

Background Herod the great

Herod the Great if simply Herod I was a Jewish King born in 74 BCE inIdumea, south Judea. Other scholars have cited a different birthdate. He descended from Edomites whose ancestors had converted toJudaism. Together with his brother Phaesael, Herod the Great wasraised as a Jew. Some inhabitants even referred to Herod as half-Jewwhile the Jews where they were eager to offer praise to Herod duringhis reign even insisted he was born a Jew. Despite family’sidentification with the Jews, Herod together with his family heavilyassociated with the Roman rulers. Consequently, one of Herod’snephews was appointed as a client king of the client state of Judea.Later, Herod would also be appointed by the Roman Senate as the kingof the Judeans and labeled as king of the Jews.

As a king of the Jews, Herod took pride in his position andimmediately sought to reinforce his claim to the throne. This is inspite of the fact that he was not a Jew by birth like any of hispredecessors. Nonetheless, in line with the cultural mobilityexhibited by his family, Herod did not have any problemsacclimatizing to the Roman ways of life and identifying with Romansinstead. To develop his Judean kingdom, which was only under theRoman Empire, he borrowed heavily from Roman culture and technology.He embarked on major building projects that not only south tosymbolize his power but also serve important functions in the questto modernize Caesarea Maritima and make the city one of the largestin the region. To cement his reign and his association with the Jews,Herod married from a recognized Jewish family, the Hasmoneans.However, he was to later betray this family by executing all themembers as he perceived them as competition and because the familywas more popular among the Jews (Netzer 2008).

Based on such as shrewd history, Herod was a hero to some and toothers embodiment evil. Some scholars have cited Herod as an “evilgenius” who used shrew methods to access to power (Vermes 2014).He is also credited with having adorned his kingdom with temples andcities through major infrastructural projects that clearlydemonstrated his ingenuity. Caesarea Maritima is one of the largestcities that Herod built and his skills in building the city and aharbor have been confirmed through archeological excavations of thisancient seaport city. For the purposes of this paper, the legacy ofHerod is examined from his role as a great builder who oversawmassive constructions projects.

History CaesareaMaritima

Caesarea Maritima is ancient Judean city in the Mediterranean.Previously, the city was known as Caesarea Palestinae, which meansthe city by the sea of Palestine. The name Caesarea Maritima wasadopted after the transformation by Herod the great through majorconstructions works to create a metropolis. Previously, there was asmall Phoenician port city known as Stratton Tower that existed onthe location of Caesarea Maritima. Straton’s tower was a fortifiedanchorage that did not offer help to the merchant ships. The originof the name Straton is not clear and many theories exist on theorigins but will not be explored.

Works on the Caesarea Maritima commenced two decades before the birthof Christ. Herod embarked on creating on a major port city that alsodoubled up as a metropolis. Herod knew very well that the coast ofPalestine did not have any other major city and that the metropoliswould help him cement his legacy and control in the region. However,this was not unique to the coast of Palestine. Herod’s legacy ismarked by grandiose building project across the Roman Empireincluding the Temple of Jerusalem, the winter palace in Jericho, theDead Sea citadel of Masada and the Caesarea Maritima. Of all thesebuilding projects, Dead Sea city of Citadel of Masada is deemed to bethe grandest and was built to rival the city of Alexandria. The cityof Alexandria was founded by Alexander the great in 331 BC of theMacedonia/Greek Empire as an icon of his rule. However, much of theconstruction and design was accomplished under Ptolemy’s rule andother successors. Therefore, Herod the great felt the need tochallenge the dominance of city of Alexandria and that of Alexanderthe great in the region by building the Dead Sea citadel of Masadaand Caesarea Maritima.

Therefore, majority of Herod’s building project at that time weregeared towards cementing his rule and legacy. He wanted his cities tobe the largest and grandest to oust the dominance of existing citiesthen. As such, Caesarea Maritima was not meant to be just a port citybut rather a grand metropolis city along the Mediterranean coast thatwould be a signature of his legacy and a stamp of his successes as agreat ruler. Thus, the planning of the city was meticulous andnothing was spared in creating a port city that reflected on thestature of the king and the kingdom that he reigned over.

The city was located on a straight sandy coast along the coastlinefrom Dora to Joppa. Straton Towers was in decay and did not have anymajor towers. Although the Mediterranean Sea was a useful traderoute, the coastline did not have many harbors or lighthouses to warnsailors about the beach as the region was characterized by strongsouthwest winds that would at times beach ships. Thus, ships sailingalong this coastline line from Egypt rode in anchor (Netzer 2008).Thus Herod saw the need to build a deep sea port harbor and build ametropolis city although at that time Straton was half Jewish andhalf gentile. However, the fact that Herod rule favored non-Jewishdwellers in the small city encouraged more non-Jewish settlers duringconstruction and even after construction.

