Caesarea by the Sea (Caesarea Maritima)

Every time Caesarea is mentioned in the New Testament, apart from the double name "Caesarea Philippi", it is in reference to the Caesarea that is located on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Caesarea Philippi is a completely separate location found inland, north of Galilee, in northern Israel.

Aerial view of Caesarea and the remains of the ancient Mediterranean harbor.

Bible references and significance:

Acts 8:40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. (NIV) The apostle Philip preached in Caesarea at the very beginning of the church, likely to the large Jewish community found there.

Acts 9:28-30 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. (NIV) This early reference to Saul (later Paul) traveling through this area shows primarily that is was a major travel hub as a seaport.

The breakwaters framing the harbor area. Herod the Great had artificial breakwaters
built that were formed starting at the ocean floor up, using poured forms.
(top: right side, bottom: left side).


Look for ruins of old stairs to the harbor as shown in the graphic above this photo.
Water would have come up to the grass area in ancient times.

Storage areas/rooms

Another view, further to the right.

[Caesarea was the seat of Roman Government. A significant archaelogical find at this location pertains to another biblical figure: Pontius Pilate]

Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. ... Acts 10:23-24 The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. (NIV) With Caesarea's prominence and official capacity in the Roman empire, Roman soldiers would have be constant residents. God chose this location to begin the Gentile church in earnest, through the special visions associated with Peter and Cornelius.

Acts 12:19-23 Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. 20 He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king's country for their food supply. 21 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (NIV) Herod had a residence (palace) at Caesarea, not to mention large amphitheaters where gathering could take place.

Rear of amphitheater. Some of statues found.

Rebuilt amphitheater now being used again!

Ancient seating showing the wear of many who sat there.

Acts 18:22 When he [Paul] landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch. [Also Acts 21:16] (NIV) The church appears to have thrived and grown in Caesarea, being made up of Jewish converts and Gentiles alike.

Acts 21:8-9 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (NIV) Philip appears to have settled at Caesarea following the events of Acts 8:40.

Acts 23:23-24 Then he called two of his centurions and ordered them, "Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at nine tonight. 24 Provide mounts for Paul so that he may be taken safely to Governor Felix." ... Acts 23:32-24:1 33 When the cavalry arrived in Caesarea, they delivered the letter to the governor and handed Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked what province he was from. Learning that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, "I will hear your case when your accusers get here." Then he ordered that Paul be kept under guard in Herod's palace. 24:1 Five days later the high priest Ananias went down to Caesarea with some of the elders and a lawyer named Tertullus, and they brought their charges against Paul before the governor [Felix]. (NIV) As the seat of the Roman governor, Paul was imprisoned here after being arrested and kept from death in Jerusalem.

Location of the guard house were Paul would have first been imprisoned.

Acts 24:27-25:1 When two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, but because Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison. 25:1 Three days after arriving in the province, Festus went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem, ... Acts 25:4-6 Festus answered, "Paul is being held at Caesarea , and I myself am going there soon. 5 Let some of your leaders come with me and press charges against the man there, if he has done anything wrong." 6 After spending eight or ten days with them, he went down to Caesarea , and the next day he convened the court and ordered that Paul be brought before him. (NIV) While Jerusalem was important to the region, it really was secondary to Caesarea to the Roman government.

Acts 25:13-14 A few days later King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to pay their respects to Festus. 14 Since they were spending many days there, Festus discussed Paul's case with the king. [Also Acts 25:24] (NIV) With the obvious significance of Caesarea to the Roman government, it shouldn't surprise us that the excavation of the ruins of this place found a stone (now in secondary use) that featured an inscription referencing Pilate, the governor associated with the trial of Jesus. Once again archaeology upholds the historicity of people referenced in Scriptures.

Historical Overview:

On the site of what was once a Phoenician town, Strato's Tower, King Herod (37-4 BC) built a resplendent city and named it Caesarea in honor of his patron, Augustus Caesar. It's in habitants - Romans, Samaritans, and Jews - enjoyed the pleasures of the Roman World: water in plentiful supply, bathhouses, and places of entertainment.

In 6 A.D. Caesarea became the seat of the Roman governors. The status of the city's Jews deteriorated, and in 66 A.D. they rebelled against the Romans. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Caesarea became the Roman provincial capital of Judea.

The city reached the height of its prosperity in the Byzantine period (4th - 6th centuries A.D.). It retained its status as an important center of Christian scholarship and its harbor became the gateway to the Holy Land for thousands of pilgrims. The Jewish community grew, and religious academies, where famous sages taught, were founded in the city.

Affluence was shown through plastered walls and
richly decorated floors.


After the Muslims conquered the land in the seventh century, Caesarea's status diminished. In 1101, the Crusaders captured the town. Eighty-six years later, Saladin conquered it and destroyed its walls.

Ruins of Crusader fortress.

Foreground center: ruins of toppled tower where found.

Classic crusader architecture. Ceiling of fortress gate room.

The present fortifications were built in 1251 by the French king Louis IX.

Following the Mameluke conquest in 1265, the city was abandoned. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman authorities settled a group of Bosnian Muslim refugees there.

The remains of ancient Caesarea attest to the city's illustrious past.


More miscellaneous photos, showing a portion of how large the city was and the size of this amazing archaeological find...

Notice how close the ancient is to the modern, note power plant stacks in background.

A large portion of the New Testament lower city was buried by a later, yet ancient,
garbage dump. Note all the pottery fragments extending many feet deep.
Also below...