About 8 kilometers southeast of Bethlehem in the Judean Mountains, or in today’s West Bank (West Bank), is the Herodion (Herodium). The truncated cone-shaped hill can be seen from afar. It is about 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem and thus very close to the capital of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, you must pass through the Israeli border installations with their walls to visit this place. About 8 meters high, just like when entering Bethlehem. What may still be possible for tour groups is already a significant obstacle for individual tourists.
The quickest way to reach the archaeological site of Herodion is to take Highway 398. Immediately after the Ramat Rahel border checkpoint (for visitors to Bethlehem). It would be best if you took advantage of many exciting places around Bethlehem. The master builder of Herodion, or instead of the buildings on the rim and blunt top of the hill, was none other than Herod the Great. He built a fortress, a palace, and a small town here. It has been known since 2007 that his burial place is also relocated. The complex was built between 23 and 15 BC. Finding the king’s tomb of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee took a long time.
The ancient bronze ring, with thousands of other finds, was found just half a century ago by the archaeologist Gideon Forster in the excavations conducted between 1968 and 1969 in a section of Herod’s tomb and in the palace of the same name, where the ‘Herodion, the fortress built about ten kilometers from Bethlehem by Herod the Great and later used by the Romans. But the real discovery was made half a century later, as the Israeli newspaper Haaretz announced.
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Who is King Herod?
King Herod is known as one of the most excellent ancient builders. In addition to Herodion, he also built the palaces in Jerusalem, the castle and fortress of Massada on the Dead Sea, and Jericho. He is also responsible for converting and expanding the second Israelite temple, which then received the name Herodian temple.
The Herodion is the only structure named after King Herod the Great. The Crusaders called the hill “Mountain of the Franks,” and the local Arabs called the hill “Jabal al-Fourdis” (translated: “Mountain of Paradise”). The origin of Herodion is attributed to an event in 40 BC. When the Parthians had conquered Syria and Herod passed here on his flight to Massada, where he collided with the Parthian army and had to face the battle from which he emerged victorious.
The Hills of Heriodion
Herod lived from 73 B.C. to 4 BC and died in his palace at Jericho to 4 BC. Standing at an altitude of about 758 meters above sea level, Herodion is the highest mountain in the Judean Hills. Before erecting the buildings, Herod raised the existing mound by about a third. Afterward, it towered over the surrounding hills, was visible from Jerusalem, and offered views as far as Bethlehem. A heavily fortified citadel was built on the summit plateau, which, in addition to lounges, also included a mausoleum. At the foot of the mountain, Herod left another place with numerous buildings, including a Roman-style synagogue and baths, cisterns, stables, and storerooms. There is also a small theater and other facilities.
An artificial water basin with an island deserves special mention. This water was brought in through a canal connected to the Pools of Solomon. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus reports that at this point, Herod was caught by the attacking Parthians while fleeing. But he was able to defeat the Parthians despite their superior numbers. Josephus is also the source for the detailed accounts and records of Herod’s burial on Herodion. And the transfer of the body from Jericho to that palace. The Herodion was conquered in AD 71 by a Roman legion. The Legio X Fretensisunder the command of Lucilius Bassus was captured and destroyed on their march against Massada.
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The Franciscans in the Holy Land began excavations at Herodion in the 1950s. The remains of the palace on the hill with four strong towers were uncovered during this first excavation campaign. And illustrate the challenges and outstanding achievements of Herod the Great as a builder. Despite its location in the occupied Palestinian territories, Herodion Hill and the excavation sites below the slope have been declared an Israeli nature reserve. They are managed by the national park administration administered in cooperation with the Israeli Military Administration (Civil Administration). This makes it easier to protect the area from grave robbers and other unauthorized archaeological undertakings.
Located south of Bethlehem, Herodion rises on a peninsula in the shape of an inverted cone. It consists of the ruins of the ancient home of Herod the Great, who had established his residence in these places. Some remains are interesting, such as the underground cisterns, the mausoleum, and Herod’s tomb. I do not recommend a visit in the height of summer temperatures.
The building researcher and archaeologist Ehud Netzer, Professor of Classical Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, announced in May 2007 that he had discovered Herod’s tomb. Netzer, regarded as an expert on Herod, was able to locate the grave on the Herodium after 35 years of research and excavation work. Netzer, who has since died, believed in the authenticity of the find, even if no inscriptions have been found that identify the buried person as Herod.
The Israeli archaeologist has been digging for Herod’s resting place since 1972. The site is said to be between the fortress and two palaces at the foot of the hill. In the tomb, Netzer discovered fragments of a monumental limestone sarcophagus that was possibly smashed in anger by rebellious Jews in the wake of the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. This ancient site is undoubtedly worth a visit. The Palazzo7fortezza is fantastic. Well kept. On top of a hill. Particularly fascinating place. Comfortable shoes to get on and off this magnificent place full of history.