October 31, 2013
In regard to our previous post of Herod’s hippodrome, a reader writes, “Intriguing photos! In the top (“dry”) picture, is the twisted metal in the center of the photo just a modern effort to prevent people from falling into ancient holes? Do you know the function of the hole(s) (is it a Herodian well or cistern)? Thanks so much for posting these images!”
Though hard to distinguish in the photo he referenced (See that post here), the metal work is an artistic representation of the horses and chariots that would have been used here in the horse races. Caesarea, Herod’s capital, was a Roman city; the hippodrome with its horse races (and other events) was standard Roman entertainment. This view from the side perhaps helps. This photo I took in 2009.
Horses with chariot at hippodrome at Caesarea. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
The driver would have been standing up in the chariot during the race, urging the horses on in their speed. Here is a close-up:
Horses and chariot close-up. Photo by Leon Mauldin.
I think the “holes” asked about were just shadows in the photo.
We welcome reader response.
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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.
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.
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.
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