Construction detailsof the Caesarea Maritima

Archeologists began working on Caesarea Maritima in 1873 thoughactual excavations at the site began in 1943. These excavations haverevealed very detailed information about the construction of the citythat pinpoint to the prowess of Herod the great in building andplanning using rudimentary technology compared to the moderntechnology. The ruins of the city are submerged in water and areapproximately located 120 meters into the sea from the currentseashore. These submerged remains can be seen from the air duringclear day and calm days and thus are make an important touristdestination.

Construction details

The construction of the Caesarea Maritima can be viewed is twodistinct ways: the construction of the manmade harbor named Sebastosand the development of other projects in the city and around theharbor. However it is the construction of the harbor that is mostinteresting to both engineers and archeologists as it employed newways of harbor construction. Jewish historian from the first century,Josephus Flavius, has documented the description of the harbor inintricate details. The majority of the details described by Josephushave been confirmed by the excavations though some details have yetto be uncovered or confirmed. Although the harbor was to be laterdestroyed by a tsunami, it does not negate the ingenuity of theconstruction. This harbor was remarkable by modern standards and therapidity of the construction and engineering accomplishmentsincluding hydraulic concrete are impressive.

First, it is important to appreciate the existing challenges inconstructing the harbor at that time. As aforementioned, the choiceof the location of the harbor was not driven by its suitability forconstructing a harbor but rather by political reasons. King Herodonly had to choose the location and the engineers would figure outthe rest. One of the main challenges was that the shoreline wasexposed to a long windy stretch of the Mediterranean Seacharacterized by strong sand-carrying currents moving from south tonorth. Secondly, the harbor was to be built on shifting sand on theshoreline as opposed to solid rock.

Through excavation, archeologists have sampled different cores andmaterials from Sebastos in an attempt to understand the constructionmethods applied underwater to allow hydraulic concrete to set in andcure within a short period of time. These studies have identified atleast three variants of formwork in different locations as opposed toa standardized formwork. Again the casting protocols applied areunclear as of now though this remains to be one of the mostimpressive aspects of the harbor. It is important to remember thatthe harbor enclosed around 100,000 m2 and curved a whole800 meters into the Mediterranean. The closest such an artificialbreakwater had been made was in Cosa Italy through the breakwatersonly measured 150 meters only (Raban 2009).

The construction started off with making two breakwaters between 22and 15BC. The harbor basically made of imported materials from Italyrequired immense skills and labor. Pozzolana, which is a type ofvolcanic ash imported from Pozzuoli, Italy, was mixed with lime underwater to form concrete. Roman engineer Vitruvius described this allimportant component in chapter 6 of his books “The tencommandments of Architecture” as “kind of powder which fromnatural causes produces astonishing results. It is found in theneighborhood of Baiae and in the country belonging to the towns roundabout Mt. Vesuvius” (Raban 2009, p. 113)

A total of 24,000 m3 pozzolana was required to construct a500m long southern breakwater and another but shorter northernbreakwater measuring 275m. About 12,000 m3 of slaked limeand 12,000 m3 of kurkar quarried to make rubble were used. Wood wasalso widely used especially in creating molds for which to form theconcrete blocks. Using pozzolana as well architectural and designaspects of the project were borrowed from the Romans. For instance,the aforementioned pozzolana was first mentioned by Vitruvius in hisbook two years before works on the harbor started. As such, Herodborrowed heavily from the latest Roman technology to develop hisprojects (Netzer 2008).

One of thesuggested methods in making these formworks or blocks is Vitruvianformwork. This involved pounding vertical planks on the ocean floorsupported by planks and then filling the box with concrete. Thismethod was however tedious and time consuming as sit requirednumerous divers to pound the planks into the sea floor and alsoconsumed large amounts of concrete.

Figure1 An artist`s depiction of the hammered box method (source:Hohfelder, Brandon &amp Oleson 2007).

The other method demonstrated by Caesarea Ancient Harbor ExportationProject (CAHEP) and which was used to construct the northernbreakwater involved creating a containment system where a largedouble-walled hollow box is constructed on land and towed intoposition on the sea before being filled out with mortar. The largewooden box would have beams and frames to supports the inside. Theouter wall was made up of a double planked water tight wall with agap of about 23cm but had no bottom. The buoyant box would be floatedat sea and the 23cm gap filled with concrete to make the box sink.The sunken box would be pegged to the sea floor and the inner part ofthe box would then be filled with concrete gradually until it roseabove sea level (Hohfelder, Brandon &amp Oleson 2007).

