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A Roman Engineering Tour de Force: The Building of King Herod’s Harbor at Caesarea Maritima

Professor Robert L. Hohlfelder, Department of History, University of Colorado, Boulder

Thursday, October 23, 2008
5 p.m.
Rush Rhees Library, Welles-Brown Room


In approximately one decade (c. 23-15 BCE), local and Roman builders working for King Herod of JudATHS constructed at Caesarea Maritima (today’s Caesarea, Israel) the largest artificial harbor ever built in the open sea up to that point. The scale and complexity of this project, along with the rapidity of its execution, are remarkable even if judged by modern standards. It ranks as one of the most impressive engineering accomplishments of the Augustan Age. The construction of the harbor was made possible through the use of Roman hydraulic concrete, a building material developed in Campania (Southern Italy) c. 200 BCE and then employed extensively beginning in the Augustan Age (27 BCE – 14 CE). Underwater excavation and exploration have been carried out in the submerged ruins of Herod’s vast harbor complex almost continuously since 1960.

Sponsored by: The Mellon Humanities Corridor, Program of Archaeology Engineering and Architecture, and Departments of Religion and Classics, Mechanical Engineering, History, and Art and Art History at the University of Rochester.