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An Architectural Masterpiece
Built in the 1st century BC and carrying its builder’s namesake, the Roman (Herodian) Theater in Caesarea was conceived by Herod the Great in an effort to maintain his reputation as a great patron of the arts. Having already established the city of Caesarea as the flagship city of his kingdom — a city which already had a reputation for being a thriving metropolis — it was only fitting to situate the impressive theater in this bustling town overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
And so, perched on a rolling hill, slightly higher than its surrounding buildings, the Roman Theater was built facing Herod’s palace. Although the emperor had a place of honor in the arena, luxuriously segregated from the ordinary viewers, he could also choose to separate himself even further, by watching the events from the privacy of his own palace.
With two seating areas and the capacity to hold up to 4,000 spectators, a backstage area for performers, an orchestra den and lavish ‘sky boxes’ (seating areas located high above the stage) for important guests, the ancient Roman theater remains the largest outdoor auditorium in Israel.
In an effort to preserve the theater’s Hellenistic features, the city of Caesarea made a conscious choice not to change any of the theater’s original features. The ancient stone benches remain the theater’s primary seating option, with many viewers bringing their own cushions when coming to see a show. It’s a singular experience, enjoying a performance from seats that have welcomed theatergoers for many centuries.
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