A Ghost from Caesarea…

220px-CaesareaA pile of marble, concrete and sandstone sits off a highway between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Once a city.

Once a Roman colony, its residents Roman citizens, one of the most important cities in the Roman orbit.

Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Caesarea.

 

Named after the first Emperor, Caesar Augustus, the city sat on the turquoise Mediterranean coast in Rome’s Palestina province and dominated Mare Nostrum’s waters, a beacon in the Roman east for many centuries.

Caesarea's location on the Mediterranean

The city had many distinguishing features but none more remarkable than its massive, man-made harbor, the biggest in the world when it was built enclosing 100,000 square meters. It was known as Sebastos Harbor (“sebastos” from the Greek for Augustus), and its construction was made possible by the Caesarea_maritima_(DerHexer)_2011-08-02_098 220px-Caesarea_maritima_BW_4Roman’s brilliant invention of a new kind of concrete upon which they built their world-spanning Empire. A mix of lime and pozzolana (volcanic ash imported from Italy), this almost indestructible concrete has the unique quality of growing harder with time – even underwater – one of the reasons why there are so many well preserved Roman maritime ruins in the world.

Recently, somewhere in those waters off Caesarea, two divers discovered an ancient Roman wreck, a ship that sunk in the age of Constantine the Great – 1,600 years ago. IAA (Israel Antiquities Authority) archaeologists who explored the wreck speculate that the ship must have foundered when trying to make the harbor in a storm, depositing its cargo in the sand where it has been well preserved for nearly two millennium.

Among its contents were exceptional statues, including one of the Moon Goddess Luna (see below) that’s as beautiful as any I have seen, a grand collection of Roman coins, anchors, and other metal objects that were bound for recycling according to the IAA. Thanks to the storm they never made it to the foundry, giving us one of the most important maritime discoveries of Roman artifacts in Israel in the last three decades.

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