Caesarea Maritima PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Caesarea Maritima
The Theater
Hippodrome, Palace

The Aqueducts

The population of Caesarea was probably about 30,000 in the Roman period, 50,000 in the Byzantine. (Just to put things in proportion, Alexandria and Antioch had more than half a million people each in the Roman period, and Rome itself more than a million.) The city had no springs, but the groundwater was not far down and there were plenty of wells. Yet a Roman metropolis also needed flowing water for latrines, baths and fountains. To this end Caesarea was furnished with aqueducts.

We find their remains on the shore to the north. The most noticeable rests upon arches. A closer examination reveals two channels. The one on the sea-side was built by Hadrian , who claims credit on no less than eight engraved signs. He added his channel, however, to an earlier structure, the eastern one, which was probably built by Herod (although Josephus does not mention this). At one time these channels reached all the way to the city, but the backwash from Herod's sunken breakwater has eroded them to this point. 

Both the upper ducts extend along the shore for 1.6 miles (2.6 km), after which they tunnel 400 yards through a kurkar ridge and continue to springs inland. Herod's totaled 4 miles, Hadrian's 9.

If we climb the steps at the southern end and look northeast, we see nearby a broad lower duct, which provided water to the (much larger) city of the Byzantine period from a dam at the Crocodile River to the north. We can also see the promontory of Dor, whose harbor suffered decline after Herod's was built. We see, too, the upper part of Mt. Carmel, with the tower of Haifa University.

At the time Herod built Caesarea, the technology of the aqueduct had long existed. In the early 7th century BC, the Assyrian king Sennacherib built ducts to Nineveh (34 miles long!) and Erbil, including tunnels and bridges. (Cf. Hezekiah's tunnel in Jerusalem.) In the land of the Bible, however, we do not find aqueducts bringing water into cities until the Hasmonean period. It appears that city dwellers required a strong government, one that could provide security over a large territory, before they could descend from the ever-more-crowded tells and live at a distance from the source of their water. The security provided first by the Hasmoneans, but especially by Herod during the pax romana, made possible large cities in the flatlands.