The third possible way would have involved building barges withhorizontal plunks constructed near the shore. This method was indeedused in constructing the larger southern mole of the sebastos. Thebarges, which were similar to boxes without lids, were constructedusing mortise and tenon joints used in boat construction to make themwater tight. The barges were filled partially with concrete so as toreduce their susceptibility to the wind and also make them lightenough to transport. The barges would then be towed to the sea andfilled out with concrete completely and mortar and they would sink.Alternating layers of pozzolana-based and lime-based concretes werelayered on the barges until they reached above sea level.

Figure2An artist`s depiction of the barge system (source: Hohfelder,Brandon &amp Oleson 2007).

The blocks or formworks (lithoi) were about 50 feet long (15.25 m),10 feet wide (3.05 m) and 9 feet high (2.7 m) though some wereconsiderably wider. The blocks were dropped to a sea depth of about20m to form a submarine foundation. Once the foundation was complete,the engineers then laid out moles (teichos) above sea level measuringabout 200 ft across. One half of the moles (100 ft) was called theprokomia in reference to its location as an outer barrier to breakwaves. The other half encircled the harbor as a stonewall. Thestonewall was marked with intervals of towers (pyrgoi). Numerousvault chambers were created for the reception of those entering theharbor. The entrance channel to the harbor faced north as the northwind always brought the clear skies. The entrance of the harbor wasmarked by colossal statues that were first discovered byarcheologists Edward Link on 1960in conjunction with the IsraelUnderwater Exploration Society (IUES), Caesarea Ancient HarborExcavation Project (CAHEP) and Combined Ceasarea Explorations (CCE).The Link expedition and other expeditions on the site have confirmedthe description of the harbor and the construction process asdescribed by Josephus (Hohfelder, Brandon &amp Oleson 2007).

However, the harbor did not last long as other harbors of its time.Today, the breakwaters are 5m submerged in water and are locatedabout 450m from current shoreline. A tsunami on 23th December 115 ADcontributed to substantial destruction of the harbor according toReinahdt et al (2006). However, other scholars argue that theconstruction of the harbor along fault lines on tectonic platescontributed more to the rapid destruction of the harbor compared toother harbors of the same time period (Netzer 2008). Other modelsalso blame the construction methods and materials used noting thatthe Pozzolana, lime and rubble used were not enough against thenatural elements in an exposed sea front (Magness 2012).

Walls and gates

The Caesarea Maritima was not only a harbor city but also a city likeany other with dwelling and other major infrastructural projects allenclosed by a main wall and gates. Two semi-circular city wallssurrounding the city were constructed as it was norm of cities ofthat time. The city walls marked the boundaries to the city andserved as a defense system against external attacks. However,excavations have shown the existence of two walls. The inner wall,also called the Herodian wall was constructed by Herod while theouter wall was constructed during the Byzantine era. The Herodianwall, which is also the older of the two walls, had a northern gateflanked by two towers while the other gate was located on thesouthern side and opened to the south of the theater. The largerByzantine wall sought to enlarge the city and create new outerboundaries that enclosed a semi-oval area measuring 1500×830 m whichexpanded the city to 2-3 times its former size (Patrcih 2011).

Road and sewagesystems

Josephus account of the city mentioned an intricate system of roadnetwork and a sewerage system underneath the city. The roads werecategorized into different levels depending on their use and size.Excavations on the city ruins have uncovered at least four successivelevels of roads. The entire road network covered about 65×95 m indimension. The sewer system was also advanced and constructedunderground. The sewerage system was flushed by the tide though atthat time sewage treatment was unheard of. The sewerage network wasconnected to well distributed bathhouses and latrines. There wereboth public latrines and bath houses. Private villas and palaces werealso connected to the sewers system. There was also a water supplysystem installed next to the sewer system with the pipes made up oflead or terracotta. The aqueduct also brought water from the nearbyMount Carmel and was connected to the water supply pipes. Again,private houses were connected directed to the water supply system(Patrich 2011).

The aqueduct as applied Caesarea Maritima was a major inventionborrowed from the Romans. The aqueducts were constructed underneathand were made from stone or concrete. They relied on gravity alone tomove water and sewage from one place to the other and thus meantusing a slight gradient throughout and avoiding any obstructingpeaks. The technology alone enabled cities to source water from othersources other than ground water and springs and also keep citiesclean and free from effluent.


