Caesarea Maritima

Not exactly what Vitruvius intended

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Roman theaters, like this reconstructed example at Caesarea-by-the-Sea, had elaborate backsets on the rear of the stage. These sets were decorative but had practical functions too: they were used by the actors, they served as storage spaces, and they also helped “control” the sound inside the room. These backsets were called the scaenae frons or the “facade of the tent” (from the Greek skene for “tent” or “hut.” It is likely that early backsets were simple structures used by the actors to hide themselves from the spectators and to create dramatic mystery.). In later times, they were made of carved stone.

The electronic set pictured here converts ancient space for modern use. I’m sure it offers “control” for the sound, but it just seems out of place in such a setting (sigh).

Oh, by the way, Vitruvius was a Roman architect who described how things were built two thousand years ago. Imagine his response to this! Do you think he would have been pleased?


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We just picked up our first group of the summer in Tel Aviv. We are now headed inland to the Sea of Galilee.

Sorry for the delay in posting. I should be getting back to business this week. Thanks for following.

Rock concert

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Justin Sutherland strikes a pose in the rain.

The striking architecture of Caesarea-by-the-Sea was erected between 22-10 BC by Herod the Great. At the time, structures such as this theater were foreign in the Heartland. Herod accelerated the import of technology and the culture of the West and put his Eastern domain on the map. This opulence in stonework is nowhere as visible as in the Roman theater pictured here, the first of many built in the region.

The featured stone of the Caesarea is kurkar, a local sandstone.

Photo taken by Bible Land Explorer Jess Poettker.


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Jess (left) and Justin (above) are a part of the residency program of Johnson University. This program leads to a Master of Strategic Ministry degree. It involves a collaborative relationship between JU and local churches and is designed to equip students for effective, strategic Christian leadership. It includes a study-tour to Israel/Palestine.

To learn more about JU’s residencies, see the link here.

"If not for this site, you wouldn't be here."

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I utter these words every time we settle into this Roman theater. The phrase is awkward by itself. But if you put in context, it makes perfect sense.

The theater is located at a site known as Caesarea-by-the-Sea. It was a wind-swept rubble pile when archaeologists began restoration efforts in the 1950s. Today the place has been wonderfully restored and is visited by millions every year.

One can sit on the sandstone seats of the theater and gaze toward the Mediterranean. It is the perfect spot to imagine how astounding this city must have been in its prime. According to Josephus, this provincial capital was built by Herod the Great (“the baby-killer” of the Christmas story) in the decade between 22 and 12 BC. It has all the accruements of a first-century Italian transplant.

According to Luke the Evangelist it was here that a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius had a vision (see Acts 10). This revelation prompted “Pentecost II,” the spark that leaped over the fireline and out of the Jewish circle. Christianity moved with speed and force from “Caesar-city” into the non-Jewish world.

That’s why I say it. If not for Caesarea-by-the-sea and the events associated with this place, I doubt that Gentiles like you and me would be sitting here. But because it did, the world as we know it has been profoundly changed.


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Caesarea-by-the-sea is a highlight on nearly all of our study-tours in the Israel-Palestine. We stop at the theater, visit the promontory palace, walk the hippodrome, explore a Crusader fortress, and imagine the harbor at the center of it all.

You really should consider joining us this summer. We have spaces available on three different trips. Find the dates here and email me at markziese@gmail.com for details.

What catches your eye?

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Among our troop of Jesus Trail hikers this month we had a professional birder. For real! While some of us were understandably fixated on the magnificent stonework of ancient Caesarea, Susan spotted a Hooded Crow gliding by.

Isn’t it amazing how multiple perspectives enrich our travel?

Observe. Engage. Contemplate.

It’s more than a slogan.


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Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to exploring sites along the Trail, we visited Caesarea, Mt Carmel, Megiddo, and Jerusalem.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

An omnistic bobcat

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Restoration work at the site of Maritime Caesarea, Israel, is ongoing. Fresh aspects of the site are visible with every visit.

There is a newly opened path along the eastern ramparts inside the Crusader fortress and an extension to the pavilion north of the fortress.

If you haven’t been to Caesarea lately, it is time to come back.

I thought you might enjoy a shot to this omnistic bobcat resting from his labor in the harbor area.

Oh, and don’t miss the rainbow in the winter sky!


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Our most recent group of Bible Land Explorers just completed a walk along the Jesus Trail, a 65 km trek across Galilee. In addition to exploring Caesarea, we visited Mediggo, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem.

For a list of travel opportunities in 2019, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details.

Taking a pounding

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There was a break in the heavy weather yesterday. The sun broke through to illuminate waves crashing against the breakwater at Caesarea.

It is hard to imagine that the artificial harbor engineered in the time of King Herod went out another quarter of a mile.

Read about Herod’s magnificent Mediterranean harbor in the Jewish War of Josephus. Find a starting point here.


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Consider this your invitation to participate in a trip of adventure and renewal to the Lands of the Bible in 2019. For a complete list of travel opportunities, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details. We make learning fun, eat good food, sleep in some respectable places, and send you home with memories for a lifetime!

Double-barreled

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The “High Aqueduct” that carries freshwater to the site of Caesarea Maritima is not a single system but two. The side that faces the parking lot is the older member of the construction; it corresponds to the birth of the city in the time of Herod the Great (late 1st c BC). A single canal carried water along the top of an elevated arcade. It is visible only in the upper right corner of this photograph.

Abutting the first system is a second. This side faces the Mediterranean Sea and is largely visible here. It has been suggested that this addition was built shortly after the first. Soldiers from the Second, Sixth, and Tenth Legions assisted in repairs carried out in AD 130 according to inscriptional evidence.

For more photographs and explanations of the water system at Caesarea Maritima, see the link here.

For our previous post on the “High Aqueduct”, see here.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Melinda Lee.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

Water near and far

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The salty Mediterranean stretches as far as the eye can see.

The view is framed by an arch of a Roman-era aqueduct. It too is all about water. This high-level conduit delivered freshwater from the shoulder of Mount Carmel to the city of Caesarea Maritima. It is a distance of ten kilometers. Constructed of kurkar (sandstone) during the reign of Herod the Great (40-4 BC), the aqueduct system stands as a legacy of engineering genius.

Later phases would have to be built to account for Caesarea’s growing population.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Melinda Lee.


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A few seats have opened up on our Johnson University Study-Tour to Israel-Palestine slated for March 12-23, 2019. If you are interested in being a part of this high-energy student trip, contact me immediately at markziese@gmail.com. Don’t hesitate. Our roster must be finalized by mid-December. Academic credit is available.

Excavations at Caesar-city

Stopped by Caesarea-by-the-Sea (Israel) this morning. The area of the quay continues to see reconstruction and excavation. Access to the platform above the harbor where a temple to Augustus and a Byzantine church once stood is still limited. Still, it is exciting stuff!