Caesarea was the vision of Herod the Great. Appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea, Herod initiated many building projects, but Caesarea supersedes them all. A small Phoenician fishing village was transformed by Herod into an international scale city and port. In fact, its port was the biggest man-made port in Roman times. Erick and I reviewed the history of the city, and especially its important role on Christian history.
The first non-Jew Baptized in Caesarea
Perhaps the most significant event taking place in Caesarea, from a Christian point of view, is the baptism of Cornelius. The Book of Acts records Peter being invited to Caesarea by a Roman officer named Cornelius. Cornelius is described as a “God fearer,” and he asks Peter to baptize him. Peter does so and forms a precedent of accepting non-Jews into Christianity. Today, about 2 billion non-Jews define themselves as Christians.
Paul and Caesarea
The Book of Acts also records Paul’s imprisoned in Caesarea, where perhaps he wrote some of his epistles. Paul also appealed at the local court of Caesarea, which may have been at King Herod’s former palace. Eventually both Peter and Paul would be sent to Rome, but Caesarea would remain an important city to Christianity. In the Byzantine period, Caesarea held a library second only to the famous library in Alexandria. In Crusaders times, the city was a significant stronghold of the Crusaders.
Today Caesarea is a national park. Its city center was extensively excavated, and a new visitors center recently opened next to its harbor. The Herodian harbor sank a long time ago, yet sand covered most of the city. Once exposed, these finds present a rich image of Caesarea’s role as a metropolis in antiquity. It is especially recommended to stroll along the shoreline of the ancient city. Aside from the Mediterranean blue waters facing the sandy shoreline, an abundance of finds from antiquity can be appreciated. These include an aqueduct, the sunken harbor, a new visitor center in the storage halls, a hippodrome, a theatre, Herod’s palace complex, and more.