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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Cæsarea Palestina, or Caesarea of Palestine, so called to distinguish it from the other Caesarea, from its eminence as the Roman metropolis of Palestine, and the residence of the procurator. It was built by Herod the Great, with much of beauty and convenience, twenty-two years before the birth of Christ. Here he erected one of the most stupendous works of antiquity—a semicircular mole, which protected the port of Caesarea on the south and west, leaving only a sufficient opening for vessels to enter from the north; so that, within the enclosed space, a fleet might ride at all weathers in perfect security. The mole was constructed of immense blocks of stone brought from a great distance, and sunk to the depth of 20 fathoms in the sea. Besides this, Herod added many splendid buildings to the city: and when the whole was finished, which was within twelve years from the commencement of the undertaking, he fixed his residence there, and thus elevated the city to the rank of the civil and military capital of Judea, which rank it continued to enjoy as long as the country remained a province of the Roman empire. Vespasian raised Caesarea to the rank of a Roman colony, granting it first, exemption from the capitation tax, and afterwards, from the ground taxes. The place was, however, inhabited chiefly by Gentiles, though some thousands of Jews lived in it.
Caesarea is the scene of several interesting circumstances described in the New Testament, such as the conversion of Cornelius, the first-fruits of the Gentiles (Acts 10); the residence of Philip the Evangelist (); the journey thither of St. Paul; his pleading there before Felix; his imprisonment for two years; and his final pleading before Festus and King Agrippa (Acts 24). It was here also, in the amphitheatre built by his father, that Herod Agrippa was smitten of God and died ().
On the commencement of the war with the Romans, all the Jewish inhabitants of Caesarea, to the number of 20,000, were massacred by the Gentiles, who had long held them at feud.
In later times, Caesarea is chiefly noted as the birth-place and episcopate of Eusebius, the celebrated Church historian, in the beginning of the fourth century.
Caesarea is almost thirty-five miles north of Joppa or Jaffa, and fifty-five miles from Jerusalem. It still retains the ancient name in the form of Kaiseraih; but has long been desolate. The most conspicuous ruin is that of an old castle, at the extremity of the ancient mole. A great extent of ground is covered by the remains of the city. The water is abundant and of excellent quality; and the small vessels of the country often put in here to take in their supplies. Caesarea is, apparently, never frequented for any other purpose; even the high-road leaves it wide; and it has been visited by very few of the numerous travelers in Palestine. The present tenants of the ruins are snakes, scorpions, lizards, wild boars, and jackals.
Towards the springs of the Jordan, and near the foot of Isbel Shrik, or the Prince's Mount, a lofty branch of Lebanon, forming in that direction the boundary between Palestine and Syria Proper, stands a city originally called Banias, which was in later times much enlarged and beautified by Philip the tetrarch, who called it Caesarea in honor of Tiberius the emperor, adding the cognomen of Philippi to distinguish it from Caesarea of Palestine. It lay about 120 miles north from Jerusalem, and a day and a half's journey from Damascus (; ). Herod Agrippa also still further extended and embellished it. In compliment to the emperor Nero, its name was afterwards changed to Neronias; and Titus, after the overthrow of Jerusalem, exhibited some public games here, in which the Jewish prisoners were compelled to fight like gladiators. Under the Christians it was erected into a bishopric of Phoenicia. It has now resumed its original name of Banias, and has dwindled into a paltry and insignificant village, whose mean and destitute condition contrasts strikingly with the rich and luxuriant character of the surrounding country. It is said that many remains of ancient architecture are found in the neighborhood. The ruins of the castle of Banias, which appears to have been a work of the Saracens, crown the summit of the adjoining mountain, and display a wall 10 feet in thickness, by which the fortress was defended. The ruins of another fortified castle are visible on the south of the village, and a substantial bridge which conducts to it, inscribed with an Arabic legend, its date being of the age of the Crusades.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Caesarea'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/c/caesarea.html.