Thursday, April 25, 2013


Herod “the Great” has an undeniable role in the history and architectural legacy from the Roman Empire in the Middle East. His name appears in Biblical episodes (the Massacre of the innocents) and historical books (Flavius Josephus), always related to his stormy personality (married ten times, killing some of his wives as well as his own children…) and thirst for power and richness. Herod was a client king of Judea, that is, although Judea did not become part of the Roman Empire, he was the crowned king subordinated to the Roman emperor (Octavian). The combination between such a personality in such a powerful position in the area has had important consequences on the development of Judea during his kingdom. Among his most well-known architectural works it worth highlight the rebuilt of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the port city of Caesarea, the impressive fortress/palace of Masadaand the palace of Herodium. Hopefully there will be new posts about all of them, but let’s start from the closer to Jerusalem: the palace of Herodium.
Herodium is located at 12kms to the South of Jerusalem. To get there, drive to route no.60 towards Hebron and a few kilometres after leaving Jerusalem take the route no. 398. The unmistakable volcano shape of the palace will be seen whenever you will take route no.398. It belongs nowadays to the Nature and Park Authority of Israel, so an entrance fee of just a few tens of shekels will be requested.

airphotos                               Air photos and design of Herodium. Photos by Tectonicablog

Herodium was a palace for the king, a small town for their servants and a fortress for the defence of the entire complex. How was it build? Easy. Take a mountain. Dig from the tip to the inside and leave the remainders on the side. This is the reason why Herodium has a well known truncated-cone shape, perfect location to protect a town and a palace. The palace was provided with everything needed to survive at the doors of the Judean desert, including a cistern system to channel and store rain fall water and reservoir water within the complex.

But besides a magnificent palace, an impassable fortress and a megalomaniac architectural and piece of art work, Herod had another idea in mind for the Herodium. The legend stayed that his mausoleum was also located close to the mountain. As a good legend, it came true…and reality contributed to the legend with a dark episode to be told to future generations. Prof. Ehud Netzerstarted in 1972 the excavations at the surrounding area of Herodium to find the sarcophagus of the client king of Judea. An entire life of devotion and dedication to this single task awarded him in 2007, when he finally found the mausoleum, another palace and a stadium.

mausoleum                                       At Herod's mausoleum. Photos by

As a paradox of the destiny, Prof. Netzer fatally fell during the excavation works in October 2010 and die in the same place where he dedicated all his life. Rehabilitation works are around the clock nowadays and hopefully soon we will be able to visit Herod’s thumb. Meanwhile, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem opened a monographic exhibition about this king of Judea, his life and his architectonic projects in the Middle East.

                                                           First sight at arrival to Herodium
                                                           Coming inside the fortress
                                                                      The palace
111203_herodium-24                                Inside Herodium you can walk within the old network of tunnels
111203_herodium-03 copy                   Going deeper into Herodium                                    One of the pools inside the mountain111203_herodium-27
                                                               Coming out to daylight
paint copy                                                               A great place to paint...

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