During the human lifetime of Jesus Christ, and well into the New Testament stage of Bible History, Caesarea was a major Roman political center in occupied Israel. It was located on the shore of The Mediterranean Sea, on the road from Egypt to Tyre, about 75 miles / 120 kilometers northwest of Jerusalem. It was built between 25 to 13 B.C. by Herod The Great, who named it after Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor most famous for ordering the census (Luke 2:1) that resulted in Joseph and Mary traveling down from Nazareth to Bethlehem where The Savior was born.
The site had a long history. It was originally established as an anchorage by Sidonian king Abdashtart in the 4th century B.C., when it became known as "Strato's Tower." The Hasmoneans (see The Maccabees) took possession of it in 96 B.C., however Pompey brought it under Roman rule in 63 B.C. (see Ancient Empires - Rome).
Mark Antony presented the city to Cleopatra, however when Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) defeated Antony at Actium, it was put under the control of Herod who built it up and renamed it after the Caesar. It then became the capital of the Roman province of Judea, the headquarters for the procurators (governors) and the Roman troops (see Roman Legions).
Caesarea is mentioned frequently in New Testament events:
- Peter first took the message of the Gospel to Gentiles at Caesarea, while in the house of Cornelius, the centurion in what was known as the "Italian Regiment" (Acts 10:1-48). While there, as Cornelius was about to bow down to Peter, the apostle made it clear than he was merely a servant of The Lord, like the rest (see Did Peter Have The Primacy?) (Acts 10:26)
- Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea with his four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9).
- Not long after his conversion On The Road To Damascus, Paul sailed from Caesarea to his native Tarsus (Acts 9:30). He passed through the city during his second and third missionary journeys (see Paul's First Missionary Journey, Paul's Second Missionary Journey and Paul's Third Missionary Journey). Later, he was held prisoner in the city for two years (Acts 24:1,27), where he was put on trial (Acts 23:31-26:32) before his voyage to Rome (see Paul's Journey To Rome).
- It was at Caesarea that Herod Agrippa I (see The Herods) was struck down by God for his idolatrous blasphemy (Acts 12:19-23)
- Today, the site of Caesarea is still known by its ancient name, Kaiseriyeh, but there are only ruins remaining.
Fact Finder: What did Herod Agrippa I do that caused an angel of The Lord to strike him down?