links to the land


Aizanoi: Aizanoi (Turkey) — A Monumental Site — Visited by Paul?

“One of the best-preserved temples of the ancient world is located there as are the impressive remains of a stadium, theater, bathhouse, meat market, etc.”

Archaeology & children: An Unlikely Dig

“The archaeological site at Tel Esur, on the coast south of Haifa, allows students to discover ancient artifacts – as well as their own capabilities.”

Ephraim/Taybeh: Tour Taybeh – Not just for Oktoberfest Anymore

“‘Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim …’ (John 11.54).”

Herodium: * Herod’s Tomb at Herodium; * A Look into Loggia at Herodium

* “Haaretz newspaper carried an article today by Nir Hasson, reporting on the seventh annual conference, ‘Innovations in Archaeology in Jerusalem and the Surrounding Area.’ During that conference, two archaeologists, Joseph Patrich and Benny Arubas challenged Ehud Netzer’s identification of Herod’s Tomb that was found at Herodium near Bethlehem.”

* “At the Herod exhibit at the Israel museum there is a room that is a reconstruction of the loggia, the VIP box from the Herodium theater …”

Jerusalem: Walking Atop the Walls of Jerusalem

“I have seen the Old City of Jerusalem from every direction. … But the most unique way I’ve seen the city is from atop its walls. … A visitor can walk atop most of the Old City wall of Jerusalem … This quick tour travels atop the wall of Jerusalem from the Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate.”

Shechem: Joseph’s Tomb at Shechem

“Eventually, Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem.”

Solomon’s Temple: Searching for the Temple of King Solomon

“For centuries, scholars have searched in vain for any remnant of Solomon’s Temple. The fabled Jerusalem sanctuary, described in such exacting detail in 1 Kings 6, was no doubt one the most stunning achievements of King Solomon in the Bible, yet nothing of the building itself has been found because excavation on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, site of the Temple of King Solomon, is impossible.

“Fortunately, several Iron Age temples discovered throughout the Levant bear a striking resemblance to the Temple of King Solomon in the Bible. Through these remains, we gain extraordinary insight into the architectural grandeur of the building that stood atop Jerusalem’s Temple Mount nearly 3,000 years ago.”

Temple Mount: Underground Battle for the Temple Mount

“… the story of the underground excavations and the struggle that took place inside Warren’s Gate in 1981. Warren’s Gate is the northern-most of the four original Herodian gateways that gave access to the Temple Mount through the Western Wall.”

Caesarea Maritima: the high-level aqueduct


Herod the Great constructed a high-level aqueduct to sustain the growth of the population of Caesarea Maritima. The source for the aqueduct’s water was Mount Carmel, located seven miles away to the north-northeast. However, this aqueduct was about much more than the delivery of water to a thirsty city.

On the surface, it would appear that the purpose of aqueducts like the one pictured above near Caesarea was to simply bring a steady stream of fresh water to the city. But the construction of such aqueducts served additional purposes, not the least of which would be the constant, graphic display of Rome’s apparent power over the very products of the heavens and time. Marianne Sawicki explains:

… when Herodian engineers built the massive aqueduct systems to support cities like Caesarea … they accomplished something more than civic improvements. They secularized the water. It no longer came from heaven; it came from Rome. “From Rome” means that Roman engineering brought it into homes and courtyards from far-off mountain springs, conveniently, automatically, without regard to the natural vicissitudes of the weather or the seasons, and without any apparent assistance from divine providence. … Aqueducts as such were by no means a Roman innovation in … Galilee. … But, unlike … earlier installations, the Herodian- and Roman-era aqueducts were monumentally built and called attention to themselves by their size and design. They matched the civic architecture of theaters, colonnaded avenues, temples, and so forth that constituted the “urban overlay” of the Greco-Roman cities in Galilee.

While I could share quite a few more pictures of sites I was privileged to see in Caesarea Maritima this spring, most of them would be of matters dating from the time of the Crusades. So, we’ll leave Caesarea now, having focused primarily on matters pertaining to the first century A.D.

