Caesarea Philippi is the name of a town 95 miles north of Jerusalem, 35 miles southwest from Damascus, 1150 feet above sea level. It was the south base of Hermon, and at an important source of the Jordan.

It does not certainly appear in the Old Testament history, though identifications with Baal-Gad and (less certainly) with Laish (Dan) have been proposed. It was certainly a place of great sanctity from very early times, and when foreign religious influences intruded upon Palestine, the cult of its local numen gave place to the worship of Pan, to whom was dedicated the cave in which the copious spring feeding the Jordan arises.

The ancient spring at Banaias
One of three sources of the Jordan River

It was long known as Fanium or Panias, a name that has survived in the modern Banaias. The name refers to the giant spring which in ancient times gushed from a cave in the limestone rock, which is the source of the stream Nahal Senir. The Jordan River arises from this spring and two others at the base of Mount Hermon. The flow of the spring has been greatly reduced in modern time, possibly due to deforestation of Mount Hermon, or realignment of faults in the rock layers from earthquakes. The water no longer gushes from the cave, but seeps from the rocks below it.

When Herod the Great received the territory from Augustus, 20 BC, he erected here a temple in honour of his patron; but the re-foundation of the town is due to his son, Philip the Tetrarch, who here erected a city which he named Caesarea in honour of Tiberius, adding Philippi to immortalize his own name and to distinguish his city from the similarly-named city founded by his father on the sea-coast. Philip was reviled by Jews because of his pagan practices. His image was placed on a coin, which is considered idolatry by them.

Here Peter made his confession of Christ as the Messiah, and Christ in turn gave His charge to Peter. (Matt. xvi. 13). Many Greek inscriptions have been found here, some referring to the shrine. Agrippa II changed the name to Neronias, but this name endured but a short while. Titus here exhibited gladiatonal shows to celebrate the capture of Jerusalem. The Crusaders took the city in 1130, and lost it to the Moslems in 1165.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Caesarea Philippi should not be confounded with Caesarea Maritima, also in Palestine or with Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia.