Aphek has always been a strategic fortress because of its geographical location. It lies at the headwaters of the Yarkon River, which blocks traffic on the coast and forces the International Coastal Highway through a narrow funnel between the river and the mountains. The two coastal routes south of Aphek are forced to converge here and continue on to Mount Carmel. The strategic nature of this site continued through the Turkish period, and the fort pictured at left was built by the Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent.
Highway Guard Post
In the Late Bronze Age, the Egyptians established a post here to guard the road. Excavations uncovered a number of inscriptions from this “governor’s residence.” Sometime later, Aphek was the location of the Philistine encampment when they fought the Israelites and captured the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam 4). At the end of Saul’s reign, the Philistines gathered here again, and David was turned back and not allowed to join the battle against the Israelites (1 Sam 29).
When Herod the Great became king (37-4 BC), he rebuilt Aphek and named the city Antipatris after his father Antipater. Archaeological work has revealed the city’s Cardo, with shops on both sides of this main street. After Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem, the Romans spirited Paul out of the city to avoid a plot on the apostle’s life (Acts 23). The contingent of troops brought him to Antipatris (about halfway) before continuing on the next day to Caesarea. The city was destroyed in AD 363 by an earthquake.
The Crusaders also recognized the strategic value of this area and built a castle on the hill overlooking the ancient site. This castle was called “Migdal Aphek” (Tower of Aphek) and was built over the site of a Jewish fort from the time of the First Jewish Revolt (AD 66-70). The castle is also known as “Mirabel” (beautiful view). Most of the ruins visible today are from the Turkish period.
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Aphek – Location Profile (Walking in Their Sandals) Briefly discusses the site’s location, setting, and significance. Gives a good explanation of its strategic location along the coastal highway.
Return to Aphek (BARev) An article published in Biblical Archaeology Review in which excavator Moshe Kochavi explains the history of Aphek and his work there.
Tel Afeq-Antipatris (Webshots) A set of 15 high resolution photos featuring various aspects of the Turkish fort.
Bronze and Iron Age Remains (Area X) of the Upper City of Aphek (Tel Aviv University) Provides some information about the site and the excavations carried out there by the Tel Aviv University. Also features an aerial view, a map of the site, and a sketch of the Egyptian governor’s residence.
Tel Afek (Jewish Magazine) Informative article detailing the site’s history and describing the site’s remains today.