Herodium – West Bank - Atlas Obscura

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The remains of this ancient fortress atop a manmade hill look as though they were built into a volcano. 


Built some time around 40 BCE, the hilltop palace known as Herodium was established by the biblical king Herod after he proved victorious against the local forces of the time.

Herod was known as one of the greatest builders of his age and as he passed through the Judean desert, after clashing with the Parthian invaders, he constructed one of his most impressive works. Building an artificial hill that remains to this day as the highest point in the otherwise flat and desolate desert, Herod topped the new berm with a palace which he named, Herodion, after himself. The castle featured four towers, one at each corner with a central courtyard and building in the middle. Walls and floors were covered in elaborate mosaics and decorations that were likely quite opulent for the time. The conquering king also established a small city at the base of the hill, presumably to have people who could look up at his grand palace.

The city and its palace were destroyed in 71 CE by Roman forces who essentially tore everything down to its foundations. Luckily a number of Roman historians mentioned the history of the site, providing us with most of the facts surrounding the site.

The site is now an active and protected archeological dig as the remains of the fortress continue to be uncovered. In fact as recently as 2007, evidence was unearthed that suggest Herod himself may be buried at the site, although further excavation is needed. Nonetheless, the site, nestled in the ground atop its singular hill is still stunning to behold as it looks like remains of a site that was built into the caldera of a tiny volcano. 

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