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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Caesarea

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CÆSAREA (mod. Kaisariyeh ). 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 10 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, displaying great engineering skill; 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 (b.c. 10 9) with sumptuous games and entertainments which cost £120,000. 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, Cæsarea 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 met his tragic death here in b.c. 44 [ Acts 12:20-23 ]). The fifth of these, Pontius Pilate, ordered a massacre in the hippodrome of Cæsarea 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 ( Acts 8:40 ), while Paul passed through after his first visit to Jerusalem ( Acts 19:31 ). Cæsarea was the scene of the baptism of Cornelius ( Acts 10:1-48 ). Here also the Holy Spirit for the first time fell on heathen, thus inaugurating the Gentile Pentecost (v. 44). Paul may have passed through Cæsarea ( Acts 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 Cæsarea that Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem was foretold by Agabus ( Acts 21:8-14 ). Here he was imprisoned for two years under Felix ( Acts 23:1-35 ). 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 ( Acts 25:9 ) and also allowed him to state his case before Herod Agrippa II. and Berenice ( Acts 26:1-32 ). The wickedness of the last procurator, Gessius Florus, finally drove the Jews into revolt. A riot in Cæsarea led to a massacre in Jerusalem, and simultaneously 20,000 of the Jewish population of Cæsarea were slaughtered. During the Great War, Cæsarea was used as the base for operations, first by Vespasian, who was here proclaimed Emperor by his soldiers (a.d. 69), and latterly by his son Titus, who completed the destruction of Jerusalem. The latter celebrated the birthday of his brother Domitian by forcing 2500 Jews to fight with beasts in the arena at Cæsarea. The city was made into a Roman colony, renamed Colonia Prima Flavia Augusta Cæsarensis , released from taxation, and recognized as the capital of Palestine.

Several Church Councils were held at Cæsarea. It was from a.d. 200 to 451 the residence of the Metropolitan bishop of Palestine. Origen taugh there, and Eusebius was its bishop from a.d. 313 to 340. It was the birthplace of Procopius, the historian. In a.d. 548 the Christians were massacred by the Jews and Samaritans. In 638 it surrendered to the Moslems 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 mediæval legend. Saladin recaptured Cæsarea 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. To-day it is a wilderness of dreary ruins, tenanted only by a few wandering shepherds.

G. A. Frank Knight.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Caesarea'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/c/caesarea.html. 1909.

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