This Section includes photos of the Roman, Byzantine, and Early Islamic cities of "Caesarea Philippi" (according to the New Testament). The palace built by Herod Agrippa II is prominently featured.
Herod the Great's son, Philip established the city of Panias in the 2 BC. At first it was called "Caesarea Philippi." Until the year AD 93, the city was the capital of the Kingdoms of Philip 3BC–AD 34) and Agrippa II (54-96).
During the roman and Byzantine periods, Panias was an independent city belonging to the Phoenician Province. In the early Islamic period (from AD 630 on), the city thrived. During the Crusader (1142-1187), Ayyubid, and Mameluke rule (1187-1517) fortifications were added to the city in order to better protect the route to Damascus. Today it is called “Banias” for local Arabs have difficulty pronouncing the “p” sound in “Paneas.” The city deteriorated during the days of Ottoman rule (1517-1917) and it became a small farming village.
Caesarea Philippi is situated about 50 mi. [80 km.] southwest of Damascus at the foot of 9,232 ft. [2813 m.] high Mt. Hermon at one of the five headwaters of the Jordan River in the northern Huleh Valley. It was originally called Paneas for it was here that the god **Pan,** among others, was worshipped. Today it is called “Banias” for local Arabs have difficulty pronouncing the “p” sound in “Paneas.”
In 198 B.C. the Seleucids—Greek rulers of Syria— defeated the Ptolemies—Greek rulers of Egypt— who had controlled Palestine since roughly 300 B.C. Thus the control of Palestine passed into the hands of the Seleucids.
At the death of Herod the Great, in 4 B.C., this city and various territories in the area were given to his son Philip. In 2 B.C. Philip rebuilt the town and called it “Caesarea Philippi”—to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima.
It was here at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus retired from the crowds, and it was here that Peter made his “great confession” that they believed that Jesus was the “Messiah, the son of God” (Matt 16:13–20; Mark 8:27–30).
After the death of Philip the Tetrarch in A.D. 34, the city eventually passed into the hands of Agrippa I and eventually into the hands of Agrippa II (AD 53–93).
During the reign of Agrippa II the city expanded greatly and Agrippa II is credited with building a great palace here.
The subsequent history of the city includes occupation by the Romans (Titus), Christians, Moslems, and Crusaders.