Towering 1,300 feet above the shores of the Dead Sea, the palace at the natural fortress of Masada was originally constructed by the Hasmonean king, Alexander Jannaeus – but that was completely rebuilt by Herod the Great. Ever fearful of a revolt against him, and of Cleopatra’s dream of rebuilding the Egyptian Empire that once included Judea, Herod made the almost inaccessible mountaintop his fortified refuge in case he ever needed a safe retreat.
Around Masada’s summit Herod created a casement wall strengthened by watchtowers. He cut two extensive systems of cisterns into the rock to provide water in time of siege. These held over 40,000 cubic meters of water, all of which had to be carried up Masada’s winding paths by hand. Herod crowned Masada with two sumptuous palaces furnished with every conceivable luxury to while away the time. However, although he never used Masada’s massive defences, its fortifications were put to the test just a generation later.
After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the last remnants of Jewish resistance to Rome fled to the desert stronghold of Masada. Less than a thousand defenders called Zealots, or Sicarii, held out for three years against a siege of over 10,000 well-equipped, battle hardened soldiers. In the end the Romans built a huge wedge-shaped ramp rising to Masada’s summit. Under the protection of an ironclad tower erected on a stone platform at the ramp’s top, the Romans pounded Masada’s wall with a battering ram. When it collapsed they found another, wooden wall that they set ablaze.
This page is part of the book The Holy Land of JesusShare this page with your friends
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