(Καισάρεια, in the Targum קיסרין), the name of several cities under the Roman rule, given to them in compliment of some of the emperors; especially of two important towns in Palestine.
1. CAESARÇA PALAESTÎNAE (Καισάρεια ἡ Παλαιστίνης), or "Caesarea of Palestine" (so called to distinguish it from the other Caesarea), or simply Cesarea (without addition, from its eminence as the Roman metropolis of Palestine, and the residence of the procurator). The numerous passages in which it occurs (Ac 8:40; Ac 9:30; Ac 10:1,24; Ac 11:11; Ac 12:19; Ac 18:22; Ac 21:8,16; Ac 23:23,33; Ac 25:1,4,6,13) show how important a place this city occupies in the Acts of the Apostles. It was situated on the coast of Palestine, on the line of the great road from Tyre to Egypt, and about half way between Joppa and Dora (Josephus, War, 1:21, 5). The journey of the apostle Peter from Joppa (Ac 10:24) occupied rather more than a day. On the other hand, Paul's journey from Ptolemais (Ac 21:8) was accomplished within the day. The distance from Jerusalem is stated by Josephus in round numbers as 600 stadia (Ant. 13:11, 2; War, 1:3, 5). The Jerusalem Itinerary gives sixty-eight miles (Wesseling, p. 600; see Robinson, Bib. Res. 3:45). It has been ascertained, however, that there was a shorter road by Antipatris than that which is given in the Itinerary a point of some importance in reference to the night- journey of Acts 23. :SEE ANTIPATRIS. The actual distance in a direct line is forty-seven English miles.
In Strabo's time there was on this point of the coast merely a town called "Strato's Tower," with a landing-place (πρόσορμον ἔχων), whereas, in the time of Tacitus, Caesarea is spoken of as being the head of Judaea ("Judaaee caput," Tac. Hist. 2:79). It was in this interval that the city was built by Herod the Great (Josephus, Ant. 15:9, 6; Strabo, 16:2, 27; Pliny, H. N. v. 15). The work was, in fact, accomplished in ten years. The utmost care and expense were lavished on the building of Caesarea. It was a proud monument of the reign of Herod, who named it in honor of the Emperor Augustus. The full name was Ccesarea Sebaste (Καισάρεια Σεβαστή, Joseph. Ant. 16:5, 1). It was sometimes called Cesarea Stratonis, and sometimes also (from its position) Maritime Ccesarea (παραλιός, Joseph. War, 3:9, 1, or ἡ ἐπί θαλάττῃ, ib. 7:1, 3). The magnificence of Cesarea is described in detail by Josephus in two places (Ant. 15:9; War, 1:21). The chief features were connected with the harbor (itself called Σεβαστὸς λιμήν, on coins and by Josephus, Ant. 17:5, 1), which was equal in size to the Piraeus of Athens. The whole coast of Palestine may be said to be extremely inhospitable, exposed as it is to the fury of the western storms, with no natural port affording adequate shelter to the vessels resorting to it. To remedy this defect, Herod, who, though an arbitrary tyrant, did much for the improvement of Judaea, set about erecting, at immense cost and labor, one of the most stupendous works of antiquity. He threw out a semicircular mole, which protected the port of Caesarea on the south and west, leaving only a sufficient opening for vessels to enter from the north; so that, within the enclosed space, a fleet might ride at all weathers in perfect security. This breakwater was constructed of immense blocks of stone brought from a great distance, and sunk to the depth of 20 fathoms in the sea. Broad landing-wharves surrounded the harbor, and conspicuous from the sea was a tem. pie dedicated to Caesar and to Rome, and containing colossal statues of the emperor and the imperial city. Besides this, Herod added a theater and an amphitheatre; and, when the whole was finished, he fixed — his residence there, and thus elevated the city to the rank of the civil and military capital of Judeea, which rank it continued to enjoy as long as the country remained a province of the Roman empire (see Dr. Mansford, Script. Gazetteer). Vespasian was first declared emperor at Caesarea, and he raised it to the rank 'of a Rot man "colony" (q.v.), granting it, first, exemption from the capitation tax, and afterward from the ground taxes (the real jus Italicum). The place was, however, inhabited chiefly by Gentiles, though some thousands of Jews lived in it (Joseph. War, 3:9, 1; 3:14; Ant. 20:8, 7; Life, 11). It seems there was a standing dispute between the Jewish and Gentile inhabitants of Caesarea to which of them the city really belonged. The former claimed it as having been built by a Jew, meaning King Herod; the latter admitted this, but contended that he built it for them, and not for Jews, seeing that he had filled it with statues and temples of their gods, which the latter abominated (Joseph. War, 2:13, 7). This quarrel sometimes came to blows, and eventually the matter was referred to the Emperor Nero, whose decision in favor of the Gentiles, and the behavior of the latter thereupon, gave deep offense to the Jews generally, and afforded occasion for the first outbreaks, which led to the war with the Romans (Joseph. War, 2:14). One of the first acts of that war was the massacre of all the Jewish inhabitants by the Gentiles to the number of 20,000 (ib. 2:18, 1). This city was the head-quarters of one of the Roman cohorts (q.v.) in Palestine.
