Acts 23:33-35 On arrival at Caesarea in the autumn of 57AD (see 1 on Map 26), Paul appears before the Roman governor. He is kept under armed guard for five days in the governor’s residence at Herod’s Palace until Ananias (the High Priest) and Tertullus (a Jewish lawyer) arrive from Jerusalem for Paul’s trial.
Acts 24:1-21 Paul – charged with a public disorder offence in Jerusalem – is accused by the Jews before the Roman governor, Marcus Antonius Felix. Paul is described as “a leader of the Nazarene group” (Acts 24:5) who has tried to desecrate the Temple by bringing Gentiles into the inner courts.
Paul defends himself, admitting he is a “follower of the Way of Jesus” (Acts 24:14). He asks why his accusers from Ephesus aren’t present in the court, and claims he is on trial for believing in the resurrection of the dead.
Roman Theatre in Caesarea (Acts 24:1)
Acts 24:22-26 Governor Felix, appointed by the emperor Claudius five years earlier in 52AD, is well acquainted with ‘the Way’ as his wife, Drusilla, is the daughter of King Herod Agrippa I who had beheaded the apostle James and had arrested Peter (see Acts 12:1-4). He adjourns the proceedings on the grounds that he needs further evidence from Claudius Lysias – the commander of the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem.
Following this, Paul is kept under prolonged house arrest in Caesarea. On several occasions, Governor Felix and his Jewish wife Drusilla send for Paul and listen to him speaking about faith in Jesus Christ.
Caesarea was an artificial port constructed on the Mediterranean coast by King Herod the Great in c.21BC (see Map 26). Remains of the huge boulders forming the extensive ‘mole’ built by Herod to protect shipping on this exposed coast can still be seen under the water on aerial photographs, stretching far out beyond the much smaller modern harbour.
Originally built on the site of an ancient fortified settlement called Strato’s Tower, the new city was re-named Caesarea Maritima in honour of Augustus Caesar. It was endowed with many pagan temples, including one dedicated to its patron goddess Tyche (or ‘Fortuna’, the Roman goddess of fortune) and another built in honour of Augustus himself. A huge statue of Augustus Caesar deliberately resembled the statue of Zeus at Oympia – one of the seven ‘wonders’ of the ancient world.
From its early beginnings, Caesarea was predominantly a Roman settlement with very few Jews living there amongst the Gentile majority. When the Romans took full control of Judaea in 6AD, Caesarea became their administrative capital.
Today, holidaymakers can attend concerts in the beautifully restored Roman amphitheatre and can see remains of Herod’s Palace, which later served as the Roman governor’s palace or ‘praetorium’, and where Paul was kept prisoner for two years.
Impressive remains of an extensive 6 mile / 10 km aqueduct run along the beach to the north of Caesarea just as they did when the Romans built the aqueduct in the middle of the 1st century to bring water to the city from Mount Carmel. The aqueduct was doubled in width around 130AD, and a second aqueduct was built at a lower level in the 4th century in order to increase the capacity further.
Roman Aqueduct at Caesarea (Acts 24:10)
The Roman city walls were rebuilt in the 12th century AD by the Crusaders. The Caesarea Museum at Kibbutz Sdot Yam houses a display of excavated Roman remains.