Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (5)


Imagine you are entering the Palace of the Procurators in Caesarea Maritima. Walking west, toward the Mediterranean Sea, you make your way into a large, colonnaded garden/courtyard. This courtyard, and the rooms on either side of it (along the northern and southern edges of the courtyard), form what is known as the Upper Palace. You note that here the daily administrative work of the palace is conducted.

Continuing your walk through the courtyard to its western end, you come to a well. Upon passing the well and crossing a colonnaded walkway that surrounds the courtyard, you step down into the Lower Palace, the entertainment area and living quarters for the procurator and his guests.

As you look around, you’re immediately awe of the sheer luxury of the Lower Palace. To speak nothing of its appointments, its sheer size is impressive: a two-story building measuring a bit larger than a modern-day American football field (360×180 feet). Then the beauty and genius of its enthralls you as you take in the fact that the entire building surrounds a huge pool 144×59 feet in size (not much smaller than a modern-day Olympic swimming pool; 164×82 feet).

You realize that as you stand just inside the entrance to the Lower Place, you’re standing in a large banquet hall (or triclinium). Looking west, the triclinium overlooks the pool and your attention is inexorably drawn to a large statute standing in the center of the freshwater pool. The attire, the face, and the pose of the one depicted in the statue is unmistakable and known to all.

To all then, no doubt, but not with certainty to us today. Time, the elements, the sea, and people, have long since carried away the statue and most of the palace complex. Still, it’s not hard to speculate that the statue was a likeness of Augustus Caesar, Herod the Great’s patron, or perhaps the goddess Roma (the patron goddess of Rome). After all, the city itself was given to Herod by Caesar, Herod named the city after him (Caesarea is Latin for “Caesar’s city”), had a temple constructed there to Augustus and Roma, and named Caesarea’s harbor “Sebaste” (which is Greek for “imperial harbor”).

And so we’re left to wonder what must have pooled up in the mind of the apostle Paul when he was led to Caesarea Maritima, spent two years there in confinement, and had more than one audience before Roman officials there (Acts 23.21-26.32).

In the photograph above, the view is looking to the southwest across the pool, standing near the northwest corner of the triclinium in the Lower Palace. Clearly in view in the photo’s center is the pedestal on which the pool’s statute once stood.