Herod the Great
Herodium (Herodion), located south of Jerusalem and east of Bethlehem, on the highest hill in the Judaean Desert (759M above sea level) was built by King Herod the Great between 23 and 15 BCE, as a combined palace and monumental fortress. The complex was surrounded by a double wall 63 meters in diameter and seven stories high, within which Herod built a palace that included halls, courtyards and opulent bathhouses. Of all the sites built by the megalomanic “builder-king”, Herodion is the only one that bears his name. Herodium is not built on any earlier settlement layers. The upper third of the hill has been artificially superimposed.
We all wonder why Herod built the exclusive palace complex. He already had spas and palaces in Jericho, Masada, Caesaria and Jerusalem. There is nothing to defend in this area and he didn’t require another fortress. Perhaps he built it as a mausoleum for himself? The only problem is that Herod’s tomb has not yet been found.
The Great Revolt
The site was later a rebel stronghold and hiding place during the Great Revolt against the Romans. The Great Revolt in Herodion began in 66 CE. After four years under siege, the rebels finally surrendered without bloodshed to the Roman army.
Bar Kochva Revolt
During the Bar-Kochva revolt (132-135CE) the fortress was captured again by the freedom fighters. As part of their defense measures, they dug secret tunnels around the cisterns, and hid there. This underground network of escape tunnels is one of the highlights of the excavations.
The site was deserted until the 5th C, when a large community of monks resided in the site and constructed 4 churches in the area. After the Arab conquest (7th C) the site was deserted.
Professor Ehud Netzer
Professor Ehud Netzer headed the archaeological excavations for 38 years. Ehud Netzer died tragically in Oct 2010 on the site of the excavation. Among his discoveries:
- The massive network of tunnels and cisterns on the north-eastern hill side, which were constructed by Herod and added later by the rebels.
- The royal tomb of Herod
Herodium/Herodion National Park
From Jerusalem: before the entrance to the neighborhood of Har Homa, take the second exit from the traffic circle to the right, and drive approximately 7 km on the Har Homa-Teko’a-Nokdim road (no. 398). Turn left approximately 2 km before the Teko’a junction, following the signs to Herodium and its parking lot.
From central Israel, via the Elah Valley junction: Take road 375 to Betar Ilit and continue on road 60 to the Efrat junction. From there, take road 3157 and road 356 toward Teko’a-Nokdim. Another option from the Ela Valley junction: Take road 367 to the Gush Etsion junction, turn north to Efrat and continue east on road 3157 to a T-junction. From there continue northeast to road 356 to the Herodium junction, located about 2 km after the Teko’a junction.
- Facilities: Snack-bar, souvenirs, toilets. Entrance fee. Parking free.
- Guided Tours: Fridays and Saturdays at noon in Hebrew. English by reservation. To order a guided group tour (at an additional fee): Mountain and Valley Education Center, phone/fax 02-654-1255
- Phone: 02-5953591; 02-5953592
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org