Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (6)



If you were to stand today in the Palace of the Procurators in Caesarea Maritima, looking north, roughly a quarter of a mile up the way you would see a narrow strip of land jutting out into the sea. On that strip stands the remains of a Crusader era citadel (fortress) and some modern-day shops and a restaurant.

The citadel was in the form of a square measuring 62×62 feet. It was defended by four towers and a wide moat (62 feet across) that separated the citadel from the Crusader-era city to the east.

In the first century A.D. the view would have been not of a citadel, but of the southern breakwater of Caesarea’s fine artificial harbor constructed under direction of Herod the Great. The jut of land visible today formed only a portion (about half) of that breakwater, essentially only the inner portion of the great harbor. The harbor area was located on the far side of the citadel/restaurant in the photograph above.

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.”

Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (2)


As was noted in yesterday’s post, the upper portion of the Palace of the Procurators in Caesarea Maritima is “built around a large peristyle courtyard” that  measures about 45 yards across and 71 yards in length.

“What’s a peristyle courtyard?,” you ask?

A peristyle courtyard typically surrounded a building or open area with columns (a colonnade). A garden largely composed of either evergreens, flowers, or both, along with statues, formed the center. However, its function was not merely aesthetic, but practical, for it enabled the lighting of the rooms that faced the courtyard by day.

Caesarea Maritima: palace of the procurators (1)



Leaving the architectural garden (walking north) and crossing the remains of the Herodian wall/Umayyad fortress wall to the north you immediately come across the remains of a palace complex. Commonly known by a variety of names (e.g. – the Palace of the Procurators, the Promontory Palace, the Reef Palace) this palace consisted of two sections: the Upper Palace and the Lower Palace. A historical marker explains:

“The edifice consists of two main units: the Lower Palace comprising the private wing, and the Upper Palace, housing the public wing. The latter, built around a large peristyle courtyard, was associated with the ruler’s judicial and administrative functions, as well as the reception and the entertainment of dignitaries. The Upper Palace was built shortly after the erection of the Lower Palace.

“Who built this palace? Was it King Herod, on the occasion of the inauguration of the city? Was it a Roman governor, when Caesarea became the capital of the province? Archaeology could not solve this riddle.”

While we do not know with absolute certainty who first built this palace, Jerome Murphy-O’Conner notes (p.243) what we do know:

“This two-level complex was erected by the Romans after they assumed direct control of Judea and Samaria in AD 6. It was the administrative centre (praetorium) from which procurators, such as Pontus Pilate (AD 26-36) governed Judea and Samaria. The apostle Paul was imprisoned here for over two years under the procurators Felix and Festus (Acts 23.31-35; 24.27).”

The photograph above was taken while standing near the base of the Herodian wall/Umayyad fortress wall, looking north. The remains of the entrance into the courtyard for the Upper Palace can be seen running virtually the length of the center of the photograph from left to right. The courtyard proper begins at the extreme left of the photo. Following the courtyard, and located on a short peninsula (not pictured) that extends into the Mediterranean (preceding from east to west), are the remains of a triclinium, a large pool, and the Lower Palace. Located in the photograph’s center (and to the right of center) are the remains of the Herodian amphitheatre (aka: stadium), which we’ll make note of a few posts from now.