Who you might ask? King Herod. I mean total nut-job...but very ambitious. The things he built, or should I say the things his slaves built, are incredible. To bad he was a sicko. He had three of his sons, his mother-in-law and his favorite wife murdered... and then he would sit in his magnificent palaces and talk to his dead wife for hours. I think it will be interesting to someday find out what kind of mental/physical illnesses he had.
This day, we visited Herodium, and it is unreal. It is about seven miles outside of Jerusalem near Bethlehem in the West Bank. About 40 years before Christ, Herod fled to Masada away from the Parthians. He didn't make it. They met in battle and he won. So he built himself a little playground there in honor...of himself...and called it Herodium in honor...of himself. It was crazy amazing. Huge palaces, pools, gardens...of the things you normally find in the desert....right.
He actually created the hill and hollowed out the crater for the palace.
Here. Josephus says is better than I do:
Josephus describes Herodium as follows: "This fortress, which is some sixty stadia distant from Jerusalem, is naturally strong and very suitable for such a structure, for reasonably nearby is a hill, raised to a (greater) height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast. At intervals it has round towers, and it has a steep ascent formed of two hundred steps of hewn stone. Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament at the same time. At the base of the hill there are pleasure grounds built in such a way as to be worth seeing, among other things because of the way in which water, which is lacking in that place, is brought in from a distance and at great expense. The surrounding plain was built up as a city second to none, with the hill serving as an acropolis for the other dwellings."
This is standing on the edge of the crater looking down.
Closer up of the bathhouse:
It was a full Roman Bath, so pretty elaborate.
Looking over the edge towards Bethlehem. That square down there was a huge pool. And you can see the ruins of other buildings and "pleasure palaces". That's what they call them. Use your imagination for what was done in them...
This is the remains of one of the many stone towers.
They created a massive tunnel system to bring water up to the crater and it was kind of surreal to walk through them.
Huge cisterns. Looking around, it's hard to imagine the effort it took to bring that much water in.
The tunnels were expanded later (135ish AD) and used during the Bar-Kokhba revolt as hiding places and defensive positions.
Speaking of defenses. Big ole tank chilling in the parking lot. Someday I'm going to visit a country that is not at war and they will let me ride on a tank. The IDF soldiers weren't so cooperative ;-)
A pile of ancient cannonballs that would've been hurtled at the enemy. Is it still a cannonball if it's not for a cannon? I have no clue what you call them then.
One drop will kill you...
Ha! I crack myself up.
And yeah, I totally believed President Stephens when he told me that one. I know. I know. Hush.
View from the back of the synagogue.
Being taught in the synagogue :-)
We couldn't see it because the archeologist that discovered it died there, fell off an edge. So they closed it to the public for now. But it is very cool!
They found Herod's tomb and the slab he was laid out on and a big amphitheater for the funeral.
You can walk around the edge of one part and watch them digging and you can see shards and pots and other cool stuff just sticking out of the dirt. And the guy we were watching dig was totally hot. Just saying.
Once again. Anyone want to pay for me to go sit in the dirt and dig?