Journey to Caesarea

The 60-mile trip northward from Jerusalem to Caesarea took two days. The first night the army contingent (numbering 470!) took Paul on the mountainous descent to Antipatras, 40 miles to the northwest...



Antipatris was situated in the fertile Plain of Sharon, 10 miles northeast of Joppa and 25 miles south of Caesarea. Originally called Capharsabare, it was rebuilt by Herod the Great who renamed it for his father Antipater. The city served as a Roman military relay station and marked the border between Judea and Samaria.

Below, Cardo Maximus, the main road of Roman Antipatris

Main Roman road at site of Antipatris

Below, Ras al-Ayn, a 16th century  Ottoman fortress at the head of the river Awja, built to protect a vulnerable stretch of the Via Maris, the ancient trade route between Cairo and Damascus.

Turkish fortress at site of Antipatris

The next day the 400 soldiers of Paul's escort returned to Jerusalem while the seventy cavalry took Paul the rest of the way to Caesarea.

At the time of Paul, Caesarea was the headquarters of Roman rule and it may have had a population of about 100,000.



The site of Caesarea lies about 35 miles north of Tel Aviv. The capital of Palestine for almost 600 years and later a Crusader port, it was renowned for the splendor of its public buildings. It was later known as Caesarea Maritima ("Caesarea by the sea") to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi in northern Palestine.

Below, artist's rendition from the visitor center booklet of Caesarea as it appeared in the 1st century (image source: National Geographic and Caesarea visitor guide)

Ancient port

The Roman 10th legion was stationed in Caesarea and a succession of appointed prefects (their proper title; later "procurators") resided there, including the three mentioned in the BiblePontius Pilate (26-36 AD), Felix (52-59/60 AD) and Festus (60-62 AD).

Below, replica of an inscription with the name "Pontius Pilatus," discovered in 1961. The block had been reused in a stairway of the theater. The Roman prefect (governor) had his official residence in Caesarea and is best known for his part in the trial of Jesus. The inscription records Pilate's dedication of a temple to emperor Tiberias around 26-36 AD. Part is missing, but a suggested restoration reads: "Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judaea, made and dedicated the Tiberieum to the Divine Augustus. " ** (See note at the bottom of this page)

Pontius Pilate inscription

As their official residence, the governors took over the former palace of Herod the Great. This elegant structure, near the theater in the southern part of the city, was built at a unique locationon a rock promontory jutting out into the sea (hence the modern designation "Promontory Palace").

Herod palace reconstruction

Excavations have revealed a large complex, measuring 360 x 196 feet, with a nearly Olympic-size fresh-water pool that jutted out into the Mediterranean from the shoreline.  The palace was in use throughout the Roman period, as attested to by two columns with Greek and Latin inscriptions naming governors of the province of Judea. The palace has been partially restored for visitors (below).

Partial restoration of Herod's palace

Below, remains of an aqueduct that carried water from springs at the base of Mount Carmel nearly ten miles away. ** (See note at the bottom of this page)

High level aqueduct

Below, Site of Herod's harbor, built using volcanic ash that allowed the concrete to harden underwater. The forty-acre harbor could accommodate 300 ships. Today, divers can explore the remains of the breakwaters built by Herod.

modern harbor on site of ancient harbor

Below, partially reconstructed Byzantine-era bathhouse complex.


Below, part of the seating area of a hippodrome (chariot racing track). ** (See note at the bottom of this page)

Ceasrea hippodrome

Below, theater built by Herod in 22-10 BC, the first of its kind in Israel, with a seating capacity of 3,500-4,000. Originally, there was a large stage building that blocked the view of the sea. According to Flavius Josephus this was where Herod Agrippa I was struck by a fatal illness, as recounted in Acts 12. ** (See note at the bottom of this page)

Theater at the southern end of the city


Paul placed on trial in Caesarea (twice)

At Caesarea, the cavalry escort turned Paul over to Felix, the Roman provincial governor, along with a letter detailing the circumstances of Paul's arrest. Felix read the letter and asked what province Paul was from. Upon learning that he was from Cilicia, he said, "I will hear your case when your accusers get here."

During the five days between Paul's arrival and that of his accusers, he was kept under guard in the palace built by Herod the Great, where the Roman governors resided, including the three named in the Bible: Pontius Pilate, Felix and Festus

Five days later, a delegation of Jews, headed by the high priest Ananias, appeared before the Roman governor Felix and accused Paul of blasphemy and treason and demanded his execution. Before Felix and his wife Drusilla Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. Anxious to avoid trouble, refused to pass sentence, all the while hoping that Paul would bribe him for his release. As a concession to his Jewish subjects he kept Paul under guard for two years (possibly in the palace or a building nearby), but with enough freedom to "permit his friends to take care of his needs." 


Felix recalled to Rome, replaced by Festus

During Paul's detainment Felix faced a major outbreak of violence when the Jews attempted to drive the Greek-speaking citizens out of Caesarea. Felix's soldiers slaughtered hundreds and the Jews petitioned the new emperor, Nero, who recalled Felix (about 59 AD) and replaced him with Porcius Festus.

The new governor was an improvement compared to Felix. Quite diplomatically, Festus spent his first days in Jerusalem. When the Jewish leaders mentioned Paul's case to him, he invited them to Caesarea to renew their charges. They accepted and, several days later, Paul was given another hearing. 

The leaders presented many serious charges against him, but none could be proven. If Festus had been in office longer he no doubt would have released Paul. The perfect solution, he thought, would be to ask Paul if he were willing to go up to Jerusalem to stand trial on these charges. In response, Paul said:

"I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well ... no one has the right to hand me over to them."

Paul then invoked his legal right as a Roman citizen to stand trial before the emperor. After Festus had conferred with his council, he looked at Paul and declared:

"You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!"

Paul's appeal presented Festus with another problem. The governor could not ship him to Rome without a list of acceptable charges. As a courtesy to the Jews, he raised the problem before Herod Agrippa II who, with his sister Bernice, had just arrived in Caesarea to pay their respects to the new governor. Felix did this not just out of courtesy to the Jewish ruler, he wanted his advise on what seemed to him to be a religious matter.

Interested in hearing Paul speak, the king and his sister came with great pomp and entered the audience room of the one-time palace of their father and grandfather.

Also in attendance were the high ranking officers and the leading men of the city, and Paul used this as an opportunity to witness his faith. In the end it was concluded that Paul was not guilty, and that if not for his appeal to be tried before Emperor Nero, he could have been set free. So arrangements were made to ship him some 2,000 miles away to Rome.


Paul sets sail from Caesarea to Rome