Once appointed by the Romans to rule over Judea, Herod launched several building projects, including forming a whole new city (Caesarea). He also erected a few fortified desert palaces, and one of them he named after himself – Herodium. In 2018 Erick and I visited the site, reviewing its special History for The Watchman show.
The History of Herodium
The site of Herodium was a barren hill at the edge of the Judean Desert, before it was transformed by Herod. He elevated its height by massive retaining walls and watchtowers and had a lavish palace complex built inside. Beneath it, storage halls and water reservoirs insured lasting a long siege, if needed. Later, Herod redesigned the mountain to be his burial site. Eventually he was also buried at Herodium.
Herodium as a Battle Site
About a century after Herod’s death, Jewish rebels took refuge at the site. Among others, they added tactical tunnels, for a guerrilla war. Additionaly, part of Herod’s palace was transformed into a synagogue. Sixty years later, Herodium was used again by Jewish rebels, during the Bar-Kokhva revolt. It was possibly even one of the command posts. Both rebellions failed, and the Jews were expelled from this area. Centuries later, Byzantine monks settled at the site, forming a monastery. Later the site was abandoned.
Herodium was be re-identified in the 19th century, and several archaeological expeditions excavated at the site. In 2007, a significant discovery of royal style tombs were found at the site. Professor Netzer, who dug the site, believed it was the lost tomb of King Herod, but not all agreed. Today the site is a national Park, inviting all to visit and appreciate this special site.