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King Herod’s Fortress

KING HEROD’S FORTRESS


photographed by Brian Bezalel

in

Masada, Israel – Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, 1,407 ft below sea level.

Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt, and erected there two palaces between 37 and 31 BCE.

According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people – the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.

In 73 or 74 CE, the Roman legion surrounded Masada, built a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau. When Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defendants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other, 960 men, women, and children in total. Josephus wrote of two stirring speeches that the Sicari leader had made to convince his men to kill themselves. Only two women and five children were found alive.

This is the mosaic room of the Western Palace on Masada, built beginning in 35 CE. The mosaic room contained steps that led to a second floor with separate bedrooms for the king and queen. The courtyard was the central room of the Western Palace and directed visitors into a portico, used as a reception area for visitors. Visitors were then led to a throne room. Off the throne room was a corridor used by the king, with a private dressing room, which also had another entrance way that connected to the courtyard through the mosaic room.

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