Caesarea Maritima: The Place for New Beginnings

Although the site of Caesarea Maritima was the site of an ancient Phoenician city, Caesarea Maritima literally was a brand new city built by Herod the Great during the period 25 to 13 BC.

At first, Herod envisioned this city as being ‘his’ city and so he built his palace on a promontory jutting into the Mediterranean Sea. The palace had a freshwater pool, almost Olympic size, which required water to be brought via an aqueduct from Mt. Carmel, some ten miles away. He then had a 40 acre artificial harbor constructed, which was the largest one in antiquity and which could accommodate 300 ships. Beyond that an amphitheater, theater, and a 10,000 seat hippodrome were built. The 3,500 seat amphitheater was situated such that the patrons were looking out at the sea. The city was surrounded by great city walls and graced with columned temples, parks, docks, warehouses and beautiful villas. The city was dedicated to Augustus Caesar, as was the harbor, which was named Sebastos that is ‘Augustus’ in Greek.

In time, Herod came to realize that his city boasted too much of his Hellenism and too little of his heritage as a Jew and, thus, was driving a wedge between his monarchy and the Jews of his kingdom. While Herod continued to build new many important buildings and fortresses, such as Masada and Herodium, he built his greatest political, and perhaps, architectural achievement in Jerusalem, the expansion of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Caesarea is also the first place where Pilate set foot in the Province of Judea, because Caesarea was the administrative capital of the province. Jerusalem at this time was the religious center of Judea. Roman Prefects, and then later governors, went to Jerusalem usually only for the most important festivals of the Jewish year, and then only to keep peace.

Finally, Caesarea Maritima is the place where Christianity first embraced the Romans, as Gentiles, and the Roman Empire. Peter was called from Joppa to Caesarea to baptize a Centurion named Cornelius. This Centurion is not only the first Roman official, but also the first Roman to embrace Christianity. Before the baptism ceremony, Peter, and those with him, saw the Holy Spirit pour out the gift of tongues upon these Gentiles. Moreover, Peter had a vision in which God directed him to no longer view the Gentiles as being unclean, but to view all men as being worthy in God’s sight, if they believed in God and worked for righteousness.

It is because Caesarea Maritima is a place for new beginnings that the central characters of Casting Lots begin their journey throughout the Roman Empire from Caesarea Maritima.


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