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Ancient Caesarea Harbor


Did King Herod build the most magnificent harbor in the ancient world?

This painted sketch reveals why Caesarea was the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. The harbor was a spectacle, and one of the wonders of the ancient world.

In 10 B.C. Augustus Caesar decided to rebuild a small coastal station called Strato's Tower into a new city, which would be renamed Caesarea Maritima, in honor of Augustus. He allotted the task to the architectural mastermind Herod the Great. Herod built a harbor at Caesarea that would become one of the wonders of the ancient world. He built a massive breakwater which formed a horseshoe of protection around the whole bay. On the coast he built some of the most impressive works of architecture in the Roman world.  He built an amphitheater, a citadel, a palace, a hippodrome, city walls and gates, paved squares with huge statues, and other marvels of Graeco-Roman civilization. It was here in Caesarea where the prefect Pontius Pilate lived, the foundation of his house was on a rock in the middle of the harbor and is still there to this day.

Caesarea was also a spectacular location to build a city, because it was right in the center of the Plain of Sharon, one of the most fertile areas in the world. Centuries of rains from the clouds formed by the nearby Mediterranean Sea showered the Judean hills, and brought plenty of rich soil  to irrigate the plain where Caesarea was situated. The climate was always fairly warm and never out of control. Oranges, figs, lemons, grapes, almonds, and even olives in the hills, grew in abundance.  Anyone coming into Judea from anywhere in the Graeco-Roman world would marvel at this awesome Jewish city with all the spectacles of Hellenistic art, architecture and culture.  It became the administrative center of the Roman procurators of the province of Judea, and also became the headquarters of the Roman legions. Caesarea was indeed a thriving place during the first century A.D., during the time of Jesus and the apostle Paul.

THE CITY OF CAESAREA, or as it was frequently called Caesarea of Israel, was situated on the coast of the Mediterranean between Joppa and Tyre. The site was occupied originally by an ancient village called the Tower of Strato. Herod the Great built here a magnificent and Strongly fortified city, which he named Caesarea, in honor of Augustus. He formed a secure harbor by constructing a vast breakwater out into the sea. Caesarea was the capital of Judea during the reigns of Herod the Great and Agrippa I., and was the usual residence of the Roman Governor, when Judea became a mere province of the Empire. The inhabitants were principally Greeks. The city was the residence of Philip the Evangelist and Cornelius the centurion. Herod Agrippa died here by visitation of God. St. Paul was imprisoned here two years, and had his hearings here before Felix, Festus and Agrippa. The city is now in ruins. - Ancient Geography

Acts 21:8 - And the next [day] we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was [one] of the seven; and abode with him.

Acts 25:6 - And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.

Acts 8:40 - But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

The ancient harbor at Caesarea is important in the study of Biblical archaeology, and many artifacts are still being discovered. There have been extensive excavations in this ancient city which are still going on today, much of which are underwater explorations.


Some Scriptures mentioning "Caesarea"

Acts 10:1 - There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],

Acts 23:23 - And he called unto [him] two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night;

Mark 8:27 - And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Acts 12:19 - And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and commanded that [they] should be put to death. And he went down from Judaea to Caesarea, and [there] abode.

Acts 21:8 - And the next [day] we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was [one] of the seven; and abode with him.

Acts 25:6 - And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.

Acts 8:40 - But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

Acts 10:24 - And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.

Acts 21:16 - There went with us also [certain] of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Acts 25:4 - But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly [thither].

Acts 25:13 - And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.

Matthew 16:13 - When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Acts 23:33 - Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.

Acts 25:1 - Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Acts 9:30 - [Which] when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

Acts 18:22 - And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.

Acts 11:11 - And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.

 


