Biblical Archaeology Review 24:1, January/February 1998


Caesarea Complex May Have Been Paul’s Prison

Archaeologists in the seaside town of Caesarea have unearthed a building they suspect is the jail in which Saint Paul was imprisoned for two years almost 2,000 years ago.

The site, called the praetorium, encompasses an expansive palace, administrative offices, a bathhouse and sprawling courtyards. It lies between the Roman amphitheater and hippodrome and was originally part of a magnificent palace built by King Herod along the water’s edge.a

The 161,000-square-foot complex functioned as the seat of Roman government in Judea from the first century A.D. until the middle of the third century, when Caesarea was the capital of Judea.

Yosef Porath, the Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist who headed the team that made the discovery, told of a mosaic floor inscription that led him to believe the room was connected with security operations. The inscription reads, “SPES BONA ADIV(T)ORIB(VS) OFFICI CVSTODIAR(VM),” or “Good luck to the assistants of the office of the guards.”

Porath said that the office wing of the praetorium had probably been the location of the audience hall in which Paul’s hearing before the Roman governor took place.

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