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Herodium

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Herodium

Herodium from above 2.jpg

Basic Information

Location 31.6659063°N 35.2414683°E
Country Israel
City Herodium

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility no
Geographical Coordinates 31.66591,35.24147


General

Herodium or Herodion (from Ancient Greek: Ἡρώδειον; Hebrew: הרודיון‎, Arabic: هيروديون‎, Jabal al-Fraidees) is a volcano-like hill with a truncated cone located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of Jerusalem, near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Herod the Great built a fortress and palace (see Herod's Palace) on the top of Herodium, and may have been buried there. Herodium is 758 meters (2,487 ft) above sea level.

History and time period

In 40 BCE, after the Parthian conquest of Syria, Herod fled to Masada. On the way, at the location of Herodion, Herod clashed with the Parthians and emerged victorious. According to the Roman Jewish historian Josephus, he "built a town on that spot in commemoration of his victory, and enhanced it with wonderful palaces... and he called it Herodion after himself" (The Wars of the Jews I, Chapter 13). Josephus describes Herodium as follows: "This fortress, which is some sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, is naturally strong and very suitable for such a structure, for reasonably nearby is a hill, raised to a (greater) height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast. At intervals it has round towers, and it has a steep ascent formed of two hundred steps of hewn stone. Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament at the same time. At the base of the hill there are pleasure grounds built in such a way as to be worth seeing, among other things because of the way in which water, which is lacking in that place, is brought in from a distance and at great expense. The surrounding plain was built up as a city second to none, with the hill serving as an acropolis for the other dwellings." (The Wars of the Jews I, 21, 10; Antiquities of the Jews XIV, chapter 13.9). Herodium was conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE. At the beginning of the Bar Kokhba revolt sixty years later, Simon bar Kokhba declared Herodium as his secondary headquarters. Archaeological evidence for the revolt was found all over the site, from the outside buildings to the water system under the mountain. Inside the water system, supporting walls built by the rebels were discovered, and another system of caves was found. Inside one of the caves, burned wood was found which was dated to the time of the revolt. In Wars of the Jews, 1, 21, 10, Josephus mentions two different fortresses built by King Herod and given the same name, Herodium. Here is Thackeray's rendition of the passage in Greek, followed by his English translation, including two notes.

"But while he thus perpetuated the memory of his family and his friends, he did not neglect to leave memorials of himself. Thus he built a fortress in the hills on the Arabian frontier and called it after himself Herodium. An artificial hill (a), sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, was given the same name, but more elaborate embellishments.(b) (a) Literally "in the form of a breast." (b) Built in memory of his victory over the Jewish allies of the Parthians. §265; modern Jebel Fereidis ("Hill of Paradise" or Frank mountain), some 4 miles S.E. of Bethlehem. The site of the other Herodium is unidentified." Here is Whiston's English translation of the passage. "And as he transmitted to eternity his family and friends, so did he not neglect a memorial for himself, but built a fortress upon a mountain towards Arabia, and named it from himself Herodium, and he called that hill that was of the shape of a woman's breast, and was sixty furlongs distant from Jerusalem, by the same name." The site of the other Herodium remains as yet unidentified.

Special discoveries

Hebrew University Professor Ehud Netzer reported on May 8, 2007 that he had discovered the tomb of Herod, above tunnels and water pools at a flattened site halfway up the hill to Herodium, 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of Jerusalem, at the precise location given by Josephus in his writings. Later excavations strengthened the idea that this site is Herod's mausoleum. The base of the tomb has now been uncovered and is visible to visitors to the site. The 2009-2010 excavations uncovered near the tomb base a small 450-seat capacity theater with an elaborately decorated royal theater box. Netzer died in October 2010 from injuries sustained from a fall at the site, and access to the mausoleum was subsequently blocked to the public pending review of the site's safety.

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