Herod’s Hippodrome at Caesarea

October 29, 2013

Herod the Great (reigned 37-4 BC) built a hippodrome at his capital city of Caesarea.

Hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Herod’s hippodrome would have seated about 10,000 spectators.

The above photo was taken just two weeks ago. When I was here two years (Spring, 2011) ago this area was under water. Much damage along the coast here had been done by storms.

Hippodrome Spring 2011. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hippodrome Spring 2011. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

This photo was taken at the opposite end of the hippodrome.


The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Bible has this info:

Hippodrome. A course for chariot-racing, the prototype of the Roman circus. Like the stadium, it was long, narrow and elliptical, but straight at the end from which the racing started.

The hippodrome of Gerasa was excavated in 1931–3. Situated outside the city at some distance to the south, its inside length is 266yd, with an inside width of 56yd at the north end and just under 55yd at the south end. The date of construction is not clear. Some scholars believe that it was built at the end of the second or beginning of the 3rd century ad and never completely finished, while others prefer a date of about ad 70. The hippodrome of Gerasa is the only one that has been excavated in Palestine and Transjordan. Remains of others were found at Caesarea Kanath, Bostra (Bozrah), Beth-Shean and Gadara. Josephus, (Life, 132, 138) mentions the hippodrome of Taricheae. (See also Magdala.)

Like all other similar public buildings the hippodrome was an offence to pious Jews and most of the cities referred to above had a primarily Hellenistic population. Only Taricheae had a Jewish population, though the upper class was Hellenized. In similar conditions, Herod had a hippodrome constructed in Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiq. xvii, 193), probably in the Tyropoeon valley.

Click images for larger view.

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