Day 1: Caeserea
Caeserea was built by Herod the Great in honor of his patron, Augustus Caesar. Construction began in 22 BCE and the city finished 12 years later included palaces, temples, a hippodrome, a marketplace, a hippodrome and water/sewage systems. The artificial harbor was built using hydraulic concrete made from volcanic ash - a remarkable technical feat for the era.
An earthquake severely damaged the harbor in 130 CE, although the city remained a significant commercial center for many more centuries. The city first came under Muslim control in 638, was captured during the First Crusade in 1101 and exchanged hands periodically thereafter. Much of the fortification seen our visit was built by King Louis IX of France in 1251, just before the Crusaders were expelled for the last time in 1265. The city gradually fell into total ruin and the port filled with silt - ironically preserving much of the architecture until it was excavated by contemporary archaeologists beginning in the 1950's.
The city makes a number of appearances in the Christian Bible in the book of Acts:
- The city was home to the Roman centurion Cornelius, who had a vision of an angel and was subsequently ministered to by the apostle Peter (Acts 10). This represented the first bringing of the gospel of Jesus to non-Jews.
- Herod Agrippa I was struck down by God for blasphemy (Acts 12:19-23).
- The apostle Luke is mentioned as visiting there on his missionary journeys, staying with Philip the evangelist (Acts 21).
- The apostle Paul passed through the port numerous times (Acts 9:30). He was held prisoner in the city for two years (Acts 24:1,27) before being placed on trial there (Acts 23:31-26:32) and then leaving the port a final time for trial in Rome and execution.
This city should not be confused with Caesarea Philippi, which is mentioned as being visited Jesus' in the synoptic gospels and was located far to the east in the Golan Heights.