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Caesarea in Easton's Bible Dictionary (Palestinae), a city on the shore of the Mediterranean, on the great road from Tyre to Egypt, about 70 miles northwest of Jerusalem, at the northern extremity of the plain of Sharon. It was built by Herod the Great (B.C. 10), who named it after Caesar Augustus, hence called Caesarea Sebaste (Gr. Sebastos = "Augustus"), on the site of an old town called "Strato's Tower." It was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea, the seat of the governors or procurators, and the headquarters of the Roman troops. It was the great Gentile city of Israel, with a spacious artificial harbour. It was adorned with many buildings of great splendour, after the manner of the Roman cities of the West. Here Cornelius the centurion was converted through the instrumentality of Peter (Acts 10:1, 24), and thus for the first time the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles. Philip the evangelist resided here with his four daughters (21:8). From this place Saul sailed for his native Tarsus when forced to flee from Jerusalem (9:30), and here he landed when returning from his second missionary journey (18:22). He remained as a prisoner here for two years before his voyage to Rome (Acts 24:27; 25:1, 4, 6, 13). Here on a "set day," when games were celebrated in the theatre in honour of the emperor Claudius, Herod Agrippa I. appeared among the people in great pomp, and in the midst of the idolatrous homage paid to him was suddenly smitten by an angel, and carried out a dying man. He was "eaten of worms" (12:19-23), thus perishing by the same loathsome disease as his granfather, Herod the Great. It still retains its ancient name Kaiseriyeh, but is now desolate. "The present inhabitants of the ruins are snakes, scorpions, lizards, wild boars, and jackals." It is described as the most desolate city of all Israel.
http://www.bible-history.com/eastons/C/Caesarea/

Caesarea in Fausset's Bible Dictionary 1. Named also Sebaste (i.e. of Augustus, in whose honor Herod the Great built it in ten years with a lavish expenditure, so that Tacitus calls it "the head of Judaea".) Also Stratonis, from Strato's tower, and Palaestinae, and Maritime. The residence of Philip the deacon and his four prophesying daughters (Acts 8:40; Acts 21:8; Acts 21:16). Also the scene of the Gentile centurion Cornelius' conversion (Acts 10:; 11:11). Herod Agrippa I died there (Acts 12:19-23). Paul sailed thence to Tarsus (Acts 9:30); and arrived there from his second missionary journey (Acts 18:22), also from his third Acts 21:8); and was a prisoner there for two years before his voyage to Italy (Acts 24:27; Acts 25:1; Acts 25:4; Acts 25:6; Acts 25:13). It was on the high road between Tyre and Egypt; a little more than a day's journey from Joppa on the S. (Acts 10:24), less than a day from Ptolemais on the N. (Acts 21:8.) About 70 miles from Jerusalem, from which the soldiers brought Paul in two days (Acts 23:31-32) by way of Antipatris. It had a harbor 300 yards across, and vast breakwater, (the mole still remains,) and a temple with colossal statues sacred to Caesar and to Rome. Joppa and Dora had been previously the only harbors of Israel. It was the Roman procurators' (Felix, Festus, etc.) official residence; the Herodian kings also kept court there. The military head quarters of the province were fixed there. Gentiles outnumbered Jews in it; and in the synagogue accordingly the Old Testament was read in Greek. An outbreak between Jews and Greeks was one of the first movements in the great Jewish war. Vespasian was declared emperor there; he made it a Roman colony, with the Italian rights. It was the home of Eusebius, the scene of some of Origen's labors, and the birthplace of Procopius. Now a desolate ruin, called Kaisariyeh; S. of the mediaeval town is the great earthwork with its surrounding ditch, and a stone theater within, which Josephus alludes to as an amphitheater. 2. Caesarea Philippi. Anciently Paneas or Panium (from the sylvan god Pan, whose worship seemed appropriate to the verdant situation, with groves of olives and Hermon's lovely slopes near); the modern Bahias. At the eastern of the two sources of the Jordan, the other being at Tel-el- Kadi (Dan or Laish, the most northerly city of Israel). The streams which flow from beneath a limestone rock unite in one stream near Caesarea Philippi. There was a deep cavity full of still water there. Identified with the Baal Gad of Old Testament Herod erected here a temple of white marble to Augustus. (See BAAL GAD.) Herod's son Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, enlarged and called it from himself, as well as Caesar, Caesarea Philippi. Agrippa II called it Neronias; but the old name prevailed. It was the seat of a Greek and a Latin bishopric in succession. The great castle (Shubeibeh) built partly in the earliest ages still remains the most striking fortress in Israel. The transfiguration probably took place on mount Hermon. which rears its majestic head 7,000 feet above Caesarea Philippi. The allusion to "snow" agrees with this, and the mention of Caesarea Philippi in the context (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27; Mark 9:3). The remoteness and privacy of Caesarea Philippi fitted it for being the place where Jesus retired to prepare His disciples for His approaching death of shame and His subsequent resurrection; there it was that Peter received the Lord's praise, and afterward censure. The transfiguration gave them a foretaste of the future glory, in order to prepare them for the intermediate shame and suffering.
http://www.bible-history.com/faussets/C/Caesarea/

