Caesarea Philippi or Caesarea Paneas was a Roman city located at the base of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights of Israel. The site mentioned in the Bible is now uninhabited and is an archaeological site. It is adjacent to Banias, thus the name Panias dedicated to the Greek God Pan. The surrounding region was known as Panion.
Apparently known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshiped here.
The region of Caesarea Philippi was the furthest north Jesus took his disciples.
Caesarea Philippi at the bottom of Mount Hermon
At the Northern tip of Israel
Caesarea Phillippi was located near the northern extremity of the land of Israel, about 6 Km east of Dan, 240 Km north of Jerusalem, 80 Km southwest of Damascus, and 48 Km east of Tyre and The Mediterranean Sea. It had an elevation of about 350 meters above sea level, near the foot of Mount Hermon on the eastern source of The Jordan River, with lush trees and grass, it is known today as Banias.
Banias Springs near the Cave of Pan
Brief History of Caesarea Phillippi
It was a center of Pagan worship in ancient times. The Greeks constructed a shrine to one of their false gods. After the death of Alexander the Great, the city was the location of a major battle in 198 B.C. in which Antiochus the Great defeated the Egyptians and took control of the land of Israel for The Seleucids.
In 20 B.C., during the Roman times of the New Testament, it was transferred to the control of Herod the Great who built a temple there to Caesar Augustus. After Herod died in 4 B.C., it came under the authority of Herod's son Philip who renamed it Caesarea Philippi after Tiberius Caesar and himself.
During the Jewish-Roman War of 66-70 A.D., in which Jerusalem was devastated 70 A.D., the Roman general Vespasian camped his army there for a time. After the war, Titus held gladiatorial shows in the city where many Jewish prisoners were slaughtered for the perverted amusement of the spectators.
With Caesarea Phillippi being so close to Galilee, Nazareth and Capernaum, Jesus Christ often visited the city during His lifetime. The Transfiguration is believed to have taken place on a mountain not far from Caesarea Phillippi.
Important sites in Caesarea Phillippi
The Cave of Pan
Herod the Great built a temple over the cave. As seen on coins, this temple had a gate. In most ancient mythologies, the Shepherd god comes out of the underworld once a year and brings for the seasons. The fact that the cave of Pan in actuality is a karstic cave spring should further corroborate this.
The Temple of Augustus
Herod the Great built a temple to Augustus at the mouth of the Cave of Pan in 19 BCE. Several niches to this temple are still preserved on its western side, which must have been passed by the worshipers as they approached the ’holy of holies’ located at the cave.
The Courtyard of Nemesis
Nemesis was the goddess of vengeance and imperial justice. The proximity of her temple to the cave of Pan shows her importance to the cult of Pan. The courtyard and niches were carved out of the cliff of Mt. Hermon in 178 CE.
Temple of the Sacred Goats
The Temple of the Sacred Goats was built in 230 CE in the age of Emperor Elegabalos. Over a thousand goat skeletons that were discovered in the recesses below.
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