Panias, Caesarea Phillipi, Neronis, all refer to what today is called Banias. Located at the foot of Mount Hermon, Banias offers the visitor a rich variety of touring opportunities, be it hiking, archeology, history and religious references of both the Old and New Testament.
The location of Banias provides it with natural defenses, ensuring its ancient cities with the protection of riverbanks and cliffs in the south, north and west. The history of Banias is linked to the cult of Pan that centered on the spring at the foot of the cliff of Banias and the grotto from which the waters of the spring emerged in antiquity. The Greek historian Polybius first mentions it in his description of the battle waged there between the Ptolemy and Seleucid kingdoms.
At the end of the first century BCE the emperor Augustus added Banias to King Herod’s domain. It was Herod’s son Philip who built his capital here calling the city Caesarea Philippi. It is here that we read of the famous dialogue between Jesus and the disciples (Matthew 16:13).
At the beginning of the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, the temples dedicated to Pan were destroyed. After the Muslim conquest in the seventh century, the city lost its importance and became a small insignificant village. For the Crusaders, Banias served as a natural border between their kingdom and the Muslim kingdom in Damascus. After the expulsion of the Crusaders at the end of the 12th century, Banias again declined into a small insignificant village.