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Herod's Hippo-stadium

Herod's 'amphitheater' at Caesarea was a hippo-stadium


Joseph Patrich


The Herodian entertainment structure uncovered along the sea in the recent excavations, was referred to by Josephus Flavius as amphitheatron (Antiquities 15.34; War 1.415). Having an arena ca. 300m long, it seated ca. 13000 spectators. According to Josephus, athletic contests, gladiatorial combats, hunting spectacles, and horse and chariot races were conducted therein. Starting gates - five on either side of a central wide gate indicate that it served indeed as a hippodrome, not just for athletics. This was a hippodrome of a moderate size - a hippo-stadium. The number of the starting gates, and their layout - parallel to each other, rather than radial, indicate that the races established by Herod followed the Olympian tradition of chariot racing, rather than that of the Roman circus, with its four factions. The structure had no spina. Later transformations occurred in the arrangement of the starting gates, getting a radial layout. This transformation, in line with the arrangements of the Circus Maximus in Rome, reflects a process of Romanization. Chronologically this architectural and cultural transformation is contemporary with the re-foundation of Caesarea as a Roman colony by Vespasian. The hipp-stadium went out of use in the third century, perhapse due to erosion by the sea waves.


Farther reading:


J. Patrich, "The Carceres of the Herodian Hippodrome/Stadium at Caesarea Maritima and connections with the Circus Maximus," Journal of Roman Archaeology 14 (2001), pp. 269-283.


J. Patrich, "More on the Hippodrome-Stadium of Caesarea Maritima: a response to the comments of Y. Porath", Journal of Roman Archaeology 16 (2003), pp. 456-459.


J. Patrich, "Herod s Hippodrome/Stadium at Caesarea and the Games Conducted Therein," L.V. Rutgers (ed.), What has Athens to Do with Jerusalem. Essays in Honor of Gideon Foerster, P. Peeters, Leuven 2002, pp. 29-68.


J. Patrich, "Herod s Hippodrome/Stadium at Caesarea in the Context of Greek and Roman Contests and Spectacles, VeZoth-LeYehudah [Yehudah Ben Porath Festschrift], ed. by E. Reiner and Y. Ben Arie, Yad Yizhak Ben Zvi, Jerusalem 2003, pp. 119-166 (Hebrew).