Herodium

15 KM south of Jerusalem the fortress and the palace of Herod the Great is located on a hill shaped like a truncated cone that rises 758 m. above sea level, stood Herodium, the palace-fortress built by King Herod.

circa 20 BCE

Josephus writes, "he built a wall round that top of the hill, and erected towers at the corners, of a hundred and sixty cubits high; in the middle of which place he built a palace, after a magnificent manner, wherein were large and beautiful edifices".
---- Wars 7 Chapter 6 Par 1. The combination of fortress and palace is a uniquely Herodian innovation, which he repeated on several other sites, including Masada.

circa 20 BCE

A pre-year-70 synagogue at Herodium is of the Galilean-type, featuring stone benches built along the walls and aisles formed by columns that supported the roof. It is one of the oldest synagogues in the Levant. Unlike much of Herod’s Palace the synagogue can still be seen and identified today.

circa 20 BCE

The eastern tower - the largest - was a massive, round tower on a solid stone base and measured 18 m. in diameter. It had several upper stories with elaborate rooms, probably for the use of the royal entourage. This eastern tower rose above the entire fortress, its roof commanding a panoramic view; it also served as a hiding place in times of danger.

circa 20 BCE

Northern portico of the peristyle hall

circa 20 BCE

Herod built an underground access to large cisterns that were built on the north-eastern side. As Josephus wrote in Wars 7 Chapter 6 Par. 1): "He also made a great many reservoirs for the reception of water, that there might be plenty of it ready for all uses... ". The photo below shows the large reservoir, which collected rainfall for use during the dry seasons.

circa 20 BCE

The Roman bathhouse was excavated on the southwest side, which probably served the royal entourage and the king's guests. It comprised a number of rooms and pools, a caldarium (hot room) heated by the hypocaust system (the floor was raised on supports, allowing hot air to circulate below the floor, thus heating the room). The bathhouse walls were decorated in painted square patterns and in imitation marble. The floors were paved with colored mosaics in geometric and floral patterns, as well as with pomegranates, grapevines and grape clusters.

circa 20 BCE

During the Great revolt, the Zealots captured the fortress in 66 CE. They converted a public structure to a synagogue and added two Mikveh (baptismals), one near the structure and the other near the eastern tower.

circa 20 BCE

These underground passages were cut as hiding places by Jewish fighters of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion (132-135) when Herodium was once more besieged by the Roman army.

circa 20 BCE

The lower city is located on the north-west foothills of the fortress. The lower city structures contained offices of the district capital, palace rooms for the visitors and family, Roman garden, and a lake. It extended beyond the modern road, and include another bathhouse and other structures.

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