This week’s pictures are those of Caesarea, a city built from scratch by Herod the Great.
When we think of Herod, we think of a man so cruel he ordered the extermination of all boy babies born in Bethlehem over a two year period (including when Jesus was born) – a man of whom Emperor Augustus once said: “I’d rather be Herod’s pig than his child.”
Make no mistake. The Herod who gets little (but all notorious) mention in the gospels was a major player on the world stage. In the conflict between Augustus and Mark Anthony (which resulted in Augustus becoming Emperor), Augustus believed he could never prevail unless he could win the support of Herod. Later, Herod became the Emperor’s best friend – next to Vipsanius Agrippa (creator of the Roman navy).
Herod’s greatness is reflected in his building projects. He rebuilt the temple (nearly doubling its size), and built numerous whole cities, among them Caesarea, which became the provincial capital of Judea. Herod lived in Caesarea (rather than Jerusalem), as did the Roman procurators and Herods who followed him. The first picture is of what is left of the colonnade of his palace which jutted out into the sea (second picture is of his swimming pool located close to the ocean).
Today, you can see the ruins of the theater (third picture), Herod’s palace, a track for chariot races (fourth picture), the ruins of the harbor (the largest man-made harbor in the ancient world), and the aqueduct Herod designed to bring fresh water 13 miles to the city.
Cornelius lived in Caesarea (Acts 10), and it was in this very theater where Herod’s grandson, Agrippa, was proclaimed to be a God. Refusing to correct the crowd but glorying in their acclamation, Agrippa was struck by divine illness and died (Acts 12:19ff).
I cannot help but be reminded of Mary’s premonition during her pregnancy. The coming of Jesus would turn the world on its ear. The great would be brought low and the low would be exalted. Hamlets like Nazareth and Bethlehem and insignificant towns like Capernaum would take on unexpected fame just because Jesus walked there. The great cities of Herod (including his temple) lie in ruins or are no more, the ultimate end of all that seeks to glorify the work and power of man above that of God.
Love you all.