Day Seven, Part II – Herodion

Herodium (or Herodion) which is located south of Jerusalem and east of Bethlehem, is on the edge of the Judean Desert. It was built by King Herod the Great in the second or third decade BC. It is one of the many building projects he undertook, including Ceasarea Maritima (posted below), Masada, and the renovation and expansion of the Temple in Jerusalem. This site was used as a fortress, palace for business and entertaining, and, ultimately, as his burial site.  It is the only site he named after himself.

Israel’s National Park webpage describes it this way:

Earth was heaped up around the walls, which created a cone-shaped artificial mountain. At its foot, Herod built a kind of royal ‘country club,’ including a large pool, a bathhouse and a roofed pool.
Despite its desert location, the complex was surrounded by magnificent gardens irrigated by the pool. A special aqueduct from the area of Solomon’s Pools near Bethlehem brought water to the palace.
During the Great Revolt of the Jews against the Romans the rebels had a base at Herodium, constructing a synagogue there that can still be seen. During the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jewish fighters hewed tunnels within the artificial mountain, part of which are lit and accessible to visitors

It is said Herod wanted to see Jerusalem and his temple project from the desert, which wasn’t possible.  So they found a low hill, built an 8 story tower on top of it, surrounded most of the tower with more earth for fortifications and now you have a view for seeing Jerusalem.


The Fortress portion of the complex as we approach.


A replica of what it looked like when intact with a cut-a-way view to see the depth of the walls and chambers.


The long spiral hike up.  Amazingly, the Rolling Stones were also at the site today.


These rolling stones, however, don’t sing.  They are used for defensive purposes for hilltop fortresses to hurl down upon your enemies.


A view from the rim down into the remains of the fortress.


A view towards Jerusalem.  On a clearer day (and with a better camera) the towering Temple Complex could be seen.


Barry scouts out the ruins below.


A portion of the outer wall with one of the half tower projections seen in the upper right of the picture.


Yoel pointing out some mysterious channels in the wall.  They don’t seem to be related to any cisterns, so the best guess is that they are for a sauna room.


The Reception Hall.


Romans didn’t use domes extensively until the 1st century A.D. and beyond.  Here is found one of their earlier ones.


And, of course, what fortress is complete without a tunnel system going down into the depths? So down we go.


And down…


And down…


And down…


And, finally, out!


The complex also had a theatre built into the side of the hillside below the fortress.  It is believed that Herod may have had it built for a singular visit from one friend.  I suppose you can do these things when you are king.


The remains of the theatre are undergoing repair.  Rumor has it they saw Katie’s last performance and want her to come there for a production.


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