Antipatris (Hebrew: אנטיפטריס, Ancient Greek: Αντιπατρίς) was a city built during the first century BC by Herod the Great, who named it in honour of his father, Antipater. The site, now a national park in central Israel, was inhabited from the Chalcolithic Period to the late Roman Period. The remains of Antipatris are known today as Tel Afek (Hebrew: תל אפק). It has been identified as biblical Aphek, best known from the story of the Battle of Aphek. During the Crusader Period the site was known as Surdi fontes, "Silent springs". The Ottoman fortress known as Binar Bashi was built there in the 16th century.
Antipatris/Tel Afek lies at the strong perennial springs of the Yarkon River, which throughout history has created an obstacle between the hill country to the east and the Mediterranean to the west, forcing travellers and armies to pass through the narrow pass between the springs and the foothills of Samaria. This gave the location of Antipatris/Tel Afek its strategic importance.
Antipatris was situated on the Roman road from Caesarea Maritima to Jerusalem, north of the town of Lydda where the road turned eastwards towards Jerusalem. During the British Mandate, a water pumping station was built there to channel water from the Yarkon to Jerusalem.
Today the remains of Antipatris are located east of Petah Tikva, near the old Arab village Kafr Saba, and west of Kafr Qasim and Rosh HaAyin.
The Bronze Age saw the construction of defensive walls, 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) to 3.5 metres (11 ft) wide, and a series of palaces. One of these is described as an Egyptian governor residence of the 15th century BC, and within, an array of cuneiform tablets were found. Philistine ware is found in the site in 12th century BC layers.
Most scholars agree that there were more than one Aphek. While Tel-Aphek (Antipatris) is one of them, C.R. Conder identified the Aphek of Eben-Ezer with a ruin (Khirbet) some 3.7 miles (6 km) distant from Dayr Aban (believed to be Eben-Ezer), and known by the name Marj al-Fikiya; the name al-Fikiya being an Arabic corruption of Aphek. Eusebius, when writing about Eben-ezer in his Onomasticon, says that it is "the place from which the Gentiles seized the Ark, between Jerusalem and Ascalon, near the village of Bethsamys (Beit Shemesh)," a locale that corresponds with Conder's identification.
Antipatris was a city built by Herod the Great, and named in honor of his father, Antipater II of Judea. It lay between Caesarea Maritima and Lydda, on the great Roman road from Caesarea to Jerusalem, and figures prominently in Roman-era history. During the outbreak of the Jewish war with Rome in 64 CE, the Roman army under Cestius was routed as far as Antipatris.
According to Josephus, Antipatris was built on the site of an older town that was formerly called Chabarzaba (Hebrew: כפר סבא).
Paul the Apostle was brought by night from Jerusalem to Antipatris and next day from there to Caesarea Maritima, to stand trial before the governor Antonius Felix.
Only one of the early bishops of the Christian bishopric of Antipatris, a suffragan of Caesarea, is mentioned by name in extant documentation: Polychronius, who was present both at the Robber Council of Ephesus in 449 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451. No longer a residential bishopric, Antipatris is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.
In 363, the city was badly damaged by an earthquake.
Ottoman records indicate that a Mamluk fortress may have stood on the site. However, the Ottoman fortress was built following the publication of a firman in AD 1573 (981 H.):
"You have sent a letter and have reported that four walls of the fortress Ras al-Ayn have been built, [..] I have commanded that when [this firman] arrives you shall [..have built] the above mentioned rooms and mosque with its minaret and have the guards remove the earth outside and clean and tidy [the place].
The Turkish name of the place and fortress, pınar başı, means "fountain-head" or simply "head of the springs", much like the Arabic and Hebrew names (Ras al-Ayin and Rosh ha-Ayin, "head of the springs"). Pronounced by Arabic-speakers, it became "Binar Bashi" (Arabic has no "p").
The fortress was built to protect a vulnerable stretch of the Cairo-Damascus highway (the Via Maris), and was provided with 100 horsemen and 30 foot soldiers. The fortress was also supposed to supply soldiers to protect the hajj route. The fortress is a massive rectangular enclosure with four corner towers and a gate at the centre of the west side. The south-west tower is octagonal, while the three other towers have a square ground plan.
There had also been an Arab peasant village at the site which, however, became deserted in the 1920s.
Currently, the site of Antipatris is included in the national park "Yarkon-Tel Afek", under the jurisdiction of the Israel National Parks Authority, incorporating the area of the Ottoman fortress, the remains of the Roman city and the British water pumping station.
Interestingly—and significantly—the earliest winepresses discovered to date in the Southern Levant were excavated adjoining the Governor’s Residency at Tel Aphek, dated to the 13th century BC, the reign of Ramesses II. The two winepresses (pictured, right) were plastered and possessed two treading floors (Hebrew: gat elyonah, “upper vat”) in parallel configuration extending over 6 m². Beneath and next to these, the stone-lined plastered collection vats (Hebrew: gat tahtonah, “lower vat”) could each store over 3 m³, or 3,000 litres, of pressed grape juice. Canaanite amphorae were recovered still in situ at the bottom of each pit, while a midden of grape skins, seeds and other debris was discovered adjacent to the installations [Kochavi 1981:81]. The excavator has drawn attention to the proximity of these winepresses to the Residency, their large size and the fact that ancient winepresses were normally located outside settlements amongst the vineyards suggesting that the Egyptian administration supervised the viniculturists of the Sharon closely [Kochavi 1990:XXIII].
It is clear that Tel Aphek was a site not only at the centre of imperial administration, but also well-connected to the international trade in luxury goods, as reflected in the abundant finds of Cypriot and Mycenaean ceramics.
Illustrative of Cypro-Canaanite trade especially is a fragmentary amphora handle [Aphek 5/29277], clearly inscribed after firing with Sign 38 of the Cypro-Minoan Linear Script [Yasur-Landau and Goren 2004]. The handle was excavated from secondary deposition in Aphek Area X, Locus 2953, belonging to the very meagre Stratum X11 built over the Governor’s Residency. An extreme likelihood exists, therefore, that the object belonged to the earlier, more prosperous Stratum XI2 of the Residency itself. Given the as-yet-undeciphered nature of the script, the precise significance of the post-firing addition of a Cypro-Minoan sign must remain uncertain. At minimum the sign indicates that individuals employing Cypro-Minoan script handled the vessel from which the handle derived. Combined with petrographic analysis of the clay employed in manufacturing the amphora—pointing to an origin in or within the vicinity of Akko—the readiest reconstruction from the evidence must be that the vessel (and any companions) was manufactured in the Akko region before shipping, either to such redistribution points as Tell Abu Hawam or Tel Nami, or (more likely) to Cyprus itself (perhaps via one of these ports), where it was likely emptied of its original contents—certainly marked—before being shipped back to the Levant (now probably containing Cypriot product) and achieving final deposition at Aphek.