Banias / Caesarea Philippi, Israel

waters of the Banias Spring (one source of the Jordan River), with Pan's Cave, aka the Gates of Hades, in the background - For Greco-Roman pilgrims to the sanctuary, the large cave, with its seemingly bottomless pool and flowing stream, marked an entrance to the underworld or “gates of Hades.” The spring no longer flows out of the cave but rises from the ground below.

waters of the Banias Spring (one source of the Jordan River), with Pan’s Cave, aka the Gates of Hades, in the background – For Greco-Roman pilgrims to the sanctuary, the gaping cave, with its seemingly bottomless pool and flowing stream, marked an entrance to the underworld or “Gates of Hades.” The spring no longer flows out of the cave but rises from the ground below.

In or around the last decade before the Common Era, the city of Caesarea Philippi was commissioned by Philip the Tetrarch, a son of Herod the Great. The site already had a long history as a religious sanctuary. For over two centuries it had been known as Paneas, a major sanctuary for the Greek god Pan. The modern Arabic name Banias derives from the Greek Paneas. Before the Hellenistic period, the area was sacred to the Canaanite god Baal. Sheltered in the foothills of Mt. Hermon, the region’s highest mountain, with abundant  water and a lush, garden setting, it does feel like hallowed ground. Continue reading