Caesarea in Naves Topical Bible A seaport in Israel -The home of Philip Ac 8:40; 21:8 Cornelius, the centurion Ac 10:1,24 Herod Ac 12:19-23 Felix Ac 23:23,24 -Paul conveyed to, by the disciples to save him from his enemies Ac 9:30 -By Roman soldiers to be tried by Felix Ac 23:23-35
http://www.bible-history.com/naves/C/CAESAREA/

Caesarea in Smiths Bible Dictionary Ac 8:40; 9:30; 10:1,24; 11:11; 12:19; 18:22; 21:8,16; 23:23,33; 25:1,4,6,13 was situated on the coast of Israel, on the line of the great road from Tyre to Egypt, and about halfway between Joppa and Dora. The distance from Jerusalem was about 70 miles; Josephus states it in round numbers as 600 stadia. In Strabo's time there was on this point of the coast merely a town called "Strato's Tower," with a landing-place, whereas in the time of Tacitus Caesarea is spoken of as being the head of Judea. It was in this interval that the city was built by Herod the Great. It was the official residence of the Herodian kings, and of Festus, Felix and the other Roman procurators of Judea. Here also lived Philip the deacon and his four prophesying daughters. Caesarea continued to be a city of some importance even in the time of the Crusades, and the name still lingers on the site (Kaisariyeh), which is a complete desolation, many of the building-stones having been carried to other towns.
http://www.bible-history.com/smiths/C/Caesarea/

Caesarea in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE ses-a-re'-a, se-za-re'-a (Kaisareia): (1) Caesarea Palestina (pal-es-ti'na). The ancient name in the Arabic form Qaisariyeh still clings to the ruins on the sea shore, about 30 miles North of Jaffa. It was built by Herod the Great on the site of Strato's Tower (Ant., XIII, xi, 2; XV, ix, 6), and the name Caesarea Sebaste was given it in honor of Augustus (ibid., XVI, v, 1). With his usual magnificence Herod lavished adornments on the city. He erected sumptuous palaces and public buildings, a theater, and amphitheater with prospect to the sea; while a spacious system of sewers under the city secured cleanliness and health. But "the greatest and most laborious work of all" was a magnificent harbor "always free from the waves of the sea," which Josephus says was not less than the Piraeus: this however is an exaggeration. It was of excellent workmanship, and all the more remarkable because the place itself was not suitable for such noble structures. The whole coast line, indeed, is singularly ill-fitted for the formation of harbors. The mighty breakwater was constructed by letting down stones 50 x 18 x 9 ft. in size into twenty fathoms deep. The mole was 200 ft. wide. Part was surmounted by a wall and towers. A promenade and dwellings for mariners were also provided. The work was done in ten or twelve years. It became the residence of the Roman procurator. It passed into the hands of Agrippa I; and here he miserably died (Acts 12:19,23). Here dwelt Philip the Evangelist (Acts 8:40; 21:8). To Caesarea Peter was sent to minister to the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10). Thrice Paul passed through Caesarea (Acts 9:30; 18:22; 21:8); hither he was sent under guard from Jerusalem to escape danger from the Jews (Acts 23:23); and here he was imprisoned till his final departure for Rome. Riots between Gentiles and Jews in Caesarea gave rise to the war (BJ, II, xiii, 7;. xiv, 4 f). Terrible cruelties were practiced on the Jews under Felix and Florus. Here Vespasian was hailed emperor by his soldiers. Titus here celebrated the birthday of his brother Domitian by setting 2,500 Jews to fight with beasts in the amphitheater. Eusebius was bishop of Caesarea (313-40 AD). In 548 AD a massacre of the Christians was organized and carried out by the Jews and Samaritans. The city passed into Moslem hands in 638. In the time of the Crusades it fell, now to the Christians and now to the Moslems; and was finally overthrown by Sultan Bibars in 1265 AD. The cathedral stood on the site of a temple built by Herod, where the ruins are seen today; as are also those of two aqueducts which conveyed water from Nahr ez-Zerqa. The landward wall of the Roman city was nearly 3 miles in length. (2) Caesarea Philippi (fi-lip'-i) (Kaisareia he Philippou). At the Southwest base of Mt. Hermon, on a rocky terrace, 1,150 ft. above sea-level, between Wady Khashabeh and Wady Za`areh, lie the ruins of the ancient city. It was a center for the worship of Pan: whence the name Paneas, applied...
http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/C/CAESAREA/

 

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