Caesarea Maritima: the amphitheatre/hippodrome (4)


A historical marker in the amphitheatre/hippodrome in Caesarea Maritima reads:

King Herod’s ‘Hippodrome’

This hippodrome (circus* in Latin) built in 10/9 B.C. by King Herod [the Great] for the inauguration of the city, held horse and chariot races, athletics, gladiatorial combat, and hunting games. Before falling into disuse at the end of the Roman period, the building’s southern end was converted into an oval amphitheater for the staging of gladiatorial combat and hunting games.

Did the Building Serve Other Purposes as Well?

In the Greek speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire, these spectacles as well as sprint races were held in a building known as a stadium. Historical sources on Caesarea mention a stadium where Jewish, and later, Christian prisoners were sent to their death fighting in the arena as gladiators or as prey for wild beasts.

* The Roman circus, based on the design of the Greek hippodrome, is a U-shaped enclosure built for horse and chariot races.

The 315x68m building underwent various changes. In the 1st c. A.D. the western seating area was added, bringing the structure’s capacity to ca. 12,000.