Caesarea Maritima: the temple to Augustus



The Jewish historian Josephus (37 – c 100 A.D.), in a brief summary of some of Herod the Great’s building projects across Palestine, noted in regard to Caesarea Maritima:

“At Caesarea he constructed a major port along a shore where there was none, enclosing a harbor larger than the Piraeus [the largest seaport in Greece]. Then he erected a whole city of white stone crowned with a temple to Rome and Augustus – all within a twelve-year period.” (p.246)

In another place, Josephus tells us the temple’s statute of the emperor Augustus was “not inferior to the Olympian Zeus.” (Jewish Wars I.21.7).

We know exactly where this remarkable temple once stood: on the highest and most prominent part of Caesarea Maritima, overlooking the harbor and only 100-300 yards from the coastline of that time. However, the intervening two millennium since its construction has not been kind to this temple for virtually all of it has either deteriorated, been carried away, been re-purposed, or remains yet to be excavated. However, what little of the temple’s remains that have been identified has enabled scholars to surmise what the temple looked like originally.

The photograph above is a close-up shot of a historical marker located on the temple’s foundation that presents scholarship’s proposal of the temple’s appearance.

Caesarea Maritima: architecture (3)



One of the column capitals on display in the garden by Herod’s theater is an Ionic style capital. The informative sign beneath it reads:

“This capital dates from the Herodian period (end of the first century BCE to 70 CE) and is the most ancient capital on display here. It might have been part of one of the luxurious buildings erected by King Herod.”

Caesarea Maritima: architecture (2)


Concerning the development of Caesarea Maritima under Roman rule Leslie J. Hoppe tells us:

“The construction of the city took place between 22 and 9 BCE. It was designed to be a typical Hellenistic polis with a theater, a amphitheater, agora, a royal palace, a temple dedicated to the emperor, and streets arranged on a grid pattern. … The Greek-speaking population swelled under encouragement from Herod, who saw the new city as a balance to ancient and Jewish Jerusalem. He named his city Caesarea to honor his patron August Caesar. The name Caesarea Maritima, which is used today for Herod’s city, was unknown in antiquity.”

“A typical Hellenistic polis.” The evidence of this is seen everywhere as you walk in the garden along the southern side of the Herodian era city wall near Herod’s theater in Caesarea Maritime. You’ll encounter a variety of objects on display there, several of them being column capitals. An informative sign in the garden reads:

“In the Classical World, planning and aesthetic principles were clear and unambiguous. The Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders were elaborated by the Greeks and later, adopted by the Romans, with some variations. Each order bears its own rules and particular ornamental elements. Columns capitals express these different orders.”

A Corinthian capital in the garden there is pictured above and the sign beside it reads:

“The Corinthian capital first appeared in Greece in the fourth century BCE and is mostly found in Caesarea. This order was popular until the end of the Byzantine period.”

Caesarea Maritima: architecture (1)



When you exit Herod’s theater in Caeasarea Maritima to the NNW, you immediately find yourself on a pathway leading to a strip of flower garden that borders the remains of what was some of the city walls from the Herodian era.

An information sign in the garden reads:

“The source of much present day knowledge of the styles and building methods of the classical world of Greece and Rome is the work of the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius, who wrote his major text, De Architectura, some two thousand years ago.

“The architecture of this region combines Hellenistic and Roman traditions with local and imported materials, all of which was adapted to local conditions.

“This garden presents a collection of architectural artifacts discovered during the excavation of Caesarea, or found by chance.”

The photograph above is of the remnants of the Herodian city wall. Jerome Murphy-O’Conner observes (p. 243):

“… some 60m [meters] of the 1.8 m-wide Herodian city wall is visible. Originally a round tower … projected to the south. It was replaced by a square tower in the C1 AD. In that century the area outside the wall and west of the tower became a cemetery with built tombs, which lasted until the 3CE [third century A.D.].”