>  The Dead Sea: A Complete Guide   >  Alexandrion (Sartaba) – The Hasmonean Fort


Set on a mountain towering over the Jordan Valley, the Hasmonean fortress of Alexandrion was once a grand fortified palace that witnessed great dramas. Its ruins are still waiting to be uncovered, unfolding the site’s unique history.

History of Alexandrion

The Hasmonean King Alexander Jannaeus developed Alexandrion, and perhaps also gave it its name. Its steep mountaintop provided optimal protection, and a sophisticated water system ensured lasting a long siege. His wife, Shlomzion, also used the site as a treasury. Later, her son, Aristobulus the Second, sheltered in Alexandria when fighting over the reign of Judea. Six years later, his son, Alexander the Second, also sheltered in Alexandria, and after his surrender, the Romans destroyed the site.

When Herod became king of Judea, he rebuilt the site, and in 30 BCE, he jailed his wife Mariame and her mother in Alexandrion. Furthermore, he gave the orders to execute them if he did not return alive from his meeting with Emperor Augustus. Herod ended up having a very successful meeting with Augustus. Nevertheless, he executed his wife and her mother. In 7 BCE, he also executed two of their shared children and buried them in Alexandrion.

Alexandrion and the Jewish Calendar

alexqandrion-sartabaThe Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles synchronized with the solar year. The reappearance of the moon over Jerusalem determined the new month. To announce the ‘new moon’ to the Jewish communities in Babylon, fire signals were lit between Jerusalem and Pumpiduta. The first fire signal was lit on “Har Hamischa,” which is identified at Mount of Olives, and the second was at ‘Sartaba.’ Many believe Alexandrion is ‘Sartaba,’ as the Arabic name of Alexandrion is ‘Qarn Sartabe.’ Indeed, fire signals from the Mount of Olives can be seen at the top of Alexandrion.

Touring Alexandrion

Alexandrian is a challenging destination. There is no paved road to the site. The closest paved road reaches the eastern foot of the site, from which a steep 1-hour hike to the top of the summit is required. An off-road vehicle can get closer to the summit, but reaching the top is still a strenuous hike. Aside the exciting remains, the mountain top provides breathtaking panoramas of the Jordan Valley and Samaria mountains.

See video presentation of the site by “Danny the Digger” Herman –


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