Daily Archives: June 7, 2011

The theater at Caesarea Maritima

The theater at Caesarea Maritima was built originally by Herod the Great but was added to and modified in later centuries. The seating capacity in its final stage was about 4,000.

The first aerial photo shows the position of the theater (facing west) in relation to the Mediterranean Sea.

The theater at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The theater at Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo is an aerial closeup. Most of the seating has been restored since the excavation in the early 1960s.

The theater at Caesarea Maritima. View is South (bottom) to North (top). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the theater South (bottom) to North (top). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When we look at the theater from above it appears as a small piece of a model. Musical concerts are held in the restored theater.

King Herod Agrippa I (A.D. 37-44), the grandson of Herod the Great, visited Caesarea. In a dispute with the people of Tyre and Sidon, he put on his royal apparel and addressed them.

On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, “The voice of a god and not of a man!”  And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23 NAU)

Josephus informs us that this speech took place in the theater (Ant. 19.344). The NET Bible study notes are helpful in explaining the differences between Luke’s account and that of Josephus. (Scroll down to Acts 12:23 for these notes.)

Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2 (19.343-352), states that Herod Agrippa I died at Caesarea in A.D. 44. The account by Josephus, while not identical to Luke’s account, is similar in many respects: On the second day of a festival, Herod Agrippa appeared in the theater with a robe made of silver. When it sparkled in the sun, the people cried out flatteries and declared him to be a god. The king, carried away by the flattery, saw an owl (an omen of death) sitting on a nearby rope, and immediately was struck with severe stomach pains. He was carried off to his house and died five days later. The two accounts can be reconciled without difficulty, since while Luke states that Herod was immediately struck down by an angel, his death could have come several days later. The mention of worms with death adds a humiliating note to the scene. The formerly powerful ruler had been thoroughly reduced to nothing (cf. Jdt 16:17 ; 2 Macc 9:9; cf. also Josephus, Ant. 17.6.5 [17.168–170], which details the sickness which led to Herod the Great’s death).

We have included two larger images suitable for use in teaching. Just click on the image.