Historian Josephus writes that King Herod the Great, who was appointed
by the Romans to rule Judea between 37 and 4 B.C., built a magnificent
circular palace at a spot located about 12 kilometers south of
Jerusalem. Dominating the desert landscape south of Bethlehem is the
volcano-like mound of Herodion with a distinct conical (Josephus calls
it breast-like) shape, which Herod filled with lush gardens, elaborate
apartments, and heavily fortified ramparts.
Today, 2,000 years
after Herod's time, Herodion is a wonder to behold. Although the site
was conquered and destroyed by the invading Roman army in 70 CE, the
ruins are well-preserved and include the various halls of the fortress,
ritual baths, water cisterns, and the remains of a first-century
synagogue built in the Galilean style.
In 2007, after decades of research and after retiring, archaeologist
Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem claimed that
he had discovered the tomb of King Herod midway up the hill on the
northern slope of Herodion, at a spot that directly corresponds with a
description of the King's burial place in Josephus. A team of his of
researchers found by chance pieces of a limestone sarcophagus believed
to belong to the ancient king. Although there were no bones in the
container, Professor Netzer said the sarcophagus' location and ornate
appearance revealed it was Herod's. However, what has not been found to
date is an inscription, which would validate the tomb as King Herod’s.
The site of the tomb is one of Israel’s greatest archaeological
mysteries. Netzer died in October 2010, several days after sustaining a
bad fall when a railing gave way at the site, which he had been
excavating for more than 40 years.
King Herod is renowned for his grand construction projects, including
the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the Caesarea complex, and the palace
atop Masada.Stay tuned for more episodes of CITYsights.iTravelJerusalem.com is a new online international travel portal offering all the latest information on things to do, places to eat and places to stay in Jerusalem.