Caesarea Philippi

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Caesarea Philippi
Banias - Agrippas city 001.jpg
The ruins of Caesarea Philippi
Golan Heights
Golan Heights
Shown within Golan Heights
Location Golan Heights
Coordinates 33°14′46″N 35°41′36″E / 33.246111°N 35.693333°E / 33.246111; 35.693333
Type settlement
Cultures Hellenistic, Roman
Not to be confused with Philippi of Macedonia (modern Greece), or with Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean, or the town Caesarea in Israel, or with Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia.
This site is identical with Banias

Caesarea Philippi (Ancient Greek Καισαρεία Φιλίππεια) or Caesarea Paneas (Καισαρεία Πανειάς) was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon, adjacent to a spring, grotto, and related shrines dedicated to the Greek god Pan, and called "Banias, Paneas", or Baniyas (not to be confused with Baniyas in northwestern Syria). The surrounding region was known as the "Panion".

The city is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew[1] and Mark.[2] The city is now uninhabited, an archaeological site in the Golan Heights.

Banias does not appear in the Old Testament. Philostorgius, Theodoret, Benjamin of Tudela, and Samuel ben Samson all incorrectly identified it with Laish (Tel Dan),[3][4][5] while Eusebius of Caesarea accurately places Dan/Laish in the vicinity of Paneas at the fourth mile on the route to Tyre.[6]

Pre-Roman history[edit]

The major Hellenistic realms; the Ptolemaic kingdom (dark blue); the Seleucid empire (yellow); Macedon (green) and Epirus (pink). The orange areas were often in dispute after 281 BC.

Alexander the Great's conquests started a process of Hellenisation in Egypt and Syria that continued for 1,000 years. Paneas was first settled in the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemaic kings, in the 3rd century BC, built a cult centre.

View at the remnants of the Temple of Pan with Pan's grotto. The building on the slope of the cliff in the background is the shrine of Nebi Khader.

Panias is a spring, also known as Banias, named for Pan, the Greek god of desolate places. It lies close to the fabled "way of the sea" mentioned by Isaiah,[7] along which many armies of Antiquity marched. In the distant past a giant spring gushed from a cave in the limestone bedrock, tumbling down the valley to flow into the Huela marshes. Currently it is the source of the stream Nahal Senir. The Jordan River previously rose from the malaria-infested Huela marshes, but it now rises from this spring and two others at the base of Mount Hermon. The flow of the spring has decreased greatly in modern times.[8] The water no longer gushes from the cave, but only seeps from the bedrock below it. Paneas was certainly an ancient place of great sanctity and, when Hellenised religious influences were overlaid on the region, the cult of its local numen gave place to the worship of Pan, to whom the cave was dedicated and from which the copious spring rose, feeding the Huela marshes and ultimately supplying the river Jordan.[9] The pre-Hellenic deities that have been associated with the site are Ba'al-gad or Ba'al-hermon.[10]

The Battle of Panium is mentioned in extant sections of Greek historian Polybius' history of "The Rise of the Roman Empire". The battle of Panium occurred in 198 BC between the Macedonian armies of Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Greeks of Coele-Syria, led by Antiochus III.[11][12][13] Antiochus's victory cemented Selucid control over Phoenicia, Galilee, Samaria, and Judea until the Maccabean revolt. The Hellenised Sellucids built a pagan temple dedicated to Pan (a goat-footed god of victory in battle [creator of panic in the enemy], desolate places, music and goat herds) at Paneas.[14]


The Division of Herod's Kingdom:
  Territory under Herod Archelaus, from 6 Iudaea Province
  Territory under Herod Antipas
  Territory under Herod Philip II
  Salome I (cities of Jabneh, Azotas, Phaesalis)
  Autonomous cities (Decapolis)

Herodian city[edit]

On the death of Zenodorus in 20 BC, the Panion, which included Paneas, was annexed to the Kingdom of Herod the Great.[15] He erected here a temple of "white marble" in honour of his patron. In the year 3 BC, Philip II (also known as Philip the Tetrarch) founded a city at Paneas. It became the administrative capital of Philip's large tetrarchy of Batanaea which encompassed the Golan and the Hauran. Flavius Josephus refers to the city as Caesarea Paneas in Antiquities of the Jews; the New Testament as Caesarea Philippi (to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast).[16][17] In 14 AD, Philip II named it Caesarea (in honour of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus) and "made improvements" to the city. His image was placed on a coin issued in 29/30 AD (to commemorate the founding of the city), this was considered as idolatrous by Jews but was following in the Idumean tradition of Zenodorus.[18]

