Herodís plan in building Sebastos, the harbour of Caesarea Maritima, was to create in his kingdom a major port for the transit trade of luxury goods from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The demand for these goods (spices, including preservatives, drugs and cosmetics, fine textiles, precious stones) had increased considerably since his benefactor Augustus Caesar came to power in Rome. Within twelve years (22-10 BC), Herod built the port and the city, which became shortly after the economic and political capital of the country. History brought many changes, but while the site of the city was always known, the port slipped into complete oblivion. It was only in 1960 that the harbour was rediscovered. The main underwater research started in 1975 by the Center of Maritime Studies at Haifa University, under Prof. Avner Raban, and continued successively until his untimely death in 2004.
Prof. Raban initiated the project of the underwater park in 1992, and 13 years later it was revived. This leaflet is based on his many publications and dedicated to his memory. Four tracks marked underwater* lead to 28 signs, pointing to sites of interest, which embody the wonders of Roman marine engineering and tell the story of two millennia of the harbourís existence. Two main written sources are the basis for research: the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the harbour exactly as he saw it, but the underwater parts and the methods of construction had escaped him. The construction of the harbour was best described by the Roman architect Vitruvius, Herodís contemporary. Caesarea is the oldest known harbour to be built according to Vitruviusí specifications, thus being the first large scale artificial harbour in history, the biggest and most modern harbour in the whole Roman Empire at the time.
Aerial photograph of the submerged harbour
* The numbers in brackets refer to points marked on the four tracks of the underwater cicuit. The detailed description of the tracks may be found in the local diving center
Writing: Sarah Arenson
Consulting: Yossi Turkaspa, Chris Brandon
Illustration: Sapir Haad
Editing: Micha Livneh
Photography: Itamar Grinberg
Aerial Phot.: Ofek