Herod the great is accredited to have overseen the construction ofnumerous temples in Judea during his reign. Caesarea Maritima was noexception and the city received a fair share of its temples.Archeological excavations have revealed the architectural plans ofthree elaborate temples in Caesarea Maritima. The harbor was home toone of the pagan temples dedicated to Augustus and Roma. This templeaccording to the description provided by Josephus and as per thearchitectural evidence was constructed on a u-shaped elevatedplatform along the eastern mole of the harbor. The temple measuredabout 95 by 150 feet and towered about 100 feet from the column basesto the top. The temple was made up of local sandstone called kurkarand decorated with a white coat of stucco. This temple was laterbrought down during the Byzantine period and in its place, a churchwas built in the 6th century.

Figure3 The ruins of the church built upon the Roma and Augustus temple(source:https://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/herods-temple-to-roma-and-augustus-at-caesarea-maritima/)

Although by Herod was a decorated Jew, he went ahead and built apagan temple. Rulers who came after Herod continued to insult Jewishreligion and synagogues were desecrated. For instance, Vespasianconverted a Jewish synagogue into a vast odium. Such actions led toJewish revolts that led to the destruction of some or in soma caseentire building project left behind by Herod in Caesarea Maritima andother parts of the Judean kingdom.

Palaces andpraetorian

Several palaces were constructed by Herod the great to house him, hisarmy generals and some nobility. The most iconic palace wasconstructed on a promontory at the south of the harbor. This palacewas to later become a praetorium for the roman governors. During theByzantine rule, the same palace housed the governor of the city.

Sports arena andamphitheaters

Herod constructed several theaters in Caesarea Maritima incelebration of the culture. Herod used these sports area andamphitheaters to spread the Hellenic culture and fight the Jewishculture in the city. One of the amphitheaters was located in southernend of the city on the eastern side of his palace. The amphitheateralso acted a hippo-stadium meaning that it was used to host chariotraces that followed the Olympian tradition of chariot racing.Recently excavated evidence provides evidence to this notion ofOlympian chariot racing during the ancient civilizations as opposedto the Roman racing approach that involves a circus. The excavationsrevealed starting gates five on either side of a central wide gateand lanes parallel to the longitudinal axis of the arena. Later on,the same area was converted into an amphitheater before it wasabandoned following erosion by sea waves (Hohfelder, Brandon &ampOleson 2007).


Herod was looking forward to making Caesarea Maritima the Judeancapital and a major Mediterranean trade city that would dethroneAlexandria and Gaza as he preferred trade cities in the region.Therefore, Herod built the harbor to attract ships of merchants tothe seafront. Other infrastructural projects meant to promote tradewere created in form of warehouses and horrea. The large warehousesallowed storage of large quantities of goods for traders to storetheir merchandise in before loading them on to ships. Ata the sametime, the warehouses allowed stabilization of market conditions inthe city through ensuring constant supplying goods to preventshortages and hikes on prices that would result in inflation. Somewarehouses had large underground granaries were constructed withthick oily lime mortar layers to keep the cereals and foodstuffs wayfrom pests and insects and thus prolong their storage.


The construction projects initiated by Herod the great werespecifically adapted to their purposes. This was in line withadvancing the Caesarea Maritima as a regional trade hub and acultural center of the Roman culture in the Judean Kingdom. Theproject also allowed the king to consolidate his rule by promotingprosperity of the Jewish subjects who were not impressed with hisleadership after massacring popular Jewish families that had anyclaim to the throne. In doing so, Herod kept the Jews preoccupiedwith the projects which also provided employment to the masses. Someof the projects such as the aqueduct and the road systems improvedthe quality of life for the people as well as ensured enhanced tradethat promoted availability of a wider range of goods. In short, whileHerod the great was pursuing his personal goals in the projects, hissubjects benefitted in different ways and even to some extent blindedthem his other evil acts. So important were the construction projectsto the Jewish people that soon after the death of King Herod, lack ofemployment opportunities as no more projects were ongoing led to aseries of Jewish revolts.


All in all, Herod as the genius builder or evil genius has specialplace in history. His efforts and in building some of the mostastounding construction projects from ancient times makes aninteresting subject of study. Although a majority of the technologywas borrowed from the Romans, Herod’s projects rivaled those of theRomans during his reign. The Caesarea Maritima city alone is one ofthe rulers greatest achievement and one of his living legacies albeitin ruins. This city, although buried in sand and submerged in waterhas been an important and information-loaded specimen ofarcheological study. The ruins and the technology employed alsoprovided important lessons for modern engineers who can take cuesfrom the inventions to be applied in the modern world. At the sametime, the study of the Caesarea Maritima allows the human race toallow the development path of modern technology. This paper has thusdemonstrated the ingenuity and prowess of Herod in building animportant historical figure and his projects as importantarcheological sites.


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