Whoever suggests that the Mediterranean Sea is just a calm placid inland body of water has never been to the seacoast of Israel. Since we have been here we have nearly been blown away by the offshore wind that constantly blows huge waves onto the beach. Of course, if you are here to surf then this is your paradise.
Our destination for the day is the seacoast town of Caesarea. It was a town with a very interesting history but today is only a museum. In fact, it is an archaeological park. It has a long history but I won’t bore you with the many details except to relate it to biblical events. In the book of Acts it is mentioned frequently. It was a very Roman town built by Herod the Great before the time of Jesus and dedicated to Augustus Caesar. It became the headquarters of the Roman governor (rather than Jerusalem) and had all the characteristics of a typical Roman town. Herod built a Hippodrome (race course for chariots), a theater in the typical Roman configuration, and other amenities that made it basically off limits to Jews who saw its existence as a purely pagan town. But it boasted a harbor that made it very important for commercial purposes and for transportation to other countries.
In spite of the many people and governments that came and went over the centuries it has some pretty remarkable ruins to view. The Hippodrome course is still a huge field of sand with many of the original seats still in place and the theater is in such good shape (after reconstruction) that they hold musical events here for the public every summer. And since the state of Israel turned it into an official park they have all sorts of public facilities for tourists—restaurants, shops, etc.
But the reason we came here, as I said, is because of the biblical events that occurred here. It was here that the Roman Centurion Cornelius first heard about Jesus under the teaching of the Apostle Peter (Acts 10). This was basically the first time a gentile had heard the gospel and was included in the Christian family. Also, when the Apostle Paul got into trouble with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and was arrested by the Romans he was sent here to Caesarea to defend himself against the charges they had made against him. He spent two years here under house arrest before he eventually appealed his case to Caesar and was sent under guard on a Roman ship which sailed out of Caesarea’s harbor on its way to Rome. The old harbor is still here – kind of. What I mean is that the ruins all around the harbor contain Roman columns mixed together with Crusader walls and dwellings and now they are trying to piece together some of the old buildings for the tourists. It is a virtual pot pourri of artifacts from the past but well worth your visit, regardless of which age you may be interested in seeing.
I need to tell you about a discovery they made here in about 1960. For many years skeptics have said the Bible was in error when it talked about the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. No one else seemed to mention him. Then when they were digging up some old artifacts from the harbor they ran across a stone inscribed in Latin that had the name “….ius Pilatus” inscribed on it. That was enough to silence the skeptics on that issue.
One of the things that I was interested in seeing again (I’ve been here before) is the Roman aquaduct just north of the old city. It was built to bring water from Mt. Carmel into the city and there is a long section of it right on the beach that is still standing. It also dates from the time of Herod (just before the birth of Christ). What I have always wanted to do is to climb the remains of this old Roman structure and see how the channel was built that carried the water. You realize those things had to be built at just the right elevation and slope so the water doesn’t move too fast or too slow. And what I discovered was that the Romans used baffles in the watercourse to control the flow. Other than that my engineering knowledge can’t tell you anything more. All three of us were able to find a way up on top of this massive and wonderfully built structure.
After spending most of the day in Caesarea we got in our car and headed for the city of Tiberius, another city named after a Roman emperor. This one, however, is located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. And that is another story for another day.
Bud & Kathy
Bud and Kathy Downs are making another trip to the Lands of the Bible-- first Turkey and Greece (from May 11 to 22) and then to Israel (from May 22 to June 8). We invite you to join us through our travel blog. We intend to post regular updates and pictures of Bible sites.