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
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
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
Some Scriptures mentioning
Acts 10:1 - There was a certain man in Caesarea
called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian [band],
- 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
- 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?
- 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]
- 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
- 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.
- But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in
all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
- And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And
Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and
- 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.
- But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea,
and that he himself would depart shortly [thither].
- And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto
Caesarea to salute Festus.
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?
- Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the
epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him.
- Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he
ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
- [Which] when the brethren knew, they brought him down to
Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
- And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up, and
saluted the church, he went down to Antioch.
- And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto
the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
Map of Ancient Israel - Caesarea
- Caesarea (in Palestine): Qeisariyeh
[Qeisari]. This ancient city on the
Mediterranean coast of Palestine was the capital of the Roman
province of Judea
for about ...
- 1871 - The Jerusalem Temple Warning Inscription Stone Was
Discovered by Ganneau.
Caesarea - Clickable Map of the Roman Empire - First Century
- The Western (Wailing) Wall is all
that remains of the Jerusalem Temple where ... B.C. and was
inscribed with a letter addressed to Eliashib and mentions "the
...Josephus the Jewish historian wrote about the warning signs that
were on the ...
Caesarea: Bible Cities - Bible History Links (Ancient
- If you were
to approach the Temple in Jerusalem in the first century A.D. you
distances (the Soreg) with inscriptions in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew,
warning all ...
Caesarea in Easton's Bible Dictionary
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.
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.
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
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.
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...
The Impregnable Strength of Jerusalem
Map of Jerusalem
Jerusalem - Heart Message