Do you want to know what a “Vomitorium” is? It is not what you think. It is the term for the crowded exit of a Roman Theater. You can see them in Ancient Caesarea (Keysarya) which offers tourists the ruins of unique, impressive buildings, including a Roman theater still in use. Caesarea’s Antiquities Park is one of Israel’s most impressive parks, housing unique buildings from various periods, bearing silent witness to the upheavals that have visited Caesarea over the past 2,300 years. Standing side by side over an area of 500 dunams (125 acres), there are architectural remains from the Hellenistic period (the 3rd century BCE) to the Crusader period (the 12th century), when Caesarea was a port city and spent many years as Israel’s capital. Ancient Caesarea is bustling with tourists from all corners of the world who come to see the wonders of the past that were built by one of the greatest builders of the ancient world – King Herod.
You will find a restaurant, cold soft drinks and WC at the Entrance to the Park. Yes, this is me on the left (with a friend), not the one in the middle.
The Statue Garden
On your way to the entrance to the Roman Theater, you pass a beautiful collection of Grecian, Roman and early Christian style statues found here in Caesarea.
Herod the Great wanted his polis to be endowed with all the cultural edifices found in Rome, so he also constructed a theater with a seating capacity of 3,500. Not bad for a city in the periphery of the empire. According to Josephus, this is where the death of Herod Agrippa occurred, as recounted in Acts 12. The theater was covered in summer with a skin covering (vellum) to provide shade, and visitors probably brought cushions with them to soften the stone seats. Special large stone seats were reserved for the elite.
A tour of the national park is like walking through a story, and wandering between the ancient buildings one can both sense how people lived here thousands of years ago and enjoy modern, contemporary experiences, such as the enthralling musical performances held in the beautiful Roman Theater.
Of particular interest is a Roman inscription, found in 1961, which mentions Pontius Pilate, Roman procurator of Judaea at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. This is the first mention of Pilate ever found that can be accurately dated within his lifetime.
The Architectural Garden
Walking through this collection of columns, capitals, frises and sarcophagus you can earn an A+ in Archaeology 101.
Josephus called this a “most magnificent palace”. In fact it is still awesome today. Herod the Great built his palace on a promontory jutting out into the waters of Caesarea. The nearly Olympic pool in the center was filled with fresh water. A statue once stood in the center. Paul may have been imprisoned on the grounds of this palace (Acts 23:35). As you can see the peninsula sank into the sea destroying much of the palace.
Romans love horse races. So every city had to build a Hippodrome, or Circus. The taste of the citizens of Rome later changed to prefer gladiators, net throwers, wild animals and beasts and just torture. So the Circus of Caesarea was remodeled to become a round amphitheater. Amphi means two and theater means a semi-circular building. So an amphitheater is a round building.
This is the place where tour guides ask, “Does anyone have to go to the bathroom?” If you have to “go”, visit the running water, unisex, open air public latrines near the Circus.
So do you want to become a Roman?