Visiting Caesarea National Park

Massada National Park

Massada National Park

 by Venice Kichura,

Uncovering Past Civilizations Through Archaeological Discoveries

From the ancient ruins at Caesarea National Park, you can discover what life was like in the city that was once the Headquarters of the Roman Government in Palestine. A trip to the Holy Lands isn’t complete without a visit to Caesarea National Park. One of the most intriguing archaeological sites in the Middle East, Caesarea National Park is located alongside the Mediterranean Sea. It lies in northern Israel about halfway between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Historical Background

Caesarea was named in honor of the Roman patron, Emperor Augustus Caesar. Because of its coastline location, it was a strategic spot for Herod the Great to rebuild a town over the former settlement known as “Straton’s Tower.” By the 2nd and 3rd century, Caesarea (which was the headquarters of the Roman government in Palestine), was one of the most prominent cities of the Roman Empire’s eastern area. It continued to flourish during the Roman and Byzantine periods, but lost its political and economic standing in the seventh century AD when the Arabs took over the area. During the Crusader period, (1095-1291 AD) Caesarea was secured by a colossal wall and moat. A planned city, Caesarea had a network of crisscrossing roads, as well as a temple, theater, amphitheatre, bathhouses, markets, and residential areas. Over the past half century, archaeologists have been busy uncovering its ruins represented by several periods of history, including the Roman and Crusader periods.

The Amphitheater

Although most of the western side of The Amphitheater was destroyed by sea, the eastern and rounded southern sides are well preserved. Used mostly for chariot and horseracing, the amphitheater was able to seat 15,000 spectators at one time.

Pontius Pilot Stone

One of the most fascinating ruins found at Caesarea National Park is the Pontius Pilate Stone. A block of limestone with a carved inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate, the stone is evidence of the infamous man who condemned Jesus Christ to his crucifixion. The limestone rectangular block (which measures about 2 feet x 3 feet) was found in an excavation of the amphitheater built by Herod the Great in 30 B.C. Because it was uncovered in the place that was the seat of power of Judea during the reign of Pontius Pilate, it’s considered an genuine archaeological find.

Elaborate Bathhouses

Tourists to Caesarea learn how ancient Roman bathhouses weren’t only used to get clean, but were also the center of socialization as well as a place to discuss politics and city affairs. Studying an elaborate 4th century bathhouse, complete with courtyards, beautiful mosaics, and benches, you’re reminded of a luxury swimming pool. It seemed these ancient Roman people had everything but privacy as they had to strip down to nothing before entering the bathhouse.

Biblical Significance

Caesarea rates high in many of the events found in the New Testament book of Acts (the Acts of the Apostles.) The city is mentioned in passages including Acts 8:40, Acts 23:23-33, and Acts 24:27-26:3. However, the most noted event was when Simon Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion, who became the first Gentile to convert to Christianity.

“Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” (Acts 10:44-46,NLT)

Once you visit Holy Land sites such as the ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea, the Bible becomes more alive. Instead of reading what once dull history, you now have a hunger to read more.

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