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Caesarea Philippi

Attractions in the Golan

Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon. It was adjacent to a spring, grotto, and related shrines dedicated to the Greek god Pan. Now nearly uninhabited, Caesarea is an archaeological site in the Golan Heights. Caesarea Philippi is mentioned by name in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Also, the city may appear in the Old Testament under the name Baal Gad.



Caesarea Philippi (Paneas) in the Hellenistic Period 

So the history of Caesarea Philippi starts with Alexander the Great’s conquests. In fact that 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 center. Panias is a spring, today is known as Banias, named for Pan, the Greek god of desolate places. It lies close to the “way of the sea” mentioned by Isaiah, 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 Lake Hahula marshes.



Currently, it is the source of the stream Nahal Senir. The Jordan River previously rose from the malaria-infested Lake Hahula 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. The water no longer gushes from the cave, but only seeps from the bedrock below it. Alexander the Great’s conquests started a process of Hellenisation in Egypt and Syria that continued for 1,000 years.

Caesarea Philippi Is Settled First In The Hellenistic Period 

Paneas was first settled in the Hellenistic period. The Ptolemaic kings, in the 3rd century BC, built a cult center. Panias is a spring, today is known as Banias, named for Pan, the Greek god of desolate places. It lies close to the “way of the sea” mentioned by Isaiah; 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 Lake Hahula marshes. Currently, it is the source of the stream Nahal Senir. So the Jordan River previously rose from the malaria-infested Lake Hahula 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. 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. Moreover, to him, the cave was dedicated and from which the copious spring rose; feeding the marshes of Lake Hahula. And ultimately supplying the river Jordan. Also, the pre-Hellenic deities that have been associated with the site are Ba’al-gad or Ba’al-Hermon. 

Caesarea Philippi: The Battle of Panium

The Battle of Panium is mentioned in extant sections of Greek historian Polybius’s history of “The Rise of the Roman Empire”. Furthermore, 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. Antiochus’s victory cemented Seleucid 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.

Caesarea Philippi In The Roman Period

During the Roman period the Caesarea Philippi was administered as part of Phoenicia Prima and Syria Palaestina; and finally, as the capital of Gaulanitis (Golan) was included together with Peraea in Palaestina Secunda, after 218 CE. The ancient kingdom of Bashan was incorporated into the province of Batanea. Caesarea Philippi under Herod and Philip (20 BCE-CE 34). On the death of Zenodorus in 20 BCE, the Panion, which included Paneas, was annexed to the Kingdom of Herod the Great.



He erected here a temple of “white marble” in honor of his patron. In the year 3 BCE, 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). In 14 CE, Philip II named it Caesarea in honor of Roman Emperor Augustus, and “made improvements” to the city. His image was placed on a coin issued in 29/30 CE (to commemorate the founding of the city), this was considered idolatrous by Jews but was following in the Idumean tradition of Zenodorus.

Gospel Association of Caesarea Philippi 

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. Also, the apostles Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration of Christ; which happened “in a high place nearby” and is recorded in Matthew (17:1-7), Mark (9:2-8) and Luke (9:28-36).

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

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Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history.

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