Monday, May 12, 2008

Herodion 6: The Jewish Rebels

Note the base of what was once a massive, three-story tower. Note the left edge, where it meets the ground, there is a sort of dark hole in the middle of the garden.

This hole, which Herod would have considered unsightly in the midst of his fine garden, was actually a mikveh, a Jewish purity bath, dug out by the Jewish rebels over a century later as they took control of the fortifications.

King Herod's Palace Inside Herodion
Yours truly, inside the Herodiom

Not only did they build a mikveh, the Jewish rebels converted Herod's own bedroom into a synagogue!

To the left are the ruins of the tower. Below is the bathhouse, and in the background are the hills of Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) and Gush Etzion.

Later in his life, Herod realized that the end was near and had to decide where to make a grave for himself. Since he had almost committed suicide here all those years ago, the Herodion seemed like the perfect location. The sheer walls surrounding his palace were torn down, and the sides filled with dirt instead, transforming the palace into a classical Roman mausoleum. Herod had himself interred on the side of his artificial hill, halfway between the palace above and the resort below, facing north.
No doubt Herod, despite his Jewish roots a fine, upstanding Roman aristocrat, would be rolling in his grave at the idea of his Roman palace of decadence used to fight the very Roman occupation he represented. The idea of synagogues and mikvehs being built right in his pagan palace would be particularly horrifying. Of course, the rebels themselves must have been driven crazy by the idea of that good-for-nothing Roman oppressor buried right in the site they had captured. The remains of Herod's grave were found less than a year ago, smashed to pieces, most likely by the Jewish rebels.

Herod's Grave

The smashed ruins of Herod's grave. Guess he doesn't even have a grave to roll in any more.

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