Where do you guess we might be in our photo tour of Israel when posting resumes here on Sat., Sept. 28? Come and see!

Caesarea Maritima: the temple to Augustus



The Jewish historian Josephus (37 – c 100 A.D.), in a brief summary of some of Herod the Great’s building projects across Palestine, noted in regard to Caesarea Maritima:

“At Caesarea he constructed a major port along a shore where there was none, enclosing a harbor larger than the Piraeus [the largest seaport in Greece]. Then he erected a whole city of white stone crowned with a temple to Rome and Augustus – all within a twelve-year period.” (p.246)

In another place, Josephus tells us the temple’s statute of the emperor Augustus was “not inferior to the Olympian Zeus.” (Jewish Wars I.21.7).

We know exactly where this remarkable temple once stood: on the highest and most prominent part of Caesarea Maritima, overlooking the harbor and only 100-300 yards from the coastline of that time. However, the intervening two millennium since its construction has not been kind to this temple for virtually all of it has either deteriorated, been carried away, been re-purposed, or remains yet to be excavated. However, what little of the temple’s remains that have been identified has enabled scholars to surmise what the temple looked like originally.

The photograph above is a close-up shot of a historical marker located on the temple’s foundation that presents scholarship’s proposal of the temple’s appearance.

Caesarea Maritima: the amphitheatre/hippodrome (5)



Hippodrome is a compound of two Greek words: “hippos” for horse and dromos for “course” or “circuit.” Both two-horse (bigae) and four-horse (quadrigae) chariot races were conducted in the amphitheatre/hippodrome in Caesarea Maritima. A historical marker there reads:

The chariot races thrilled the crowds. The counterclockwise seven-lap [roughly 2 1/2 mile] race commenced at the starting gates (carceres) and ended at a finishing line situated in front of the dignitaries’ tribune. At each end of the axial rib (spina) were the two turning points (meta prima and meta secunda). Their sharp curves posed a major challenge to the skilled charioteers and the galloping horses.

In the photograph above I’m standing in some iron artwork resembling a chariot team immediately in front of the starting gates located at the northern end of the amphitheatre/hippodrome.

Caesarea Maritima: the amphitheatre/hippodrome (4)


A historical marker in the amphitheatre/hippodrome in Caesarea Maritima reads:

King Herod’s ‘Hippodrome’

This hippodrome (circus* in Latin) built in 10/9 B.C. by King Herod [the Great] for the inauguration of the city, held horse and chariot races, athletics, gladiatorial combat, and hunting games. Before falling into disuse at the end of the Roman period, the building’s southern end was converted into an oval amphitheater for the staging of gladiatorial combat and hunting games.

Did the Building Serve Other Purposes as Well?

In the Greek speaking eastern part of the Roman Empire, these spectacles as well as sprint races were held in a building known as a stadium. Historical sources on Caesarea mention a stadium where Jewish, and later, Christian prisoners were sent to their death fighting in the arena as gladiators or as prey for wild beasts.

* The Roman circus, based on the design of the Greek hippodrome, is a U-shaped enclosure built for horse and chariot races.

The 315x68m building underwent various changes. In the 1st c. A.D. the western seating area was added, bringing the structure’s capacity to ca. 12,000.

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.

Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (4a)


There is a well located at the western end of the peristyle courtyard of the Upper Palace of the Palace of the Procurators complex in Caesarea Maritima.

While it is well known that a large aqueduct supplied most of Caesarea Maritima’s needs for water, the presence of this well makes it clear “that the high-level aqueduct was in not in operation when the Palace of the Procurators was constructed.” As Caesarea’s population rapidly grew to over 100,00 in connection Herod the Great’s building projects, the construction of the aqueduct became essential.

Writing in regard to his tour of Palestine in 1879, J.W. McGarvey mentioned a well, perhaps this one, in his book Lands of the Bible (p. 276), noting that in his time there was “a well of never-failing water, and hither flocks and herds are daily led from the immediate vicinity to be watered.”