(excerpted from The promontory palace at Caesarea
Maritima: preliminary evidence for Herod's Praetorium by Kathyrn
L. Gleason, et al.)
ruins of Caesarea Maritima lie forty kilometers north of Tel Aviv
along the rapidly developing coastline, divided among the lands
of the Israel National Park Authority, Kibbutz Sdot Yam, and the
development projects of the privately owned Caesarea Development
Corporation. The Promontory Palace, extending
westwards 100 m. into the sea, is situated within the National Park,
adjacent to the restored ancient theater and the newly discovered
amphitheatron (a stadium/hippodrome complex).
ruins of the palace lie in two parts. The Lower Palace is built
close to sea level, its central peristyle framing a great
rock-cut pool. The Upper Palace, built on a higher reach of
the promontory and on a slightly different orientation, focuses
on a large central courtyard, paved in compacted
crushed stone. Although not previously well-known to tourists, the
promontory palace is currently undergoing partial reconstruction
as part of a tourist path from the theater to a new seaside promenade
terminating at the Crusader Fortress wall.
Caesarea Maritima, established by Herod the
Great on the site of the Hellenistic city of Strato's Tower, has
been known continuously from its founding through until the present
day, and is the setting for numerous historically significant events
and personages. The palace of the city is mentioned in only a few
instances, although incidents in lives of the procurators, governors
and other officials who dwelt there are more frequently described.
An artist's interpretaion of Caesarea Maritima's harbor and lighthouse.
Painting source: National Geographic
The basileia features prominently in Josephus'
description of Herod's building programs at Caesarea. Agrippa I
was struck by fatal illness in the theater and died in the palace.
"Herod's praetorium" was the destination of the apostle
Paul for a hearing before Antoninus Felix at Caesarea (Acts of the
Apostles 23:35.). Later, Herod Agrippa II and his sister Berenike
visited a new governor, Porcius Festus,there and heard Paul's self-defense
in the akroaterion (Acts 25:23). Josephus, in relating the incident
of the standards at Caesarea (BellJ 2 169-74; AntJ 18.57), mentions
a demonstration outside of the palace which moved into the adjacent
Together these narrative sources provide an
image of the palace, stadium (amphitheater, hippodrome), and theater
in close proximity to one another. Such a constellation of palace
and public buildings in the southern area of the city, however,
was unknown to excavators until the last quarter of this century.
Only the theater, excavated in 1958 by A. Frova had been recognized
since the mapping efforts of Conder and Kitchener in the 1880s.
The palace and Josephus' amphiteatron, however, remained lost to