Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

Archeological Excursion Caesarea Maritima


Jerusalem, 20 October 2016
Vladimir Plasek, sdb


An indispensable part of studying at the STS Jerusalem Campus is discovering the Biblical sites through regular archeological visits. Today we visited an important port-city Caesarea Maritima. It is situated 50 km north from Tel- Aviv with a wonderful geographical location. Its history began during the Persian period, when the merchants of Sidon built a port-city. In 103 BC, according to Josephus, the Hasmonean king, Alexander Jannaeus conquered this settlement, known as “Straton’s Tower”. The name “Caesarea” was given by Herod the Great (37-4 BC) in honour of his protector Caesar Octavius Augustus (30 BC- 14 AD) who gave him the city as a gift. Herod invited well-known architects and imported the best material support to rebuild it within 12 years into a well-known beautiful city and later to become the center of the Roman Province of Judea with the most important port of the province.


Which well-known persons lived in Caesarea? Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea (26-36 AD) lived mostly in Caesarea and he only came to Jerusalem during the most important Jewish feasts. Deacon Philip “went about proclaiming the good news to all the towns until he reached Caesarea” (Acts 8, 40). Here, the Apostle Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius (Acts 10, 24-49), whose feast the Catholic Church in Jerusalem commemorates today. Paul passed through Caesarea on his mission journey to Antioch (Acts 18, 22) and later, when accused in Jerusalem, he was transported to Caesarea to be judged by the procurator Felix (Acts 24, 1-9) and later by Festus (Acts 25, 1-11).

Vespasian located his war camp in Caesarea during the uprising against the Romans in 66-70 AD and was promoted as the Caesar of the Roman Empire in 69 AD. Meanwhile, in 70 AD, Caesarea became the capital of the Roman Province of Judea and in the 2nd century the Jewish religious center. Rabbi Akiva (50-135 AD) lived and was martyred here. The great scholar Origen (185-254 AD) lived here for 20 years and established the theological school and the library. Bishop Eusebius (260-340 AD), his disciple, lived here and wrote Onomasticon, the description of the Christian sacred places.


During the Byzantine era, Caesarea had already 50,000 inhabitants and Christians had built the Church. In 640, the Arabs conquered Caesarea and in 1102 the Crusaders. Sultan Saladin conquered the city in 1187, but in 1191 the King of England, Richard Lionheart entered here with crusaders again. In 1254, the French King Louis IX fortified the city with towers and gates that are still visible today. Finally in 1265, the city and port was finally conquered by the sultan Bajbars and after 1291 it was totally destroyed in fear of the return of Crusaders.

Among the places of interest we visited were: The Roman Theatre, Herod’s Palace, the Hippodrome, the Bathhouse complex, the port, the temple platform, the Byzantine and Crusader walls, the Nympho- Roman fountain and finally the High-Level and the Low-level aqueduct.

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