Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima

The very first place our Gate1 tour of Israel took us was to Caesarea Maritima. It was very cold, very windy, and very wet, but the weather did not dampen my enthusiasm for the beauty of this spot.

This ancient city was excavated during the 1950s and 1960s. The site became part of the new Caesarea National Park in 2011.

I was awed by the Mediterranean Sea. It was just beautiful. Because of the stormy weather, the sea was really crashing into the shore. I can’t describe the awesome feeling I had standing there watching it hit those rocks, the same as it has for 1000s of years before and will for 1000s of years to come.

Caesarea Maritima was built in the Sharon plain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea by Herod the Great in honor of Caesar. Built prior to the birth of Jesus, the seaport included a forum, theater, temples, public baths, and paved streets. Perhaps most impressive, at least to me, was the elaborate aqueduct system that brought fresh water to the city’s 50,000 inhabitants from Mt. Carmel.

Magnificient Aqueduct System

Aqueducts, located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, were built by Herod the Great in Caesarea Maritima. Three parts (High Level, Low Level, and a pipeline) formed an elaborate system that provided fresh water to the inhabitants of the seaport city.
I am amazed that the aqueducts, likely built before Christ was born by Herod the Great, still stand on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea today in such good repair!

I was so taken by the area’s beauty today, that I failed to fully appreciate all of its rich history while I was actually touring Israel. If I ever get to return, I will go with a much better understanding of the places that we visit and their historical and Biblical significance. For now, I’m going to do it backward by trying to match the pictures I took to the history I am researching now.

Come along with me!

The Amphitheater

I think one of the most amazing things to me about visiting Caesarea Maritime, aka “By the Sea,” was the condition of the ruins. The city was built during c. 22–10 BC and yet it is easy enough to stand there and imagine the citizens cheering in the amphitheater as they watched chariot races, gladiatorial combats, and theatrical events. The structure, obviously, with many enhancements, is still used today!

Herod’s Amphitheater.
Herod’s amphitheater, built decades before the birth of Christ, once held chariot races and gladiator fights. The structure has been modernized and is in use today.

The Ruins

My video skills are not the best, to say the least, but I couldn’t capture the magnitude of the ruins at Caesarea Maritime with stills. So I tried to make a little video. If you watch the video, you’ll hear how windy it was the day we visited!

Hopefully, this picture helps you see how phenomenal this city was back in its day! I am amazed that so much of it remains today!

First-century Roman Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, said that the harbor built in Caesarea by Herod the Great was as large as the major harbor in Athens, Piraeus. The city grew quickly and was soon the largest city in Judaea.

Stones from some of the remains. Notice the various sizes of stone used.

The sign on the column says, “The Doric Capital appeared first in the 7th Century BCE in Greece. The Doric Order found in Caesarea was very popular until the 1st Century CD. Doric capitals excavated in Caesarea were made out of local limestone only.” The Doric order was the first style of Classical Architecture. It was said to “set the standards for beauty, harmony, and strength for European architecture.” 
Columns and part of the wall. Just from the remains, you can get a feel for how magnificent it all must have been all of those many years ago.
The Roman Well. A sign beside the well told us that 60 lead scroll fragments, dating to the 4th century A.D., had been found in this well. The scrolls had been deliberately thrown into the well as a magical practice.
When dedicating the Holy Sepulchre in 335 A.D., Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, firmly condemned these widespread practices, calling them the “curse tablets of forbidden sorcery.”

Biblical Significance of Caesarea

Herod the Great, whose name was bestowed, not because he was a great leader, but because he was a great builder, including Caesarea, was appointed King of Judea by the Romans in 37 BC. A few years later, when he heard that the “King of the Jews” (Jesus) had been born in Bethlehem, he was consumed with jealousy and was determined to kill the baby.

God warned Joseph and the wise men of Herod’s intentions. They fled Bethlehem before Jesus could be killed. When Herod realized that the baby was no longer in Bethlehem, he ordered that “all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under,” be put to death. (Matthew 2:13-16)

Apostle Paul’s Ministry

Paul, who was called the apostle to the Gentiles, and likely some of the other apostles, preached along the Mediterranean coast, from Joppa (Tel Aviv) to the Roman city of Caesarea. Paul spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea. During that time, he had opportunities to witness about his faith in Christ to Felix, the Governor of Judea, and his wife, Drusilla. (See Acts 24)

Did the apostle Paul stand here when answering claims that he incited a riot?
Apostle Paul was sent to Caesarea to be tried by the governor.

Pilate lived in Caesarea, as did others who ruled the land. (Interestingly, until 1961, there was no archeological evidence that Pontius Pilate ever existed. Needless to say, some people used that fact to say that the Bible was untrue since Pilate played such a pivotal point in the crucifixion of Jesus (see Matthew 27:11-26). However, in the summer of 1961, a team of archeologists uncovered a limestone that read, “To the Divine Augusti Tiberium … Pontius Pilate … perfect of Judea … has dedicated …”)

This is a replica of the Pontius Pilate Stone discovered in June 1961. The original is on display in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum.

The Roman soldier Cornelius was stationed in Caesarea. He was a centurion, which means he had command over one hundred Roman soldiers. The Bible says he was also a generous and God-fearing man whom God chose to be the first Gentile Christian convert. (See Acts 10 – 11)

Home of Philip

Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea. Paul and his companions stayed at his home “for many days” after finishing a voyage from Tyre. (Acts 21:7-16) It was while Paul was here that the prophet Agabus warns him that he will be imprisoned when his ministry took him to Jerusalem. (Acts 21:26-36)

 

 

Links to the Hope and Survive pages related to my 2019 trip to Israel:
Journey to Israel – The Beginning … Part 1
Journey to Israel – Getting There … and Getting Home … Part 2
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Part 3
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of the Nativity … Part 4
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Church of Saint Catherine … Part 5
Journey to Israel … Bethlehem … Shepherds’ Field … Part 6
Journey to Israel … Nazareth … Part 7
Journey to Israel … Caesarea Maritima
Journey to Israel … Mount Carmel
Journey to Israel … Sea of Galilee
Journey to Israel … Ginosar and the “Jesus Boat”
Journey to Israel … St Peter’s Restaurant

 

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