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Caesarea

Caesarea (See also wiki article Caesarea.)

CAESAREA (modern Qaisariyeh) - A city rebuilt by Herod the Great on the site of Straton's Tower, on the coast of Palestine, between Joppa and Dora. Its special features were - a large harbour protected by a huge mole and by a wall with ten lofty towers and colossi; a promenade round the port, with arches where sailors could lodge; a temple of Augustus raised on a platform, and visible far out at sea, containing two colossal statues of Rome and the Emperor; a system of drainage whereby the tides were utilized to flush the streets; walls embracing a semicircular area stretching for a mile along the sea-coast; two aqueducts, one of them 8 miles in length; a hippodrome; an amphitheatre capable of seating 20,000 persons; a theatre; a court of justice, and many other noble structures. The city took 12 years to build, and Herod celebrated its completion (10-9 BC) with sumptuous games and entertainments. Herod used the port for his frequent voyages. Here he condemned to death his two sons Alexander and Aristobulus. After the banishment of Herod's successor Archelaus, Caesarea became the official residence of the Roman procurators of Palestine (broken only by the brief interval during which it was under the independent rule of Herod Agrippa I, who died here in AD 44 [Ac.12.20-23]). The fifth of these, Pontius Pilate, ordered a massacre in the hippodrome of Caesarea of those Jews who had flocked to implore the removal from Jerusalem of the profane eagle standards and images of the Emperor recently introduced. Only on their baring their necks for death and thus refusing to submit, did Pilate revoke the order, and direct the ensigns to be removed. Christianity early found its way here, Philip probably being the founder of the Church (Ac.8.40), while Paul passed through after his first visit to Jerusalem (Ac.9.30). Caesarea was the scene of the baptism of Cornelius (Ac.10). Here also the Holy Spirit for the first time fell on heathen, thus inaugurating the Gentile Pentecost (v.44). Paul may have passed through Caesarea (Ac.18.22) at the time when numbers of Jewish patriots, captured by Cumanus, had here been crucified by Quadratus, legate of Syria. It was at Caesarea that Paul's arrest in Jerusalem was foretold by Agabus (Ac.21.8-14). Here he was imprisoned for two years under Felix (Ac.23.23-35). During that time a riot broke out between Greeks and Jews as to their respective rights, and Felix ordered a general massacre of the Jews to be carried out in the city. On the recall of Felix, Nero sent Porcius Festus, who tried Paul (Ac.25.6) and also allowed him to state his case before Herod Agrippa II. and Bernice (Ac.25.23-26.32). Under the last procurator, Gessius Florus, the Jews revolted, and began the Jewish war of AD 66-70. A riot in Caesarea led to a massacre in Jerusalem, and simultaneously 20,000 of the Jewish population of Caesarea were slaughtered. During the war, Caesarea was used as the base for operations, first by Vespasian, who was here proclaimed Emperor by his soldiers (AD 69), and later by his son Titus, who completed the destruction of Jerusalem. Titus celebrated the birthday of his brother Domitian by forcing 2,500 Jews to fight with beasts in the arena at Caesarea. The city was made into a Roman colony, renamed Colonia Prima Flavin Augusta Caesariensis, released from taxation, and recognized as the capital of Palestine.

Several Church Councils were held at Caesarea. It was from AD 200 to 451 the residence of the Metropolitan bishop of Palestine. Origen taught here, and Eusebius was its bishop from AD 313 to 340. It was the birthplace of Procopius, the historian. In AD 548 the Christians were massacred by the Jews and Samaritans. In 638 it surrendered to the Muslims under Abu 'Obeida. It was recovered in 1102 by Baldwin I, who massacred the Saracens in the mosque, once the Christian cathedral. The loot contained the so-called 'Holy Grail' of mediaeval legend. Saladin recaptured Caesarea in 1187, but it was retaken by Richard I. in 1192. The city, however, was so ruined that when restored it covered only one-tenth of the original ground. In 1251 Louis IX. fortified it strongly. In 1265 it was stormed by Sultan Bibars, who utterly demolished it. Sand dunes gradually covered it and the district became malarial. Excavations are being carried on there by the Department of Antiquities of the state of Israel. [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - G.A.F.K. - E.G.K.]