On the death of Philip II in 33 AD, the tetrachy was incorporated into the province of Syria with the city given the autonomy to administer its own revenues.[19]

In 61 AD, King Agrippa II renamed the administrative capital as Neronias in honour of Roman Emperor Nero, but this name held only till 68 AD when Nero committed suicide.[20] Agrippa also carried out urban improvements[21]

During the First Jewish–Roman War, Vespasian rested his troops at Caesarea Philippi in July 67 AD, holding games over a period of 20 days before advancing on Tiberias to crush the Jewish resistance in Galilee.[22]

Gospel association[edit]

Main article: Confession of Peter

In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus is said to have approached the area near the city, but without entering the city itself. Jesus, while in this area, asked his closest disciples who they thought he was. Accounts of their answers, including the Confession of Peter, are found in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Here Saint Peter made his confession of Jesus as the Messiah and the "Son of the living God", and Christ in turn gave a charge to Peter.

According to the Christian ecclesiastical tradition, a woman from Paneas, who had been bleeding for 12 years, was miraculously cured by Jesus.[23]

4th century[edit]

On attaining the position of Emperor of the Roman Empire in 361 Julian the Apostate instigated a religious reformation of the Roman state, as part of a programme intended to restore the lost grandeur and strength of the Roman State.[24] He supported the restoration of Hellenic paganism as the state religion.[25] In Panease this was achieved by replacing the Christian symbols. Sozomen describes the events surrounding the replacement of a statue of Christ (which was also seen and reported by Eusebius):-

”Having heard that at Caesarea Philippi, otherwise called Panease Paneades, a city of Phoenicia, there was a celebrated statue of Christ, which had been erected by a woman whom the Lord had cured of a flow of blood. Julian commanded it to be taken down, and a statue of himself erected in its place; but a violent fire from the heaven fell upon it, and broke off the parts contiguous to the breast; the head and neck were thrown prostrate, and it was transfixed to the ground with the face downwards at the point where the fracture of the bust was; and it has stood in that fashion from that day until now, full of the rust of the lightning.” [26]


Caesarea Philippi became the seat of a bishop at an early date: local tradition has it that the first bishop was the Erastus mentioned in Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans (Romans 16:23). What is historically verifiable is that the see's bishop Philocalus was at the First Council of Nicaea (325), that Martyrius was burned to death under Julian the Apostate, that Baratus was at the First Council of Constantinople in 381, and Olympius at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In addition there is mention of a Bishop Anastasius of the same see, who became Patriarch of Jerusalem in the 7th century. In the time of the Crusades, Caesarea Philippi became a Latin Church diocese and the names of two of its bishops, Adam and John, are known.[27][28][29][30] No longer a residential bishopric, Caesarea Philippi is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[31] It is also one of the sees to which the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch has appointed a titular bishop.

Post-Roman period[edit]

In 635, Paneas gained favourable terms of surrender from the Muslim army of Khalid ibn al-Walid, after the defeat of Heraclius’s army. In 636, a newly formed Byzantine army advanced on Palestine, using Paneas as a staging post, on the way to confront the Muslim army at Yarmuk.[32]

The depopulation of Paneas after the Muslim conquest was rapid, as the traditional markets of Paneas disappeared (only 14 of the 173 Byzantine sites in the area show signs of habitation from this period). The Hellenised city fell into decline. At the council of al-Jabiyah the administration of the new territory of the Umar Caliphate was established, Paneas remained the principal city of the district of al-Djawlan (the Golan) in the jund (military Province) of Dimshq (Damascus), due to its strategic military importance on the border with Filistin (Palestine).[33]

Around 780, the nun Hugeburc visited Caesarea and reported that the town had a church and a "great many Christians".[34]


