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Herodium: Palace of a Visionary


Creator & Destructor

The enemy of Jesus Christ and the mastermind behind the “Massacre of the Innocents”- Herod is an infamous name in the Christian world. He was the ruler of Jerusalem when Jesus was born and severely terrified of the newborn baby who was destined to take his throne. Though the world is aware of his destructive nature, many do not know about his creative mind. The Herodium, also known as Jabal-Al-Fureidis, was the kingdom of King Herod, situated in the edge of the Judean Desert, West Bank, Palestine.  A ruthless ruler, who thought ahead of his time, built this unique combination of fortress and palace between 23 and 15 BCE and named it Herodium, regardless to say that he was a narcissist. The Herodium was not just a palace; it was a paradise near Bethlehem. From the following info, you will find out why Herodium should be in your list of places to visit in Bethlehem.

Unbroken & Unbent

The driving force behind this project was Herod’s ego. After being the king of Judea in 37 BCE, he built the Herodium for three decades. The Herodium is 2460 feet above sea level and 650 feet in diameter. Herod took a little hill on the edge of a desert and created his own mountain.

As Herod lived in fear of treachery and attack, the defense wall of his palace on the cliff top of Masada was huge. He wanted his palace to be the most imposing thing in the desert.  Even the steep slopes had a practical defensive purpose. Standing at the top of 400 feet higher than any other hill, Herod had a clear view of Jerusalem 15 miles away. The volcano-like shape was produced by banking earth up against the outer walls which gained strength from their circular design.

Luxury at its Best

Herod wanted to build a city more magnificent than Rome. His hilltop palace had every luxury- elaborate bath complexes, sauna and plunge pools. The tepid room with domed ceiling was the first one in the Western world. The top used to be open for sunlight. It is the sign of ambition and innovation that Herod demanded from his builders. 

Herod created a temperate climate in the middle of the tropics. Larger than two Olympic swimming polls, small boats are said to have sailed on it. He also owned theatre and synagogue.

The eastern tower held Herod’s private quarters and he had a personal entrance to the palace and it led straight into the courtyard garden.  The bottom of the palace was for administration purposes.

From Paradise to Relic

Though the Herodium has lost its past glory, it is still a remarkable site. At present, it is in charge of the Israel National Parks authority. From the top of the fortress, the tourists go down into the tunnels to see the dungeons. The cisterns that were used for water supply is more like a cave now. The walls and ceilings are plastered over but the water lines are still visible.

The Herodium intended to show Herod’s mastery but eventually, it got destroyed just like Herod’s evil self. So Herodium should be in the bucket list of every history lover.

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