Caesarea is the scene of several interesting circumstances described in the New Testament, such as the conversion of Cornelius, the first-fruits of the Gentiles (Acts 10); the residence of Philip the Evangelist (Ac 21:8). It was here also, in the amphitheatre built by his grandfather, that Herod Agrippa was smitten of God and died (Ac 12:21-23). From hence the apostle Paul sailed to Tarsus when forced to leave Jerusalem on his return from Damascus (Ac 9:30), and at this port he landed after his second missionary journey (Ac 18:22). He also spent some time at Caesarea on his return from the third missionary journey (Acs 21:8, 16), and before lone was brought back a prisoner to the same place (Ac 23:23,33), where he remained some time in bonds before his voyage to Italy (Ac 25:1,4,6,13). After the destruction of Jerusalem, Caesarea became the spiritual metropolis of all Palestine; but, since the beginning of the 5th century, when the land was divided into three provinces, Palestina Prima, Secunda, and Tertia, it became the capital of only the first province, and subordinate to the bishopric of Jerusalem, which was elevated into a patriarchate with the rights of primacy over "the three Palestines." Caesarea is chiefly noted as the birthplace and episcopate of Eusebius, the celebrated Church historian, in the beginning of the 4th century, and was conspicuous for the constancy of its martyrs and confessors in the various persecutions of the Church, especially the last (Euseb. Hist. Eccl. viii, s. f.). It was also the scene of some of Origen's labors and the birthplace of Procopius. It continued to be a city of some importance even in the time of the Crusades. It still retains the ancient name in the form of Kaiseryeh, but has long been desolate. The most conspicuous ruin is that of an old castle at the extremity of the ancient mole. A great extent of ground is covered by the remains of the city. A low wall of gray stone encompasses these ruins, and without this is a moat now dry. Between the accumulation of rubbish and the growth of long grass, it is difficult to define the form and nature of the various ruins thus enclosed. Nevertheless, the remains of two aqueducts, running north and south, are still visible. The one next the sea is carried upon high arches; the lower one, to the eastward, carries its waters along a low wall in an arched channel five or six feet wide. The water is abundant and of excellent quality, and the small vessels of the country often put in here to take in their supplies. Caesarea is, apparently, never frequented for any other purpose ;even the high-road leaves it wide; and it has not been visited by most of the numerous travelers in Palestine. The present tenants of the ruins are snakes, scorpions, lizards, wild boars, and jackals. See G. Robinson's Travels, 1:199 Bartlett's Jerusalem, p. 6; Traill's Josephus, p. xlix; Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 2:279; Rosenmüller, Alterth. II, 2:326 sq.; Reland, Palcest. p. 670 sq.; Otho, Lex Rabb. p. 108 -sq.; Thomson, Land and Book, 2:234 sq. Ritter, Erdk. 16:598 sq.; Wilson, Bible Lands, 2:250 sq.; Prokesch, Reise, p. 28 sq.; Sieber, De Ccesarec Palestince Episcopis (Lips. 1734); Wiltsch, Geography and Stat. of the Church, 1:53, 214 sq.