Caesarea Maritima – Israel

During the 3rd Century BC, the Phoenicians established this location as a fortified port. Later, it became a Jewish settlement under the Hasmoneans.  However, the Romans under General Pompey conquered this area along with the rest of Judea in 66 BC. It was then given the name “Caesarea Maritima” to distinguish it from other cities bearing the name “Caesarea”.

Augustus Caesar would later assign the city to Herod the Great.  He in turn, refurbished the entire port and made it into a thriving center for commercial activity. This would become the headquarters for the Roman Legions in Judea and therefore, the seed of power for the Roman Government in this province. Roman procurators (i.e., governors) would live and handle administrative affairs from here.

Scriptural Significance

Caesarea, as the chief port of the area, is mentioned a number of times in the Book of Acts:

• Paul was brought here after his conversion (Acts 9: 30)
• Peter first preached the Gospel to the Gentiles in the home of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius (Acts 10: 1-48)
• Paul’s missionary journeys started and terminated here (Acts 18: 22)
• Philip the Evangelist as well as his four prophetess daughters lived here (Acts 21: 8-9)
• Paul was imprisoned here for two years and would testify before civil authorities of the day (Acts 23: 23 cf. w 24: 27)

Given its significance in Scripture, it makes sense that Caesarea would have an important place in the history of the Church. Important Church fathers ministered here during the 3rd and 4th Centuries, including Origin and Eusebius. In fact, it’s Eusebius who tells us that Christians were martyred here for their faith. It is also likely that Jerome performed some of his translation work for the Vulgate (Latin version of the Bible) from here.

Today, considerable excavation has been performed in this ancient city. For that matter, it is still an active dig site.

The amphitheater has been restored and is now used for cultural functions. 

An aqueduct dating to just before the 1st Century, can be found entering the northern side of the city.  In remarkably good condition, it stretches for nearly 6 miles.

A hippodrome (or amphitheater) has been unearthed along the beach that runs 1500 feet by 260 feet – as many as 8000 people may have attended sporting events/chariot races here during the time of Christ. 

A Roman cardo (main street running from North to South) can be seen as well as the remains of some structures that resided near it. This includes housing that apparently had running water, a synagogue, a church, and a gymnasium attached to a bathhouse. 

With much of the port now submerged, underwater exploration has produced some tremendous finds. The remains of Herod’s Palace have long since been inundated by the Mediterranean and yet are now easily viewed.

This palace likely housed the Roman Procurators who governed Judea, which leads us to a very important discovery that occurred in 1961. Of the numerous statues and monuments uncovered here, one included a reference to Pontius Pilate – the very governor who oversaw the trial of Christ. 

Referred to as the Pilate Inscription, it reads as follows:

“Pontius Pilates, Prefect (of) Judea (erected) a (building dedicated)

To the emperor Tiberius”

The Pilate Inscription proves that Pontius Pilate existed and serves as yet further evidence for the historical accuracy of the Bible!