A short account of Herodium, given by your Israel & Jerusalem private tour guide
Herodium is a very special site, demonstrating both amazing architectural skills, and the unique story of the builder – King Herod the Great. It was designed to be his personal mountain, and later – his eternal resting place. It is located at the edge of the Judean Desert, not far from Bethlehem.
A bit of History
Herod was never popular with his own people. When he started ruling in 40 BCE, his enemies attacked him, and he barely escaped at the foot of the mountain (which at that time was only a hill). When Herod won the war, he decided to dedicate this place to himself – as a place of pleasure, and eventually a memorial.
Herodium consisted of two parts: On top of the hill he built a mighty round fortress, and at the foot of the hill, he built a palace and facilities for the pleasure of his many guests. The fortress had a double wall and a private palace that had everything that the king needed on the mountain. Water was supplied by an aqueduct from far away to Lower Herodium, and carried on animals uphill to fill the cisterns inside the fortress. Herodium was one of his famous majestic projects, such as: Masada, Caesarea and Temple Mount.
In his last years, King Herod covered the fortress’ walls with huge amount of dirt to make it look like a mountain. Even today, it is a very unique-looking mountain. The northern slope, facing Jerusalem, was the place in which Herod’s mausoleum was built. When he died in 4 BCE, his coffin was carried all the way from his palace in Jericho to Jerusalem, and then to his grave on the side of the mountain.
During both revolts against the Romans (the Great Revolt of 66-70 CE, and the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132-135 CE), the rebels used Herodium as a fortified base.
What can one see in Herodium?
We will visit only the fortress, but from the top we will enjoy the gorgeous view in all directions.
- First, we’ll see a short movie about Herod’s funeral.
- Then we will climb up the mountain and have a clear view of Lower Herodium.
- Looking into the mountain is like looking into a crater. We will see the different parts of the palace in this “crater” and go down to explore them.