Today Caesarea Philippi is a site of archeological importance, and lies within the Hermon Stream Nature Reserve.[35] The ruins are extensive and have been thoroughly excavated. Within the city area the remains of Agrippa's palace, the Cardo, a bath-house and a Byzantine-period synagogue can be seen.[36]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Matthew 16:13
  2. ^ Mark 8:27
  3. ^ A Biblical History of Israel By Iain William Provan, V. Philips Long, Tremper Longman Published by Westminster John Knox Press, 2003 ISBN 0-664-22090-8 pp 181-183
  4. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid p 150
  5. ^ Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy, Edouard de Warren (1854) Narrative of a Journey Round the Dead Sea, and in the Bible Lands; in 1850 and 1851. Including an Account of the Discovery of the Sites of Sodom and Gomorrah Parry and M'Millan, pp 417-418
  6. ^ Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de Saulcy, Edouard de Warren (1854) ibid p 418
  7. ^ Isaiah 9:1
  8. ^ Wilson, John F (2004) Banias: The Story of Caesarea Philippi, Lost City of Pan I.B.Tauris, ISBN 1-85043-440-9 p 2
  9. ^ Kent, Charles Foster (1912) Biblical Geography and History reprinted by Read Books, 2007 ISBN 1-4067-5473-0 pp 47-48
  10. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1995) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: A-D Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0-8028-3781-6 p 569
  11. ^ Perseus Digitital Library. TUFTS University Polybius Book 16 para 18
  12. ^ Perseus Digitital Library. TUFTS University Polybius Book 16 para 19
  13. ^ Perseus Digitital Library. TUFTS University Polybius Book 16 para 20
  14. ^ Chambers Dictionary of Etymology: The Origins and Development of Over 25,000 English Words Edited By Robert K. Barnhart, Sol Steinmetz (1999) Chambers Harrap Publishers L, ISBN 0-550-14230-4, p 752
  15. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) Caesarea Philippi: Banias, the Lost City of Pan I.B.Tauris, ISBN 1-85043-440-9 p 9
  16. ^ Matthew. 16:13
  17. ^ Josephus Flavius Antiquities of the Jews Book 18 chapter 2 para 1
  18. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid pp 20-22
  19. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid p 23
  20. ^ Madden, Frederic William (1864) History of Jewish Coinage, and of Money in the Old and New Testament B. Quaritch, p 114
  21. ^ Josephus, Flavius war of the Jews Book 3 chapter 10 para 7 As for Panium itself, its natural beauty had been improved by the royal liberality of Agrippa, and adorned at his expenses.
  22. ^ Emil Schürer, Fergus Millar, Géza Vermès (1973) The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 BC-135 AD) Continuum International Publishing Group, ISBN 0-567-02242-0 p 494
  23. ^ Luke; 8:43. Mark 5:23 Matthew 9:20
  24. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1988) “Byzantium; the Early Centuries” Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-011447-5 pp 88-92
  25. ^ Brown, Peter, The World of Late Antiquity, W. W. Norton, New York, 1971, ISBN 0-393-95803-5 p. 93.
  26. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid p 99
  27. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 434
  28. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. II, coll. 831-832
  29. ^ Konrad Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi, vol. 1, p. 387; vol. 5, p. 305; vol. 6, p. 326
  30. ^ Raymond Janin, v. Césarée de Philippe, in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. XII, Paris 1953, coll. 209-211
  31. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 867
  32. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid p 114
  33. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid pp 115-116
  34. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid pp 118-119
  35. ^ Hermon Stream (Banias) Nature Reserve at INPA website
  36. ^ article at


  • al-Athīr, ʻIzz al-Dīn Ibn (Translated 2006) The Chronicle of Ibn Al-Athīr for the Crusading Period from Al-Kāmil Fīʼl-taʼrīkh: The Years AH 491-541/1097-1146, the Coming of the Franks And the Muslim Response Translated by Donald Sidney Richards Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-4078-7
  • Brown, Peter The World of Late Antiquity, W. W. Norton, New York, 1971, ISBN 0-393-95803-5
  • Flavius, Josephus The Jewish War ISBN 0-14-044420-3
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. (1991) A Christological Catechism: New Testament Answers Paulist Press, ISBN 0-8091-3253-2
  • Gregorian, Vartan (2003) "Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith", Brookings Institution Press, ISBN 0-8157-3283-X
  • Hindley, Geoffrey. (2004) The Crusades: Islam and Christianity in the Struggle for World Supremacy Carroll & Graf Publishers, ISBN 0-7867-1344-5
  • Kent, Charles Foster (1912) Biblical Geography and History reprinted by Read Books, 2007 ISBN 1-4067-5473-0
  • Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome (2008) The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-923666-6
  • Norwich, John Julius (1988) “Byzantium; the Early Centuries” Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-011447-5
  • Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire, Translated by Ian Scott-Kilvert Contributor Frank William Walbank, Penguin Classics, 1979 ISBN 0-14-044362-2
  • Richard, Jean (1999) The Crusades c.1071-c.1291 Cambridge University press ISBN 0-521-62566-1
  • Salibi, Kamal Suleiman (1977) Syria Under Islam: Empire on Trial, 634-1097 Caravan Books, 1977 ISBN 0-88206-013-9
  • Wilson, John Francis. (2004) Caesarea Philippi: Banias, the Lost City of Pan I.B.Tauris, ISBN 1-85043-440-9

External links[edit]

  • article at (retrieved 14.10.2014)
  • article at (retrieved 14.10.2014)
  • article at (retrieved 14.10.2014)