This post was originally published on this site

Shielding their eyes from the bright sun, the group made its way along the worn limestone passageway as they entered into a vast open area with a large stage to their right and rows of rows of stone steps to their left to seat 3,500 individuals. Below the seats is an empty area, in which they stood, which was able to be closed off and filled with water for maritime battle scenes to the joy of the onlookers. The marble stage had little nooks carved into it where would have stood statues of deities. Historically, only men were permitted to be actors. To depict women, the men would wear dresses and masks. The fact that they wore masks and therefore had varying personalities gave birth to the term hypocrite.

Further down the path the group came upon Herod’s seaside palace, where was discovered an archaeological find with an inscription mentioning the name “Pontius Pilatus”; a double aqueduct that brought water from springs at the foot of Mount Carmel; a boundary wall; and a wide moat protecting the harbor to the south and west. The harbor was the largest on the eastern Mediterranean coast.  As the pilgrims leaned against the parapet, they gazed into the churning waters of the Mediterranean Sea, through which they could easily make out Herod’s ancient pool, the mosaics shimmering through the clear sparkling waters. 

Leaving behind the Palace, which contained the ruins of the room in which St. Paul was detained, the pilgrims walked the length of the Hippodrome which had hosted many gladiator games. In Byzantine times the bloody games were suspended, however, the structure continued to be used for horse and chariot races.  It was not difficult to imagine the neighing horses racing around the circumference of the arena.

On the far end they entered the Crusader Fortress, with its angled walls which allowed the defenders to easily see the enemy below them.  Exiting through a tall, vaulted structure, the pilgrims gazed up at the Crusader church, which was never completed, due to the unstable ground below.