Herod's Palace (Herodium)
- For Herod's other palaces, see Herod's Palace (disambiguation).
Lobby of Herod's northern palace
|Location||Herodium, West Bank|
|Opened||23-15 BCE |
|Owner||Herod the Great|
Herod the Great built a palace within the fortress of Herodium, about 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem. Herod himself commissioned a lavish palace to be built between 23 and 15 BCE atop Herodium for all to see. The palace itself consisted of four towers of seven stories, a bathhouse, courtyards, a Roman theatre, banquet rooms, a large walkway (“the course”), as well as extravagant living quarters for himself and guests. Once Herod died and the Great Revolt started, Herodium was abandoned. The Jews eventually had a base at Herodium where they built a synagogue which can still be seen today, unlike much of Herod’s Palace.
Archaeologists believe that the palace was built by slaves, paid workers (contractors), and architects. Herod was considered one of the greatest builders of his time, and geography did not daunt him — his palace was built on the edge of the desert and was situated atop an artificial hill. The largest of the four towers was built on a stone base 18 meters in diameter. This was most likely where Herod lived; he decorated his rooms with mosaic floors and elaborate frescoes. The other three towers, which consisted of living spaces and storage, were 16 meters in diameter. Outside, several cisterns were built to collect water that was channeled into the palace.
Excavation began in 1972 and was intermittent until Ehud Netzer's, the lead archaeologist, death in 2010. Netzer worked at Herodium on behalf of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Although there is much of the palace left to unearth, Netzer was the premier historian and had the most experience and knowledge of Herodium, so construction stopped in late 2010. Many archaeologists suspect that mosaic floors and frescoes were common throughout the palace, but it will take more work to reveal them because of the thousands of years that have passed since its construction.
The Roman bathhouse consisted of three areas, the caldarium, the tepidarium, and the frigidarium. It also had a very impressive dome which is still in good condition today despite thousands of years of earthquakes and wars. The caldarium had vaulted ceilings, raised floors, and channels in the walls to conduct heat. The tepidarium had mosaic floors and frescoes just like the living quarters of the palace. The frigidarium, the last stop in the bathhouse, was where guests would cool off in a large pool.
Netzer discovered the Roman Theatre just before his death in late 2010. A loggia, or a theatre box, was discovered. This means that when Herod or other notable officials went to see a play, they would receive luxury treatment. The rest of the audience would be seated below on benches that could accommodate about 650 people. What is quite unique about this find is that frescoes of landscapes were discovered. This suggests that the painters were well traveled; they depict scenes of Italy and even the Nile River in Egypt. It is also assumed that the painters were on loan to Herod from Caesar in Rome.
- "King Herod's Palace and Refuge". Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
- "Herodium - King Herod's Palace-Fortress". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- Mueller, Tom (December 2008). "Herod: The Holy Land's Visionary Builder". National Geographic.
- Browns, Shmuel. "A Visit to the Herodium and Herod's Tomb". Word Press. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- Milstein, Mati. "Luxury Box Seating". Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
- Magness, Jodi (2001). "Where Is Herod's Tomb At Herodium?". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research: 43.